A number of choreographers have taken inspiration from the movement of birds.
Sadek Waff, creator of thrillingly precise “murmurations” such as the one above, is also inspired by street dance — particularly the popping hip hop moves known as Tutting and ToyMan.
The nature lover and founder of the dance troupe Géométrie Variable uses both to excellent effect, channeling a starling flock’s hive mind with human dancers, whose lower halves remain firmly rooted. It’s all about the hands and arms, punctuated with the occasional neck flex.
As he observes on his Instagram profile:
There is magic everywhere, the key is knowing how to look and listen in silence. Like a cloud of birds forming waves in the sky, each individual has their own identity but also has an irreplaceable place in the whole.
To achieve these kaleidoscopic murmurations, Waff’s dancers drill for hours, counting aloud in unison, refining their gestures to the point where the individual is subsumed by the group.
The use of mirrors can heighten the illusion:
The reflection brings a symmetrical dimension, like a calm body of water contemplating the spectacle from another point of view, adding an additional dimension, an extension of the image.
The larger the group, the more dazzling the effect, though a video featuring a smaller than usual group of dancers — 20 in total — is helpful for isolating the components Waff brings to bear in his avian-inspired work.
We’re particularly enthralled by the murmuration Waff created for the 2020 Paralympic Games’ closing ceremony in Tokyo, using both professionals and amateurs in matching black COVID-precaution masks to embody the event’s themes of “harmonious cacophony” and “moving forward.” (Notice that the front row of dancers are wheelchair users.)
See more of Sadek Waff’s murmurations on his YouTube channel and on Instagram.
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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primaologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto. Follow her @AyunHalliday.
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