William Forsythe: Improvisation Technologies. The Website Project

William Forsythe is seen in motion. His movement is visualised by a white line.

With the CD-ROM Improvisation Technologies. A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye, William Forsythe created a unique tool for understanding his improvisational movement language over 20 years ago. Under the title Improvisation Technologies – The Lectures, Forsythe Productions and the ZKM are developing online version of the project, with which central contents of Improvisation Technologies will be made freely accessible worldwide on a long-term basis.

Since 30 June 2023 Improvisation Technologies – The Lectures can be accessed at the following URL: https://improvisation-technologies.zkm.de

The CD-ROM Improvisation Technologies. A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye was a groundbreaking project that already in 1999 showed the possibilities that digital technologies open up for contemporary dance. The visualization of movement through animated white lines and other effects made it possible to analyze dance as writing and to grasp the principles of improvisation that Forsythe and his dancers at Ballett Frankfurt had developed over more than a decade. Furthermore, the CD-ROM as a method of preserving dance and choreography in the form of a digital archive was exemplary of a "cultural archaeology" (W. Forsythe). 

Forsythe used Improvisation Technologies to address perception, body organization, and memory in the process of improvisation. According to Forsythe, the videos conveyed "the fundamentals of observing movement, because here movements leave visible traces in space."

The CD-ROM met with overwhelming international interest when it was first published, and this interest continues to this day: not only has it been shown at numerous exhibitions, festivals, and professional conferences, but it has since been used worldwide by professional companies, dance colleges, and universities in training and teaching.

The Website Project: Improvisation Technologies – The Lectures

The CD-ROM, first published in 1999, has been unplayable on current computer systems for years. The aim of the project, which is being realized by Forsythe Productions in cooperation with the ZKM, is to make central contents of the historical CD-ROM accessible again in the long term as well as retrievable worldwide.

The core of the website is formed by the titular lecture demonstrations, 63 video clips in which William Forsythe demonstrates and comments on essential principles of his movement language. Due to the change in technical standards, especially with regard to the resolution of video material, it was necessary to elaborately recreate the animations on the basis of the historical video material. The lecture demonstrations are accompanied by three essays and an interview with William Forsythe that trace the genesis of the project and make the principles explained visible in the broader context of William Forsythe's thinking in and about movement.

The website Improvisation Technologies – The Lectures. A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye is the first project of the William Forsythe Archive, which was handed over to the ZKM in February 2023.

History of the project (1994–1999)

The CD-ROM Improvisation Technologies. A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye was the result of a process lasting several years. In an exchange with William Forsythe, the artist Paul Kaiser had developed the idea of tracing the invisible geometry of Forsythe's movements in the computer and superimposing it on the video recordings. In 1994, a first prototype was developed at the ZKM by Seth Goldstein, who had worked with Paul Kaiser for a long time, Christian Ziegler, Volker Kuchelmeister and Mohsen Hosseini. It consisted of a documentation of the end of The Loss of Small Detail and a theory part with lecture demonstrations by William Forsythe which where animated lines traced the movements in space for the first time.

The second prototype was developed with the aim of obtaining a professional training tool for the dancers of Ballett Frankfurt. It was intended to make the basic principles of Forsythe's working method transparent and to enable his dancers to deal with them in self-study. Nik Haffner, a dancer from the Frankfurt company, Volker Kuchelmeister, Christian Ziegler and Yvonne Mohr developed this second prototype at the ZKM in the course of 1994, which could be played back via a hard disk. Again, the principle of separation into a theoretical part and a concrete performance was used as an application example, in this case the piece Self Meant to Govern. The prototype was presented in October 1994 and from then on served Forsythe and his company as a working tool, both in rehearsals and for individual study.

In response to the great international interest in the project, Forsythe and the ZKM decided to revise it and publish it as a CD-ROM with the support of the Tanzarchiv Köln. The focus of this version is Forsythe's lecture demonstrations, which, newly structured, make the core of Forsythe's movement language vivid. In addition, the CD-ROM contains improvisations by four ensemble members of Ballett Frankfurt: Christine Bürkle, Noah D. Gelber, Thomas McManus, and Crystal Pite. The CD-ROM Improvisation Technologies. A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye was published in 1999 and in new editions in 2003 and 2012.

Project website
Organization / Institution
Forsythe Company, ZKM | Karlsruhe

Forsythe Productions
William Forsythe, Alexandra Scott, Julian Gabriel Richter

ZKM | Karlsruhe
Felix Mittelberger, Margit Rosen, Volker Sommerfeld

Web design
smile. Visuelle Kommunikation
Johanna Unterberg, Roland Wulftange

Project management
Petra Kaiser

Oussama Mubarak


Forsythe Productions


The project is funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media in the NEUSTART KULTUR program, the assistance program tanz:digital of the Dachverband Tanz Deutschland.

Funded by