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The Relativity of Dancing

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From today's Guardian:

A dance to the music of spacetime

With lateral thinking worthy of the great man himself, British scientists have hit upon a new way of explaining the intricacies of Einstein's theory of relativity: dancing.

The Institute of Physics has asked a contemporary dance company to produce a new work marking the centenary of the 1905 publication of Einstein's most famous and important ideas. The show will be premiered at Sadler's Wells theatre in May 2005, and if London audiences are wowed, a national tour is planned.

"Dance is an expressive medium," said Jerry Cowhig of the Institute of Physics. "It will be ideal for abstract concepts like the theories of Einstein on everything from tiny atoms to the dynamics of the whole cosmos.

"I am confident this new work will trigger many people's curiosity."

If anyone goes, I hope you'll tell us about it.

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If two dancers approach a pirouette from different preparations each dancing to music of the same tempo, then what tempo will each dancer see the other doing the pirouette at?

Or, if three dancers collide at the speed of a Glass piece, how many new dancers will be created and at what movement mass?

The possibilities are relatively boundless!

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Actually, I have been researching physics and dance over the past several weeks, and am intrigued by this. I was thinking about physics and pirouettes today in class when the teacher, a wonderful full out demonstrator, showed how the tendency to lose some of the turnout of the supporting leg in the transition from the preparation to the turn sacrifices revolutions. Then he showed what happens when you maintain the same turnout from preparation to turn -- a dynamic occurs which sends the body around almost effortlessly. It was a beautiful thing to watch.

Sure, you can turn on a flat foot or turned in, etc., etc., but then, as one teacher once said in a class I took, "it's just a spin." The beauty of the pirouette is the maintenance of the turnout, as well as the quick passe (as opposed to the passe which lumbers its way into position while you're already in releve and trying to turn).

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Lucky you, I would love to see him give a lecture/dem. I've visited his site as well as many others this past summer and printed out about 2 inches worth of material on the subject. I'd love to create an independent study on this for one of my last 5 classes I'm doing, but my dean has been chanting things like, "We already have courses in place that fulfill your science requirement," etc., etc. Those students at Dickinson are very lucky.

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Merce Cunningham made a dance--which has a beautiful video version shot in London--called Points in Space. (After Einstein's "There are no fixed points in space." The dance seems to occur, in the video, without a floor--at least that's how it looks to me.)Many of his works seem to offer illustrations of various princiles of cosmology, among other sciences. And in addition to the macro-world, also the micro-world. I am going to add that after writing this I found on another thread reference to a new dance book called "No Fixed Points: Dance in the Twentieth Century." Thanks for the link, Ari--it's in Weds Sept 03 links.

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Dancepig, thanks for the encouagement, but i'm not quite as old as dirt -- not yet, anyway. Just for the record, even a learning glutton like myself has her limits as to what she can/will absorb. I did walk out of a geology class yesterday morning after 35 minutes. If I had to sit there two more minutes and listen to all that tuberculin coughing from the students in that dark, dank lecture hall, while the teacher droned on about oceanic ridges and linospheres, crusts and mantles, and barriers pushing against each other, blah, blah, blah, I would have lost the will to dance and live. Three minutes later, I was sitting outside under a tree with a nice latte, thinking about how hopelessly dull some sciences are, or at least are presented.

There are web sites that have a plethora of photos of Keneth Laws giving his lecture dems and the students all seem to be very engrossed and happy, the way students SHOULD look. I have always loved physics and have long been interested in the correlation between it and dance. Something as simple as the placement of the head allowing a leg to rise higher in extension. Yes, once, just to test how much the weight of the head could so affect this, I got my fiance and his little boy to take turns with me weighing our heads on the bathroom scale. You know, the family that weighs togther, stays together. :)

There are all kinds of little ways we, as dancers, can see each day how an adjustment here or there facilitates or negates our movements. The pulling up of the arches enabling the inner thighs to pull up and turn out, or the slight tilt in brise helping the body to travel more and beat more easily. The feeilng of reaching out with each limb in arabesque making the movement far more stable and lending a feeling of placement. The equal turnout of both legs providing that extra dynamic in turns.

Isn't it funny too, that in (maybe not quite the same) way that Einstein found time was relative, a boring teacher can make a class seem eternal.

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Louis Moreau Gottschalk said, "Time is a commodity which is infinitely expandable and compressible, depending upon place and circumstance. For instance, no one can convince me that two hours on a Sunday afternoon in Elmira, New York are the same length as any other two hours on the face of the earth!"

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About 10 years ago, the head of the dance dept at UC Berkeley (David Wood, who had been a star in the Graham Company, husband of Marni Thomas Wood, father of Raegan and Ellis Wood, all famous dancers) made a concert piece based on the discovery that in superconducting conditions electrons pair up and (as the physicist who really DID discover this put it) "seem to dance."

I've seen the dance several times -- Prof. Wood was a skilled choreographer and his work is well-made, well-edited -- it had a lot going on, I wouldn't mind seeing it again. It was filmed by PBS for NOVA and used to illustrate an episode about superconducting; the physicist (Myron Cohen? not sure) said he liked it.

And a couple of years ago -- well, maybe 6 or 7 by now -- Margaret Jenkins made a stunning full-evening piece called "Fault" in conjunction with a group of Berkeley geologists, Prof. Bruce Bolt being one of them, in a consortium put together by the UC Berkeley Center for Theater Arts. Since we HAVE faults around here, and earthquakes on them, and had a BIG one 10 ears ago that brought the freeway down, it was about something that was on everybody's minds; needless to say, Jenkins's work was not as closely illustrative as Wood's. Elizabeth Streb engaged in a similar process with some Berkeley physicists a couple of years later, the "results" of which I can't tell you anything about.

But the greatest comment I've ever seen on an earthquake was the night Muriel Maffre danced the adagio of Symphony in C at the Opera House DURING an earthquake. There'd been a little shock during the first movement, but that's allegro, and it kept hitting you with new ideas and distracting you from it, and before long you’d forgotten anything had happened. But the adagio is SLOW -- I never had any idea HOW slow till there was another little shock, we all felt it, just as Muriel was unfolding her leg in second. Nervous people started getting up, gathering their possessions -- not everybody, not even very many, but there was a noticeable rustling of stuff, and they pushed their way out and were well up the aisles already as she began the huge penchee -- and when she put her nose on her knee the house exploded in applause, and all those scurrying people turned around to see what they were missing........ Oh God it was fabulous, to see the image of courage in homage to her art under circumstances like that.

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Louis Moreau Gottschalk said....  For instance, no one can convince me that two hours on a Sunday afternoon in Elmira, New York are the same length as any other two hours on the face of the earth!"

THis also reminds me of Merce--actually, of something he told me John Cage said--Cage called this concept, Mel, "relative time." It came up in the context of how time seems to fly in some dances, and creep in others. So that two dances of the same length can seem to last not long enough, and beyond forever.

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Today, in ballet, our teacher told us her teenaged daughter (also a very talented dancer) is doing a science project that studies the concept of "hang time." She concluded that someone like Michael Jordan is not in the air any longer than other players but that his timing in reaching the highest point of his jump - the point where his arms outstretch -- as well as his focus, give the illusion of longer time in the air. She surmised this could well be true of Nijinsky or Baryshnikov. Focus, she said, can create illusion, so that if you truly look out past your outstretched fingertips and keep that focus longer than anyone else, the audience's eyes will follow yours.

This is related somewhat to another tip I was given years ago -- that if you start to lose your releve on stage, just lower your heels, but keep everything else in place, lifted, so that the audience isn't even aware of the change.

Of course, I also think that the more matter you have to boost into the air, the more power it's going to take to get it up there and maintain that elevation. So if you're going to put on weight, make sure it's muscle -- tee hee. :yes:

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Yes, indeed! Gottschalk has been a favorite side-study of mine since I first saw "Tarantella" back in the City Center days of NYCB. He considered himself "the last of the Chopinistes", but his actual style of pianism wasn't Chopin-like at all. He must have had huge hands, judging from the intervals on some of his chords!

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