Science and dance in Vancouver

The performances (Nov. 25 – 27, 2010) of a dance/science project, Experiments: Logic and Emotion Collide (World Premiere) will take place at the Scotia Bank Dance Centre 677 Davie Street @ Granville St in Vancouver (Canada).

As part of their publicity campaign, the producers (SFU [Simon Fraser University] Centre for Dialogue, in association with LINK Dance Foundation) gave a series of three talks on art and science  prior to the performances later this week. I attended the Art, Science and Creativity: Common Threads and Unique Expressions panel discussion (Nov. 9, 2010) which featured the choreographer, Gail Lotenberg, sculptor and evolutionary biologist, Lee Gass, spoken word artist, Nadia Chaney, and poet, Sonnet L’Abbé and moderator, Mark Winston, evolutionary biologist and Academic Director for the Centre for Dialogue.

From the Centre for Dialogue page about the dance/science project,

SFU Centre for Dialogue, in association with LINK Dance Foundation, is pleased to present a series of Dialogues on Art and Science. Explore the similarities and differences between both disciplines as they employ creativity, experimentation, logic and intuition to understand the world around us.

These Dialogues precede the World Premiere of LINK Dance Foundation’s new work Experiments: Logic and Emotion Collide. Over the past three years, LINK Artistic Director Gail Lotenberg has been working with dancers and ecologists to create an ensemble piece interweaving movement, sound, video and lighting, appealing to both halves of the brain.

In trying better understand the underpinnings for Experiments, I located a posting by Lotenberg where she describes the impetus for the piece (excerpted from Lotenberg’s Oct. 29, 2010 posting),

Mark [Winston] is the Academic Director of the Simon Fraser University Centre for Dialogue. He had been impressed with my first work created through this collaboration with scientists (in the field of Behavioural Ecology) and he wanted to help spearhead a new piece, even larger in scale and more ambitious in content. I was gamed. So he asked, “what would you want to create a piece about?” I said, “Experimental Design in Science.” He was surprised, to say the least. What I said next, however, hooked him. “Experimental Design,” I told him, “is as much a reflection of the personality and personal beliefs of a scientist, as it is a reflection of the natural world under investigation. And the elegance of a good design is as beautiful as dance.” He totally agreed and totally jumped in, feet first.

Mark was visibly thrilled that I understood this aspect of experimental design that it is a mirror for personality and a pursuit of elegance in how to ask a refined question. I guess he knew that it was the consequence of having fallen in love with a scientist and seeing first hand the passion, the wit, and the artistry that my husband brings into the process of designing a good experiment. I love how the personality of a scientist is so evident in their experiments–a witty mind creates a trap, a romantic mind seeks evidence of deep connectivity between things, a social activist looks for the influence of community on individual actions in animal behaviour. I was charmed by the spirit of scientists, like when you first begin to see the personality of a child emerging from a newborn.

I was also charmed by how scientists use language. As terse as poetry! Melodic like music. They speak in a way about their research, that gave me a sense of accompaniment for dance. Precise, razor-sharp, impassioned.

These are some of the starting points for this project and they are beginning to become visible in the outcomes of our creative process. Months of experimentation and finally I find myself deeply satisfied to witness what was only in my imagination finding real expression in movement, music, etc. The impulse to translate their poetry; to capture their personalities inside their experiments; interpreting the elegance of a clean set of results with an elegant phrase of dance. I think I am finding the answer to why I undertook the massive endeavour …

I had the idea that Behavioural Ecologists and Choreographers sharing a key aspect in our work–that we both interpret movement and actions as meaningful information, enough to build a career around. A cool idea but until it is presented in some way, it remains only that … an idea. To be brave is to speak that idea out loud through this production.

Interesting insight into how the arts and science are connected, eh?

Tickets for the performances can be purchased here.

1 thought on “Science and dance in Vancouver

  1. BaxDoc

    Oh, I would have been so much happier if she hadn’t specified the hemispheres of the brain! I love dance and I think her insights on the personalities of scientists is well said, but c’mon. There’s this membrane, the corpus callosum, connecting right and left brain hemispheres. Unless one is a person who’s had that severed (see, e.g., Gazzaniga’s book on epileptics with ‘split’ brains) the two parts of that large walnut communicate. Just saying ..

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