Dance your Ph.D.?

Truth be told, some of my best material actually comes from my husband James, the family “stage dad,” who often shares little oddities from the worlds of art, history and science.

Recently he sent me an article about a competition titled “Dance Your Ph.D.,” which recognizes “the best dance interpretations of scientific doctoral work.” Science magazine just crowned this year’s grand prize winner and winners in three other categories — chemistry, biology and social sciences.

Valley teachers looking for ways to integrate the arts into other academic subjects should take note. I wish something like this had been around while I was researching the “problem of good” during my own doctoral studies in the philosophy of religion. Dance inspired by the theological “problem of evil” could get a whole lot messier.

Judges for this, the fourth annual contest, included scientists from Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston University. Also the entire dance cast of “Shadowland” and choreographers from Pilobolus — a dance company scheduled to perform in Scottsdale this Friday and Saturday night, Oct. 21 and 22, at 8pm.

Pilobolus performs this Friday and Saturday in Scottsdale

“Named after a sun-loving fungus that grows in barnyards and pastures, Pilobolus began in 1971 as an outsider dance company and quickly became renowned the world over for its imaginative and athletic exploration of creative collaboration,” according to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

The Center describes Pilobolus offerings as “gravity-defying works of extreme balance, contortion and illusion.” Sounds a bit like middle schoolers trying to explain an incomplete homework assignment or high schoolers hoping to outsmart parents who suspect they’ve violated weekend curfew times.

The company’s Scottsdale performance will feature both classic and recent works, including Particle Zoo (1990), a quartet for men with an odd-man-out theme; The Transformation (2009), a shadow piece in which a young woman is transformed; Duet (1992), an exploration of themes of intimacy, misunderstanding and union; Rushes (2007), a surrealist animated dream sequence; and Korokoro (2011), one of its newest works.

Pity they won’t be performing the work of contest winner Joel Miller, a physics student in Australia, whose winning work shows him appearing to “fly over the ground wearing silver spandex and a cape as he danced with women representing titanium’s alpha and beta crystalline forms.”

I’ll bet Miller is the life of all those doctoral student parties, where simply getting a bit tipsy and dancing on a tabletop must feel so last generation.

– Lynn

Note: The Pilobolus performance many include partial nudity. Click here for show/ticket information and here to see the dancing scientists in action.

Coming up: It’s a pajama party!

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