Not everyone is exposed to mathematics via art, especially a performing art. As a math and dance double major, I recall feeling vindicated when one of my choreography courses required that we build models of both a dodecahedron and a cube as visual aids for spatial awareness. As of late, both dancers and mathematicians are exploiting these connections for educational purposes. At the primary level, Malke Rosenfeld uses patterns in rhythm and symmetry ideas to promotes choreographic inquiry into mathematical thinking on her blog Math in Your Feet.
Ms. Rosenfeld, a rhythm dancer and homeschooling mother, worked with a math specialist Jane Cooney to meld her passions for dance and math into a way of helping elementary students learn both. Her video is posted also at a new site called MATHAGOGY which serves as home to a bank of two minute math education videos featuring the “person behind the practice”. Some of the most experienced math/dance educators might be Erik Stern and Karl Schaffer, two professors, who have developed several activities for upper elementary. Here is a video showing clips of their ensemble. A recent article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) highlights their organization, which has been giving dance performances inspired by or demonstrating mathematical ideas for over 20 years.
Professional mathematicians also find the intersection between movement and math worthy of serious research. A surprising number of mathematicians enjoy Contra-dancing, the topic of a recent paper entitled “Different partners, different places” which can be found at the Journal of Mathematics and the Arts. Just last week, Diana Davis, a geometer who won the Physics category of the AAAS-sponsored Dance Your Phd Contest in 2012 (there is no “Math” category), gave a talk at the Simons Center about her work on Veech surfaces. Her video can be found at this post from last year on Math Munch, one of my favorite blogs. (If you want to enter the contest or see old video submissions this year you could win $1000, but the deadline is October 2013.) Currently, the Simons Center is hosting an exhibition Synergy: Dance, Data, Sculpture, which features collaborations between sculptor William Duffy, choreographer William Forsythe, and dance and technology specialist Zuniga Shaw. The upcoming Bridges Conference in the Netherlands will include a presentation by Karl Schaffer, as well as three other dance-related presentations. Tell us about your experiences with mathematics and dance!