Monday, 21 July 2014

Maths in Dance - Michael Apuzzo




An Interview with Michael Apuzzo


Michael grew up in North Haven, Connecticut and graduated Yale University, Magna Cum Laude, in 2005 having studied Economics and Theater. Michael began acting at age 6 and has not stopped since. His work ranges from classical theater to contemporary and on camera, and his credits include work on all the New York City based soap operas, feature work in several award-winning independent films, credit working on the HBO pilot "Bored To Death" and a feature performing on "Live! with Regis & Kelly". He began his dance training while in college, performing and choreographing in undergraduate organizations, and then debuted professionally performing at the Yale Repertory Theatre. 

Michael has performed in numerous musicals and at equity theaters across the country, and recently finished performing on the national tour of Twyla Tharp’s Broadway show, Movin’ Out. A former NYC math teacher, Abercrombie&Fitch model, 2nd Degree Black Belt, and active AEA and AFTRA member, Michael was overjoyed to join the Paul Taylor Dance Company in the Fall of 2008 and has been performing with the company full time since. Michael is also the author of the recently published young adult book "Flying Through Yellow".

from http://www.michaelapuzzo.com/bio



from Live with Regis & Kelly

Obviously he is a really busy person so I was particularly impressed when Michael agreed to answer some questions about mathematics in dance.



The Questions and Answers



1. Describe what math lessons were like for you at school.

Most people would tell you that they hated math growing up. I on the other hand really (really) loved math growing up. I always liked the concept that there was always one right answer, especially in algebra. But then I came to love geometry because of the creative shapes and the concept of graphing through space. Math seemed both academic and artistic to me even at a young age. Also, lessons were exciting and manageable because I would always figure out a solution to every problem.


2. When you left school, did you expect to be using any of the math that you were taught ever again?

Of course. Post school I was a full time math teacher for one year, teaching in the Bronx. I also used it to budget my spending and manage my finances. Living as an artist in NYC can be / is demanding and challenging.


3. Do you divide dances or movements into parts or sections that might be expressed as mathematical fractions?

To a degree- I usually divide each dance by musical sections (mathematical fractions). I count almost every step in each dance. Rhythm and time signature are a few variables that can mathematically alter or divide the dances as well.


4. How aware are you of angles in your technique – angle of body, angle of arms and legs, angle of movements?

Very aware! A dancer is always trained and critiqued for their lines which ultimately are measured in the angles of their body positions. This would include the degree of turn out (or angle) of their legs and feet. Even the angle of your head relative to the rest of your body is important for making shapes in movement.


5. When you are moving in a performance, how much is “mathematical thinking and calculating where the space is” and how much is “feel for the space”?

A smart dancer always has strong spatial awareness. I try to be as aware as possible, including my spatial relationship to other dancers and to the marks on the stage. As I perform I rely on my feel for the space around me.


6. Is estimation good enough or do you rely on accurate measurement of distances and times?

The marks on the stage are accurate including center and quarter marks.  I rely heavily on those.


7. How aware are you of timing and beat when you are dancing?

Extremely aware. Every step has a choreographed position in the music, and especially in an ensemble, your timing for movement and musicality must be accurate.


8. Have your teachers or choreographers ever used math and physics to explain your technique?

More and more. Some teachers use anatomy charts to show what body parts are being used or overworked by certain movements. Choreographers generally originate movement through body positions and musical interpretation, and don't rely as much on math during creation.


9. Do you look at statistics much to analyse your training and performance?

Marginally. Perhaps when analyzing what movements or techniques lead to injury and when calculating injury prevention. But performance is a live art, and unlike solutions to math problems, they are not meant to be perfect.


10. Do you have any other insights to offer into how you use mathematics in dance?

Dancing is a calculated art form. Often you have to calculate when you should stretch your foot to jump and land safely and with ease. You have to be aware of the degree of contraction in your back, the alignment of your hips over your shoulders, and the spacing of your head relative to the rest of your body. Making dance shapes is similar to making geometric shapes, and proper ones have certain angles in order to make them correctly. As much as I love the Mathematics in dance as movement, dance is also an art form. At the end of the day, you have to let go and live in the moment that is live theater. My greatest challenge and biggest thrill is enjoying the moments when I am dancing, whether they are right or wrong, and believing in the live art I'm creating as it happens.






Thank you so much Michael for this amazing insight into the relationship between dance and mathematics. Your ideas have really made me stop and think - I hope there are a few teachers and students out there who have been provoked in the same way! 








Thursday, 17 July 2014

Maths in Dance - Drew Hedditch


Interview with Drew Hedditch


Drew was born in Canberra and started tap classes at the age of five; he started ballet at the age of eight. He studied at the Lisa Clark Dance Centre and the Australian Ballet School. He toured with The Dancers Company in 2012 and 2013, and joined The Australian Ballet in 2014.

Drew is a keen rugby player and once harboured ambitions of
becoming Australia's first tap-dancing Wallaby.

Drew kindly agreed to answer some questions about how he sees the relationship between mathematics and dance.






Photo by James Braund


The Questions and Answers


Describe what math lessons were like for you at school. 

I loved maths at school, I always preferred maths and science to English etc.


When you left school, did you expect to be using any of the math that you were taught ever again?

I expected to be using percentages in relation to shopping (sales!) and also number patterns, eg patterns with music.


Do you divide dances or movements into parts or sections that might be expressed as mathematical fractions?

Yes, for example you might repeat a step four times within a musical bar of eight, therefore each movement has a value of two musical counts, the fraction being ¼.


How aware are you of angles in your technique – angle of body, angle of arms and legs, angle of movements?

Angles are strongly used in relation to positions of the legs. Angles often describe the height of the leg in relation to the supporting leg and floor eg. A 90 degree arabesque has the back leg raised parallel to the floor.


When you are moving in a performance, how much is “mathematical thinking and calculating where the space is” and how much is “feel for the space”?

When performing we have a strong sense of the eight quarter and centre stage marks that are specifically measured and marked by our stage management crew.


Is estimation good enough or do you rely on accurate measurement of distances and times?

Estimation is not good enough, particularly in the corps de ballet, but that’s also why we rehearse. Each travelling movement has a value of how far it is meant to travel, if you estimate this you could possibly ruin the overall shape.


How aware are you of timing and beat when you are dancing?

I am very aware of timing – if movements are out of time, it looks wrong. The music is not always a constant rhythm either, for example you could have three bars of eight, one bar of twelve, and a bar of nine – you need to be aware of this when dancing.


Have your teachers or choreographers ever used math and physics to explain your technique?

The angles of legs are a key factor in the positions within your technique. Physics is strongly used particularly with weight placement. You need to be very accurate with this, otherwise you can fall over when lifting your leg, during a pirouette or landing from a jump!


Do you look at statistics much to analyse your training and performance?

Yes, if eight out of ten people are doing one arm and two are doing a different arm – this needs to be fixed.


Do you have any other insights to offer into how you use mathematics in dance?

With all our Pilates and strength training, we need to be particular with the amount of weight/resistance we use as we want this to benefit our dancing and not our physical shape.





Photo by Luis Ferriero




Thank you Drew for taking time out to be a part of the "Maths in Dance" project.







Monday, 14 July 2014

Maths in Dance - Tommy Franzen



An Interview with Tommy Franzen



Tommy started his dance training in Sweden, where he is originally from. Initially he was only taking streetdance classes but soon his eyes opened for other dance styles as well. Tommy began working professionally soon after that at the age of 14 in the musical “Joseph”. He stayed in Sweden until the age of 19 going from musical to musical before he got a scholarship for a 3-year performing arts diploma course at the Urdang Academy in London. 

Tommy is probably mostly recognised as the runner-up of BBC 1’s “So You Think You Can Dance” 2010 but some might have seen him in "Mamma Mia – The Movie", "Some Like It Hop Hop" at Peacock Theatre, "The Five" and "The Prophecy of Prana" at Barbican etc. 

Tommy is also an active choreographer. He has choreographed for "Some Like It Hip Hop" and "Blaze" (Peacock Theatre and world tour) and Cher Lloyd’s music video and the live performances of her UK charts #1 hit single “Swagger Jagger” etc. Last year Tommy won an award for “Outstanding Performance in Modern Dance (male)” by the Critics’ Circle “National Dance Awards” for his efforts in “Some Like It Hip Hop “ and “The Rodin Project” with Russell Maliphant Company. He was nominated for the same award in 2010 for “Goldberg” with Tamara Rojo at The Royal Opera House and “Blaze”. This year he co- hosted the awards alongside Bennet Gartside. Other nominations Tommy has had are Laurence Olivier Awards 2012 for “Outstanding Achievement in Dance” and South Bank Sky Arts Awards 2013 for “The Times Breakthrough Award ”. 

Tommy kindly agreed to answer some questions for me about how mathematics relates to dance.
 



The Questions and the Answers



1. Describe what math lessons were like for you at school.

I really enjoyed maths in school. I did pretty well in it and it was something I wanted to be good at.


2. When you left school, did you expect to be using any of the math that you were taught ever again?

I expected to be using it a lot more than I have. It's starting to come in handy in the last few years as I've gone in to business as well. I use it for my accounts and also creating spreadsheet calculations to analyse numbers etc.


3. Do you divide dances or movements into parts or sections that might be expressed as mathematical fractions?

There is a trick called a 540 due to the amount of degrees you turn around. We also count dance normally in counts of 8. So when we learn new choreography we break down the phrases into fraction of maybe 1, 2 and 4 for example.


4. How aware are you of angles in your technique – angle of body, angle of arms and legs, angle of movements?

I'm very aware. It's important in certain dance style to have your arms for example horizontally to the sides or elbow bent by 90 degrees. In ballet you are aiming to get 180 degrees of rotation of your legs when heals are touching each other. I've got about 90 degrees so I'm clearly not built for ballet. 


5. When you are moving in a performance, how much is “mathematical thinking and calculating where the space is” and how much is “feel for the space”?

It starts off as mathematical when you make the spacing and then it's more a feel for the space when you perform. In some shows I've done we've had numbers at the front stage left matching stage right. That makes it easy when you are initially spacing it to see if your opposite is on the same number for example.


6. Is estimation good enough or do you rely on accurate measurement of distances and times?

Estimations are normally fine.


7. How aware are you of timing and beat when you are dancing?

Timing is very important. In some styles like hip hop dance styles your timing has to be impeccable as you are dancing to every little sound in the music. Contemporary dance can float a bit more over the top and then just pick up some key moment in the music.


8. Have your teachers or choreographers ever used math and physics to explain your technique?

One choreographer I've worked with called Russell Maliphant is trained in Rolfing and is seeing the movement in a very anatomical and physics kind a of way. Otherwise I haven't come across it a lot.


9. Do you look at statistics much to analyse your training and performance?

No not really.





Thank you Tommy for your participation in the "Maths in Dance" project. 
We really appreciate your generosity with your time and thoughts.