I have been a dancer for my entire life. Until recently, I thought dance and math would have to be disjoint passions in my life. However, thanks to the inspiration of SCIENCE Magazine’s Dance Your PhD competition, I found a way to blend math and dance together into a cohesive art. Over the summer of 2017, I worked with Alex Nye through Prismedia Productions to make a submission math-dance video for the 2017 Dance your PhD competition. The video is titled Representations of the Braid Groups and can be found on Youtube here. Using a combination of aerial dance, floor choreography, props, costumes, and short captions, this video follows the journey of several dancers who start as braids and undergo a translation process to be come matrices. By the end of the video, the viewer understand the notions of braid isotopy, matrices, representations, kernels, as well as the difference between faithful and unfaithful representations; all of which are highly complicated, abstract algebraic concepts.
Three simple reasons.
- So much of the language of mathematics describes actions, twists, flows, changes, mappings, continuous deformations; all of which have a technical meaning, but describe movement. Dance is a stunning and novel choice of expression to communicate these ideas of movement.
- It is an unfortunate truth that most people don’t like mathematics or are terribly afraid of it. However, Representations of the Braid Groups received dozens of positive responses from non-math people. This dance video was able to keep a captive audience for 9 minutes to learn about abstract mathematics. Those 9 minutes were considered a fun and exciting experience. Dance and music is a language that speaks to everyone and is entertaining. Dance is a perfect platform to ease people out of their negative beliefs about math and replace their opinions with a positive sentiment.
- Dance is a female dominated field, while math is a male dominated field. Using dance to describe math can help women to see that mathematics is a realm that women can strive in, and similarly that dance is a respected field for men. Math-dance can help to break down these gendered stereotypes.