BERKELEY SCIENTISTS HELP STREB DEFY PHYSICAL LAWS.
Streb's residency started in November, when she met with members of the University of California at Berkeley's chemistry, civil engineering, mathematics, architecture, and environmental design departments for discussions on what she calls "extreme events" in which the body attempts to transcend physical laws. Subsequent to these meetings, Streb and four of her dancers (Sheila Carreras Brandson, Lisa Dalton, Nikita Maxwell, and Eli McAfee) spent a week in Berkeley working on the embodiment of sometimes highly theoretical paradigms. Most of these sessions were open to the public, and visitors drifted in and out throughout the week.
On Streb's suggestion, Matthew Stromberg, an architecture graduate student and former Streb dancer, built the prototype of a "Kit of Pans" for the dancers to experiment with. Made from plywood panels, beams, and Plexiglas grooves, its various components assemble, not unlike an erector set, into strong but unstable structures. Naming the various configurations "Barbie's carport," "Barbie's terrace," "Barbie's catwalk," the dancers dove through, under, and over the structure as parts crashed unpredictably around them.
One experiment proved too much of a challenge even for these daredevils. Chemistry professor Alexander Pines and his assistant Lonnie Martin built a three-foot-long "Rattle Back," an object that looks like a filled-in canoe and mimics chaos theory. When you spin it counterclockwise, momentum will keep it turning. Sending it on a clockwise path, however, will cause it to reverse direction unpredictably. The dancers tried to use it like a skateboard but it proved to be too small. At the end of the afternoon, the academics promised to build a bigger one.
The most spectacular demonstration, however, involved a new piece of machinery, the "Catastrophic Realizer" which grew out of discussions with various UC Berkeley professors. It looked like a seesaw that moved in circles as well as up and down. One end could touch the ground, the other didn't. Additionally, instead of seats at the end of the beam, "Realizer" featured oval platforms attached by hinges, introducing yet another element of instability.
This isn't Streb's first venture into a more analytical realm. "I'm obsessed with math," says the choreographer, who is studying calculus and physics at New York University. "These disciplines give absolutely accurate descriptions of things like effort, momentum, rebound--actions that dancers talk about but don't always understand."
For more information on the National Dance Lab, call 415/826-8399 or email DanceLabs@aol.com.
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|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2001|
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