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Post-gravity: a teacher and activist imagines an expanded role for dance education in a theoretical "Battle Star" future.

I recently read George Friedman's book, The Next 100 Years (Anchor, 2010), in which he presents a rather dim view of humanity as territorial and power-grubbing societies that squabble over earth's acreage. "In the 2030s," writes the political scientist, "the United States will have begun a fairly low-key program for the commercialization of space." He predicts that by the 2040s there will be strategically placed "Battle Star" space platforms housing populations of hundreds, if not thousands, and forming communities within each platform. This idea sparks my imagination. These growing communities will need to engage in physical activities for health, leisure and pleasure. They will dance.

But how will dance change to adapt to populations in space?

Right now, much of a dancer's training has to do with working with, or against gravity. What about movement in an environment with no gravity? Bartenieff Fundamentals can engage in no weight shifts without weight. The premise of human movement would have to shift.

Ice-skaters understand how to change direction on a frictionless surface. It is accomplished by twisting body parts in opposition, and quickly shifting them in opposite directions like a screw unwinding. This is usually a motion of the pelvis (the body's center of weight) against the shoulders, which is why skaters seem to flap their arms so relentlessly. Movement in space would be based upon that same principle of spiraled opposition, which means Graham technique lives! The axis of a position is a straight line, as in ballet, but the axis of motion in space is a spiral; motion as in orbits, planets, galaxies, possibly universes and the human body. Movement technique in space would depend upon spiraling and unspiraling oppositional body parts to both propel and direct controlled motion.

Everyone would need this training, and so dance classes would be mandatory and dancers would be in great demand. Dancers would need higher education because knowledge of anatomy and movement physics would be necessary for both teaching and choreographing in space.

There would be entirely new choreographic forms and possibly genres. Spatial relationships take on new meaning in space, with floating abstractions of positions; no up, down, east, west, forward, back, etc. "Death defying" acrobatic tricks would have no consequences once the dancer had skill to control spinning. A new aesthetic would develop based on an understanding of finite life in infinite space.

Music as well as costuming would have to be rethought. There would be no air to transmit sound or provide the flow of a twirling skirt or fluffy tutu.

Back on earth, dance education would become progressively disembodying due to the convenience of online learning. The necessities of weight and gravity will be overcome digitally through internet and video. Dancers will choreograph, teach, and even perform without ever leaving their homes. This will create a globally interconnected dance community moving across cultures and country boundaries. While dance won't solve the global wars and power struggles that Friedman predicts, dance education will develop unified communication. The art will move us toward global understanding.

The future seems to rush toward us at an ever-increasing speed. Didn't the turn of the millennium just occur? Friedman's 2030 and the existence of space communities is around the corner. Dance has a long history and we now have about a second to consider how to move forward into our new future.

Rima Faber, PhD, was instrumental in founding National Dance Education Organization and chairs the Dance Task Force of the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards.
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Author:Faber, Rima
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2015
Words:582
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