March 22, 2017

Choreographers sometimes refer to dance studios, where their creative magic happens, as “labs.” Now, thanks to David Odde, a biomedical engineer at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and Carl Flink, director of Black Label Movement and head of the university’s theater and dance department, there is literally such a thing as a dance laboratory.

As a non-sciencey person, I might butcher this explanation, so be sure to read the detailed version here. But long story short(er): Odde wanted a way to illustrate how molecules bump into each other as they move around within a cell. He and Flink thought they might be able to use dancers to do just that. It took them a bit of experimenting to work out the logistics—bumping into another person hurts, after all, and various forms of padding, including sumo wrestler suits (!), were investigated before they figured out a non-padded, movement-based solution. (The dancers learned to spread the impact over as large an area of their bodies as possible, lessening the ouch factor.)

The result was apparently pretty great—great enough that Odde began using the dancers to test out various scientific hypotheses. Forget brainstorming: This is bodystorming.

Nifty, right? And the dance experiments look cool, too. So cool, in fact, that Flink was inspired to choreograph a dance, HIT, based on movements from the project. Check it out: