Life Emergent at Fall Faculty Dance Concert

Lucy Strother, CFA Intern, introduces Life Emergent, a work that will appear on the program of this weekend’s Fall Faculty Dance Performance.

Last spring, Katja Kolcio, Associate Professor of Dance, and Manju Hingorani, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, co-taught an innovative course entitled Body Languages: Choreographing Biology (MBB/DANC108). The course explored the intersection of science and dance, investigating how we can model microscopic scientific processes through dance and movement that we couldn’t otherwise visualize.  Students studied material comparable to an Intro Bio course, while engaging in the creative process of collaboratively choreographing and performing dance. Sometimes the students depicted a particular process or concept in a fairly straightforward way (for example, “The Mitosis Dance,” in which students used their bodies to illustrate mitosis), while other times their movements were merely inspired by a more general scientific idea. Students observed that at the course’s beginning, they typically learned the science information and subsequently applied it to their dance. Yet by the end of the semester, the students felt they were studying the two subjects simultaneously; the two mediums had been successfully intertwined. Although the participating students faced significant challenges in integrating these two disciplines, it’s clear that their efforts resulted in discovery and accomplishment. Kolcio and Hingorani plan to further develop the issues addressed in Choreographing Biology in future offerings of the course.

Additionally, Hingorani and Kolcio were commissioned to co-create an interdisciplinary work entitled Life Emergent, which will premiere on Friday, October 22, as part of the Fall Faculty Dance Performance. Life Emergent will be performed by Wesleyan students, including several of the students who were enrolled in Choreographing Biology. The work further investigates the intersection of dance and molecular biology and specifically concerns the evolution of life in light of recent advances in the development of synthetic cells. I recently attended a rehearsal for Life Emergent and was struck by how collaborative the preparations for performance were. Although the rehearsal was directed by Kolcio and Hingorani, various student dancers choreographed sections of the piece themselves and relayed their ideas and moves to the others. Students then received feedback from both their instructors and each other and slight amendments were made. Throughout the rehearsal, the students and instructors transformed countless thoughts and suggestions into a more polished, cohesive dance. It will be exciting to see Life Emergent in its final form this Friday!

Fall Faculty Dance Concert:

Friday & Saturday, October 22 & 23

Patricelli ’92 Theater

Tickets: $8 A, $8 B, $6 C