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When Physics and Dance Collide

ALBANY, N.Y. (December 11, 2015) -- More than 300 high school students from Ballston Spa, Colonie Central, Mohonasen and Taconic Hills converged on UAlbany and poured into the Performing Arts Center yesterday to watch ChoreoPhysics, a program exploring the interplay between physics and dance.

After the performance, more than two-thirds of the students stayed on campus for the rest of the day, taking tours and meeting with Department of Physics faculty.   

High School students attend ChoreoPhysics at UAlbany.

Students from area high schools attended ChoreoPhysics at UAlbany's Performing Arts Center on December 10, 2015. Photos by Mark Schmidt. Above, video by Paul Miller, 2014.

The interdisciplinary performance was created two years ago by Associate Professor Keith Earle of the Department of Physics and local choreographer Ellen Sinopoli during a spring semester residency.

Texture of the Whole, a choreographic dance for the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company using more than a dozen laws of physics deeply intertwining science with dance, was part of the program.

Earle and Sinopoli agree that aesthetics played an important role in the process.

“I’m always looking for a scientifically coherent presentation of a concept,” said Earle. While Sinopoli’s motivation was finding “an artistically captivating expression of an idea through movement.” The two found their individual aims for the project were compatible and the results were compelling.

Last year, the collaborators took some of the material developed and crafted a program specifically targeted at high school students based on input received from a dozen area secondary physics teachers.

This is the second year a special matinee for area high school students has been offered. Next, the pair is planning to present a session on their work in June 2016 to 70 area high school teachers who are part of the NYS Master Teacher Program through the University’s School of Education.

“We are so grateful to the funders who helped get this project started back in 2013-2014,” said Assistant Director of the UAlbany Performing Arts Center Kim Engel, who is project coordinator. “Without their support, the ideas that Ellen, Keith and I had been brainstorming since 2011 might never have become reality.”

Earle’s research is focused on the application and development of quasioptical techniques to improve the sensitivity of very high frequency electron spin resonance spectrometers for the study of fundamental processes in biological and physical-inorganic systems. He joined the UAlbany faculty eight years ago and has a Ph.D. in Experimental Physics from Cornell University. He also has extensive experience in performance as a singer, which informs his teaching as well as helped him in this collaborative process with Sinopoli and her dancers.

Since 1991, Ellen Sinopoli has created more than 70 dances and collaborated with over 25 artists of distinct genres and backgrounds, including those from the UAlbany community. The Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company is the resident company of The Egg in Albany.

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