Music is comprised of individual notes, and transitions between these notes can often seem either effortless or demanding. Naturally, many of us would prefer the smooth transition from one note to the next, but perhaps it is when we surrender to the uncertainty of what is to come next do we realize that we’re actually working towards something spectacular.
In the same vein, creativity in dance, as well as in science, occur in these moments of uncertainty. More specifically, I’ve come to realize that it takes place in moments of near stillness. In the current dance piece I’m learning, a thillana, the second thematic line is considerably less physically-demanding than the first - where my arms and legs are racing to match its speed of the complex rhythmic beats. On the other hand, while the second thematic line would still be considered fast, only my eyes are traveling across an imaginary horizontal plane of transversal magnetization during this part, and my almost stationary body is like a longitudinal magnetization - characterized by subtle fluctuations of my shuffling feet as I try to maintain my balance.
A similar thematic line where the dancer must be still and can only move their eyes also exists as the second phrase in another piece I learned earlier last year, which was a jatiswaram. The same choreographer composed both pieces, so this decision to incorporate moments of near stillness is deliberate - but why there? Is there an associated significance? It’s possible that yielding to this uncertainty is therapeutic, as it partially restores the energy you exerted from dancing the first thematic line, as well as having you devote attention to your surroundings and prepare for what is to come - much like a precessing proton of a water molecule in the neural tissue of patient undergoing a MRI scan, where the moments in between sequences both allow the proton to realign its orientation to its natural state and while still knowing that it will again have to change its position when the next sequence begins.
I hope to address these aspects of movement and more in the current physics-inspired dance piece that I’m composing. To follow along, my website is www.devikanair.me and on Twitter, my handle is @nairdevikav.
(Below is a picture of me in classical dance attire after performing the same jatiswaram early last year.)
I found the process of joining forces with a scientist to be enlightening and inspiring. It was extra exciting that my team member had studied classical Indian dance for so long. And I am glad to see that she made such a great link between her current work as an MRI technician with choreographic elements involved in that type of dance. I am also interested in seeing her dance develop as depicted elements of the MRI process, and certain molecules affected by the machine in that process. I think it’s a unique perspective and one worth depicting for an audience.
We had some stellar conversations shooting ideas back and forth, posing some great in-depth questions to each other, helping each other dig deeper, and find exactly what we are looking to accomplish along the way. I feel like we made a good team, as a sounding board for each other, and support system from afar. And I hope to be more involved as her dance piece comes to life, in process to full fruition.
Dramaturgically speaking, I enjoyed offering my insight into theatre making, and I enjoyed hearing of her concepts coming together through conversation. I loved offering solutions or ideas as much as I could. That being said, we were enjoying our respective work so much that although we had an interest in working together on a performance piece about cancer, I think we kept that on the back burner for something in the future. For the piece I conceived with writers from The Brooklyn Parkinson Group I’ve pinpointed the scenes that would benefit from more scientific facts as an underscore to the emotional narrative. We had a reading on Friday, December 21st to a good reception with great feedback. One of the notes received being about how the piece really hits home for people. They see themselves. They see people they know. And I believe with an underscoring of real science, the audience might even be moved themselves to feel what it’s like to have Parkinson’s. From the distinct MRI, CT or other medical tests involved with certain injuries, to the exercises that the neurologist and Physical Therapist do in practice, all of these should be technically sound and realistic to ensure a greater understanding from an audience with no Parkinson’s experience, and greater acceptance by those with Parkinson’s experience. There are other immersive elements I’m not at liberty to discuss publicly, because it’s something unseen in theater as of yet, but it will make for an exciting and engaging presentation for audience and actors alike!
There is much more work to do, as we begin to put the show on its feet. Some further exploration in the physical symptoms or manifestations of Parkinson's will be highlighted in a big group dance number, symptoms like bradykinesia, dyskinesia, festination, visual disturbances, sleep disorders, and even hallucinations. Certain unseen symptoms like depression, loneliness, apathy, and emotional disturbances will be depicted as well, through dance or in the spoken word, during book scenes.
I look forward to delving deeper into the creation of this performance piece. And I look forward to gathering stories from cancer patients and survivors, oncology professionals as well. If there’s another disease that is more prevalent than neurodegenerative conditions I believe it’s cancer, and I would be honored to collect stories or art to make a documentary style theatre piece to depict not only the biological conditions within that molecular war, but also the war waged upon families both during and after such events. Both stories are steeped in drama and conflict, and hopefully ripe with insight and humor too.
Please follow along in my adventures through my website michaelvitaly.com. Or if you’re more of a wordsmith, my Twitter is a fun place to keep up to date in my scientific interests and artistic endeavors. If you’re an image driven storyteller through my Instagram: @RealityandTruth (under the alias Jack Burden, named after a character in All The King's Men, a favorite book of mine). If you have a connection to Parkinson’s or just want to chat dance theatre and the like, don’t hesitate, I’m reachable through these channels, or my site.