In the previous week, I explored ways of weaving immersive experiences in the context of MRI machines, but for those patients with an operable tumor, there is another facet to their story: the surgery. As a general rule, an operable tumor can be surgically removed with minimal risk. That is, it is neither located deep within the brain (i.e., the brain stem), nor is it near a sensitive region of the brain that regulates vital functions (i.e., movement).
When considering movement on stage, a dancer jumps into the air, but is brought back to the floor thanks to gravity. In relation to physics, the force that is applied to floor is an action, while the reaction to that force is a sound. Similarly, during intra-operative motor mapping, the surgeon will electrically stimulate discrete cortical or subcortical pathways of the brain that control movement. As this step is performed prior to removing the tumor, their hope is that mapping these stimulation sites will help guide the resection more efficiently and accurately, as tumors with poorly defined borders may often be mixed with healthy tissue. Thus, in this case, the action is the electric stimulation and the reaction is involuntary movement of the arm or leg.
Yet, there is more to the physics of dance than merely gravity and applying forces. It’s important to also consider displacement, a term used to describe an object’s overall change in position. In dance, displacement is the distance traveled by the dancer. So, when a surgeon simulates a pathway, the direction or degree to which an arm will elevate, for instance, is going to vary and there are a multitude of patient-specific reasons of why this is the case. Perhaps the patient is older and has restricted arm movement, and so, the displacement is short. So then, how would you demonstrate this on a stage? You would need to also consider the complex interplay of additional factors, like time, speed, and equilibrium. As expected, each dancer will create a space for themselves, but the distance traveled will inevitably vary.
I’m inspired to work with the PD Movement Lab (“Lab”) class this Friday, which differs from Dance for PD a bit in that it was designed to directly address Parkinsonian symptoms with artistic adaptations, while utilizing games or props, physical cueing, and imagery driven lessons to help design new approaches in dealing with some of the everyday of challenges that persons with Parkinson’s might face.
The exercises that I’m going to set for class will ideally achieve two sets of goals: making an interesting stage picture by telling the narrative of hydrogen protons during magnetization, and help our Lab participants achieve good locomotive strategies at the same time. To that effect, it will address the work it takes to initiate movements, as well as multitasking, and changing between two distinct movement qualities in sometimes surprising or improvisatory ways. Strategies like “pre-planning,” or as the creator of the Lab, Pamela Quinn has mentioned in some of her writing on “Freezing,” taking an indirect route, might help alleviate the stress to get someplace quickly, by tricking the brain away from the stressful task at hand, and letting it refocus on the body for that initiating moment to go another way rather than going straight for the goal/point of focus. This exercise will also help me understand and depict the science behind MRIs, a conversation that has been of interest to my SciArt partner Devika and I. I have come to realize that during the magnetization process, hydrogen protons go through quite a lot!
From their natural states of random movement or what we could even call chaotic freedom, to their magnetized states of paralleled focus and rigidity, hydrogen protons will align themselves or misalign themselves according to the processes of the MRI. Taking these shifting points of extreme states into account, we can give dancers in the Lab concrete cues to work with, like movement that is free, fluid, smooth, curved, flowing; and we can give another set of cues for movements that are more rigid, sharp, angular, focused, linear, choppy. Adding focus and directional alignment to the latter physicality will especially high-light our concept of “magnetized,” having them align themselves directly towards specific points in the room. Embodying these characteristics onstage would take place along the horizontal plane. And through the frontal, or coronal, plane.
For fun, and an added challenge, other elements can be added to this, like differing emotional states that might coincide or conflict with the movement style. During the introductory warms up in class I plan on engaging in certain clown based warm ups to enliven the imagination, emotional intellect, and a sense of playfulness.
Finding the transitions in between these moments is of great mutual interest to us as well, and I intend to have my class play with the back and forth as well finding ways to go deeply into a proton’s natural state, making sure to create distinct movement worlds of differing states of being. Devika mentioned that perhaps after a long bout of magnetization, we as the hydrogen protons would need time to effectively get back on track, their own track, after being driven by such a rigid and forced energy.