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A contemporary dance enacts a little neuroanatomy to teach science

Orbo Novo, a highly anticipated ballet, premiered in Boston this month.  The contemporary dance, designed by esteemed choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, is giving audiences a glimpse into the two hemispheres of the brain.

The work may be an extreme exemplification of an ongoing mission by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to enhance the communication of science for the general public. The two organizations have worked long together on this goal, recently developing a traveling “Communicating Science” workshop, to hone researchers' ability to describe their work in ways non-specialists can grasp.

Cherkaoui creatively crosses the communication divide by bringing science to his audience. Inspired by the story of Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuro-anatomist who suffered a brain stroke, Cherkaoui used 18 dancers to reflect the divide between brain hemispheres.  At moments the dancers move together as if both brain hemispheres are working in sync, and then a few dancers pull away as the left brain experiences seizures triggered by a stroke.

According to the Albany Times Union, Cherkaoui’s dance is not limited to the moments of union and division between brain hemispheres but also reflects those of nations across the Earth's hemispheres—nations, specifically China and the U.S., where he has spent most of his time recently.

Perhaps Cherkaoui’s attempt to cross the science border will encourage researchers to identify additional creative means to communicate science to the general public, which is an absolute requirement for scientists hoping to receive NSF grant funding.
 

Image of performer from Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, the troupe that performed Orbo Novo, by Listen Missy! via flickr

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