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 Post subject: "The Dancer's Body"
PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2002 7:05 am 
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Scientists discover what puts you in the mood for dancing
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

The reason that we feel moved to dance when we see a brilliant ballet performance or watch others swing their hips to the Macarena may have been revealed by a brain scan of a ballerina.
Ballerina Deborah Bull shows similar brain activity whether watching a performance or simply imagining herself dancing
Researchers at Oxford University undertook the study for the BBC to find out whether a person with two left feet could appreciate dance to the same degree as a performer such as Deborah Bull, with the Royal Ballet from 1981 to 2001.
They scanned her brain to monitor its activity as she watched herself dancing and when she simply imagined herself dancing.

click for more

<small>[ 09-03-2002, 20:34: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: "The Dancer's Body"
PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2002 9:06 am 
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Am I a total techno/scienti - phobe or does that article not make sense? I mean - it tells us that Deborah's brain reacts in the same way whether she is watching dance OR imagining herself dancing. So? And? But is it the same if she IS dancing? And if Donna's does the same and she doesn't dance/watch it normally, what does it show about how people who CAN dance versus how people who CANNOT, react and whether it is pre-determined. Oh and, how does all that suggest ways we could change how we teach children. Any scientists among us who can translate this article for me?


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 Post subject: Re: "The Dancer's Body"
PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2002 4:47 pm 
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Thank you Emma for your questions about that article. I, too, was quite mystified as to the point of the article and the analysis of what the experiment purported to show.


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 Post subject: Re: "The Dancer's Body"
PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2002 8:48 pm 
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Well, I am semi- mystified. i belive the purpose of the article was to show the process of visulization - ie that see yourself doing something stimulates the same blood flow to certain regions of the brain as when actually doing sonmething. Not really that surprising ( ie think sex? :) !
The really difficult problem though, is I believe what is referred to in philosophy as the " Mind/Body problem" which in essence, is what is that final connection between thinking of a movement and doing the movement - in other words, where does that first impulse come from? Are we just robots reacting from external stimuli or do we have free will, or do we have...etc. MRI's/CT/PEETs may gives us insight into how we think/create, but they wont tell us why we think/create. I think that you have hit the nail on the head - science really cannot- by definition - explain the 'why' dance.


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 Post subject: Re: "The Dancer's Body"
PostPosted: Sun Aug 25, 2002 4:30 am 
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The mind/body 'problem' is one that every dance teacher (and probably every other kind of teacher) has seen and has either been saddened or gladdened by. It comes in several varieties of which the three major divisions are:

1. The mind and body both have the love and facility to dance and a dancer is produced.

2. The mind wants desperately to dance, the body will not cooperate - frustration for everyone concerned.

3. The body was made by the Creator as a perfect instrument for dance, but the mind within this body doesn't care a fig for dance - frustration for the teacher, the student doesn't care.

Visualization helps #1 and #2, but is wasted on #3.

Random elements also enter the equation - luck.

Now, of the experiment noted above.....

If the ballerina's brain operates differently when she visualizes dance than when a non-dancing person visualizes dance, then perhaps the experiment might be able to say that her brain is actually wired differently from a non-dancing person. Therefore, her beautiful body is facilitated by a brain also made to dance.

But, I am not sure that the experiment makes that conclusion.

<small>[ 08-25-2002, 15:07: Message edited by: Basheva ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: "The Dancer's Body"
PostPosted: Sun Aug 25, 2002 8:10 am 
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I think that the other interesting thing about this is that it was the pre motor cortexes that were stimulated even in the non dancer ( though not as well ), which I think means they are trying to imply that dancing is inherent in people, even people without training.


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 Post subject: Re: "The Dancer's Body"
PostPosted: Sun Aug 25, 2002 9:59 pm 
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Thanks for your insights Matthew - what you have just said was the part that really negated the article - what is being proved if the same responses occur in the talented as in the "two left-footers"? Why bother asking Deborah Bull then? The article kicked off with the idea of talent over two left feet and left us with the impression that everyone can dance/create. Of course, as you point out - what then actually makes the said dancers get off their bottoms and dance - and do it well, in certain instances?


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 Post subject: Re: "The Dancer's Body"
PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2002 1:57 pm 
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The Dancer's Body
For a decade she was in the public eye as one of the Royal Ballet's principal dancers. by Jessica Hodgson for The Evening Standard

But when she bowed out last summer there were whispers in the dance world that stage fright had got the better of her.

Now, in a new TV series for BBC2, Deborah Bull shows she is anything but self-conscious.

In The Dancer's Body, Ms Bull, 39, has allowed herself to be captured naked but for a veneer of body paint which etches the detail of her muscle structure onto her skin.

click for more


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 Post subject: Re: "The Dancer's Body"
PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2002 3:37 pm 
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This series at BBC is beginning to look pretty interesting. Unfortunately, we in the US probably won't get to see it for a few years ( the BBC America gap ). Why do you in the UK have such good programing :) ?


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 Post subject: Re: "The Dancer's Body"
PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2002 6:32 pm 
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I've combined two topics. Many thanks Matthew for the additional information and the link, which I have made direct:

Matthew posted 09-03-2002 19:31
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Apparently "The Dancer's Body" will be airing on BBC Sept 21, Sept 28, and oct 5th and will include two new pieces, plus Anthony Dowell will com out of retirement to dance a piece from 20 years ago! More info on the programme is on Deborah Bull's website. Should be interesting.

PS I bet she has a very pretty brain MRI

************************************************

<small>[ 09-03-2002, 20:32: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: "The Dancer's Body"
PostPosted: Fri Sep 20, 2002 12:49 am 
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<img src="http://www.methuen.co.uk/images/0413739007-large.jpg" alt="" />

Deborah Bull was a guest on BBC Radio4’s “Midweek” chat show on Wdnesday 18th September. Her new 3-part series “The Dancer’s Body” starts on BBC2 on Saturday at 8.15pm.

Here are the main points that were discussed:

- 85% of the “bendiness” vital for a dancer is inherited through the architecture of the joints. Extending the flexibility of the muscles and tendons only accounts for the other 15%. “If bone hits bone there’s nothing you can do about it.” DB explained that when she auditioned in 1973 for the RB school, they lifted your leg very gently to check the range of movement. You can acquire the strength to keep the leg at height, but if your leg doesn’t go there in the first place then you’re not going to be able to do the repertoire. “We’ve all seen it in “Billy Elliott”. It’s a bit like that, but I have to say that my panel were a lot nicer.”

- DB met people from other disciplines and a cyclist explained about anerobic respiration. DB had always wondered why ballet solos were so short, whether it was that audiences would get bored. Instead it is the limitation of how long you can operate at full power. The cyclist could only operate at the maximum for 7 or 8 seconds. Scientist Stephen Jones (another interviewee) mentioned a recently identified gene that gives the ability to work for long periods at hard tasks. However, DB pointed out that dancing, “…requires a range of skills, you have to be weight-lifter and a sprinter and a marathon runner and a gymnast. You’re far better being above average at all these skills, rather than being exceptionally good at one."

- In the programme DB tries tight-rope walking in which you have to use tiny movements of the feet in order to balance. “I was terrible! I could not step on the wire for 2 hours.” The shift of the regulation of her balance to another part of her body was the biggest problem. In the end Molly, a tightrope dancer, took her by the hand and walked backwards and regulated the balance for both as DB went forward. “It was the most selfless act. In the end I had tears in my eyes. I did do it, but it took me 4 hours.”

- The later programmes look at the mental aspects of dance. There is amusing bit where Anthony Dowell tries to remember a work that he hasn’t danced 25 years ago. DB said that she never understood the argument that dancers and actors immersed themselves so much in the emotion that it becomes real. “There are physical consequences to emotion that would preclude emotion.” If you really felt that grief that Juliet felt, the debilitating effect would mean that you couldn’t dance on pointe. “I was always conscious when I was dancing that I was working. My job was not to feel the emotion that it was my best ever day, it was my job to make it your best ever day.”

- The third programme looks at why dance has such an effect on people. “We know that dance goes way back to before we had spoken language. Areas of our brain are there to recognise biological motion – predator, prey or mate and will leap into action the minute they see motion.” There are also bits of our brain that adore symmetry and also the unexpected. So when movement is unfamiliar or even unhuman, we are very stimulated.

- Steven Jones was intrigued that the face was relatively unimportant and DB pointed out that the size of the theatre was important. Michael Coleman once said, “Make-up? Two black circles round your eyes and some red on your lips ‘cos they can’t see it from out front!”

- Another interviewee talked about the power of shamans in remote tribal groups using dance and other theatrical devices.

<img src="http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/dancersbody/dancers/images/gym.jpg" alt="" />

The BBC has gone to town on the series and has set up a website with a selection of short articles and video clips on the themes of the programmes. There is a live chat-room with Deborah Bull at 9.05pm on Saturday 21 September after the screening and you can submit questions now from the webpage given above.

<small>[ 09-20-2002, 02:57: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: "The Dancer's Body"
PostPosted: Fri Sep 20, 2002 7:13 am 
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Quote:
85% of the “bendiness” vital for a dancer is inherited through the architecture of the joints. Extending the flexibility of the muscles and tendons only accounts for the other 15%. “If bone hits bone there’s nothing you can do about it.” DB explained that when she auditioned in 1973 for the RB school, they lifted your leg very gently to check the range of movement. You can acquire the strength to keep the leg at height, but if your leg doesn’t go there in the first place then you’re not going to be able to do the repertoire.
I think this is somewhat misleading. As a kid, I couldn't touch my toes, or get my leg anywhere near 90 degrees, or anything. Now I'm quite flexible. My muscles were so tight as a child that no one in an audition could have gotten anywhere near my "bone maximum" by gently lifting my leg.


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 Post subject: Re: "The Dancer's Body"
PostPosted: Fri Sep 20, 2002 8:12 am 
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I think that's very true, CitiBob. Hard work and dedication (as well as careful teaching) do have the possibility of extending flexibility beyond what a 'gentle lift' of the leg initially shows.

However, I think the prestigious professional track ballet schools are not looking for students who have to work so intensively at extending their extension possibilities. They are looking for students with greater initial possiiblities. It's just a lot easier to train - both for the teacher and the student, if the range of motion is much more accessible.

It's a whole lot less blood, sweat and tears when that flexibility is easily accessed.


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 Post subject: Re: "The Dancer's Body"
PostPosted: Fri Sep 20, 2002 11:16 am 
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So Ms. Bull's statement could be rephrased from "if your leg doesn’t go there in the first place then you’re not going to be able to do the repertoire" to "if your leg doesn’t go there in the first place then you’re not going to have a harder time getting to the point to be able to do the repertoire."


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 Post subject: Re: "The Dancer's Body"
PostPosted: Fri Sep 20, 2002 11:41 am 
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I surely can't speak (and wouldn't attempt to) for Ms. Bull.

I would say "If your leg doesn't go there easily in the first place, it's going to take a lot more hard work to get it there in order to fulfill the requirements of the repertoire."


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