Dancing Our Way to the Cosmos: A Study in How Extraterrestrial Travel Will Change the Mechanics of Dance

Justine Walker


How does gravity affect the efficiency of dance movements? We expect the fundamentals of various dance forms to change drastically at Earth, Mars, and lunar gravity. The efficacy of movements are altered in lower gravities by changes in natural oscillation frequencies and a dancer's kinesphere. We simulate lower gravities using a pulley counterweight system connected to a dancer in a two-point harness. The dancer moves on a treadmill (non-stationary movements) or a force mat (stationary movements). Quantitatively, we compare motion tracking data from a camera for each dancer and movement at the three gravities. Qualitatively, we consider the dancers' feedback and our choreographic experiences in relation to post-modern dance. As physicists we thereby better understand the mechanics of the human body in various gravities, beyond the walking-running transition. Engineers can incorporate our results when creating space habitats. Earth-based choreographers can create dances inspired by our lower gravity experiments. Our work highlights obstacles and opportunities for movement in space colonies, which will expand our understanding both of movement and of what it means to be human.