Ferocious Beauty: Genome, a multi-media dance performance, premiered at Wesleyan University on February 3, 2006 to standing ovations, attention from the mainstream press (including Science magazine) and a strong review in the New York Times. The piece has since been performed across North America at such venues as Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Duke University, the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Chicago and the Mayo Clinic Convention Center. Act One takes us into the laboratories of scientists, and offers a fantasia on some genetically-related themes from history and folklore. For Act Two, Liz selected three ideas she was interested in exploring away from the science laboratory: long life, selection and perfection, and the nature of ancestry. We use this piece as a “second textbook” in our science choreography initiative.
Liz Lerman, Choreographer; John Boesche, Media Designer; Logan Kebens, Video and Effects Editing; Michael Mazzola, Lighting Designer; Darron West, Soundscapes, including excerpts from The Trees and November by Max Richter, Dream Signals in Full Circles by Trizteza, Shinsen by Susumu Yokota, and Bavarian Fruit Bread by Hope Standoval.
Big Dance, the first section (above) of Ferocious Beauty: Genome introduces simultaneously watching dance and the video backdrop and listening to the music. The Big Dance is often used at the beginning of a classroom session.
The Mendel section from Ferocious Beauty: Genome (above) introduces students to Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics. The dance offers an opportunity for students to make relationships between images and substantive moments in history. Students are invited to make relationships between what they see and what they know about Mendel; they can project themselves into his life. This selection can launch discussion in the classroom of modern genetics and molecular biology.
The Apple section (above) of Ferocious Beauty: Genome introduces students to thinking about ethics and genetic testing. Genetic testing can tell adults if they carry a disease-causing gene, or help diagnose an embryo. But are there dangers in using these techniques to attain perfection in our offspring? Watching this section of Ferocious Beauty: Genome helps us think about this issue.
We use the Fugue section (above) of Ferocious Beauty: Genome to encourage students to think about how to ask a question in science. The Fugue section was designed to show the relationship between the rehearsal process in art and the laboratory process in science, and how they converge over the process of inquiry, or: How I ask myself a question.
The Scientists as Choreographers section (above) of Ferocious Beauty: Genome raises the challenge to students of modeling the mechanics of biological processes…
In the Huntington section (above) of Ferocious Beauty: Genome, the dancers embody movements of patients with Huntington disease.
The Thomas’ Room section (above) from Ferocious Beauty: Genome, entitled Thomas’ room, has imagery from DNA microarrays and can be used in the classroom to explore the ethical challenges of aging as scientific advances allow us to live longer than ever before.
The White Room dance (above) is the final section of Ferocious Beauty: Genome. Time goes backwards and we meet whales symbolizing the idea of a common ancestor. The dance can facilitate classroom discussion of evolution.