Arts, Dance, Science, Health

__
–>

Dancers 'spoofing' the science.
Dancers ‘spoofing’ the science.

Last year (2013), I had the privilege to attend two wonderful national events in the arts: The Inaugural DANscienCE Festival in Canberra hosted by the CSIRO Discovery Centre; and the 5th International Arts and Health Conference in Sydney.

The DANscienCE Festival in August 2013 was eight (8) days of presentations and demonstrations of: the science of dance; scientific ideas that can speak to dance and movement art; and dance speaking for science. Dance with ecological and ornithological themes; dance as sociological research tools; dance for healthy ageing; fluid dynamics; cognitive studies; and dancer’s health. I was asked to sit on a physiotherapy panel for an evening of presentations from 6 dance genres: ballet, hip hop, belly dance, hindu dance, african and contemporary (over 50s). The evening was, professionally, a great experience, especially as my co-panellist, Roz Penfold has previously held jobs with the Australian Triathlon Team and Australian Ballet. Evidence to that evening’s success, Glen Murray of MADEinTasmania, Australia’s best over 50s contemporary dance company, reported that he was using ideas from our discussion in his classes. The most ironical presentation of the week came from Deakin University’s Movement Studio who revealed that the Playstation NRL game was animated from the actions of dancers who can represent rugby moves better than rugby players (except the crunching tackles). As I now post this report, I am putting my support behind Liz Lea of Canberra Dance Theatre and organiser of the 2013 DANscienCE Festival, to organise another DANscienCE in 2015.

The International Arts and Health Conference focused on: creative ageing and mental health, which found me in workshops with Circus Mojo from the USA and clown doctor GP Mark Spitzer, Dancing with Poetry in the NSW Art gallery (among the Nolan’s); writing for resilience with Molly Carlille, palliative care manager; discussions on the design of nursing homes for happiness; conversations with the David Cutler,CEO Baring Foundation UK, Dominic Campbell Director Irish Beltaine Festival; UK Churchill fellow Paula Turner; Angela Lion of Arts Fusion, Singapore;and many delegates who brought a wealth of experience and aspiration to the place of the arts in the health industry, hospitals, and  community well-being. The conference coincided with public support from Federal Health Minister, the Hon Peter Dutton MP, and his State and Territory counterparts, who endorsed a National Arts and Health Framework that was initiated by the Standing Council of Health Ministers in November 2011. As Federal and State Governments realize that there are not the resources to care for ageing ‘baby boomers’ unless there is a far greater increase in health and community support for the older person, it is becoming clear that the arts have a HUGE contribution to make in all areas of health interventions and a healthy life.

Arts’nHealth Champions and MADness

Three major Australian organisationsBanner who have championed a national Arts and Health Policy Framework, write here on the new framework endorsed by State and Federal Ministers. I am personally thrilled as I get down to the planning of a number of projects I will be involved in 2014 including assisting the organisation of DANscienCE (National Festival of the interplays between science and dance); Cape York Critters and Wild Country (a “Wilderness Society‘ play for children’s education of endangered species on Cape York,); a new Cairns Children mini-festival; my own dance classes and a local project for DANscienCE; Children’s Festival with the Cairns Festival; and the Children’s Festival of the Tableland Folk Festival.

I guess I am starting to expand all these things by finishing the year with a MAD Party. My MAD party is not just about having a party and going a little mad, although in its own peculiar way, that is what it is about. However the key to my MAD party is understanding the particular MADness I am evoking through the party. And that particular MADness is the MADness that is evoked when people try to dissuade each other from doing an extraordinary thing by proclaiming, “Mate, you’re mad.” In this party it will be proclaimed that “Mate, you are MAD” and it will be a proclamation of enthusiasm, and encouragement. This particular MADness is about people who like that what matters in their life is Making A Difference. Already as my preparations progress a new project stirs in my mind – to make a full length trailer documentary about Tablelanders Making a Difference.

It is often though that great art goes with a little, maybe a lot, of madness. That sad madness referred in such thoughts overlooks the MAD reality of all great artists and everyone involved in the arts. Being involved in the arts improves all health parameters for the involved person and much for their friends. Artists almost always ‘Make a Difference’.

Science and Art Go Hand-in-Hand

From the Scientific American blog, by Steven Ross Pomeroy | August 22, 2012 |  assistant editor for Real Clear Science, a science news aggregator. He regularly contributes to RCS’ Newton Blog. As a writer, Steven believes that his greatest assets are his insatiable curiosity and his ceaseless love for learning.

Su Song pic - Art meets science in this early star map drawn by Su Song. (public domain)
Su Song pic – Art meets science in this early star map drawn by Su Song. (public domain)

In the wake of the recent recession, we have been consistently apprised of the pressing need to revitalize funding and education in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, and math. Doing this, we are told, will spur innovation and put our country back on the road to prosperity.

Renewing our focus on STEM is an unobjectionably worthwhile endeavor.  Science and technology are the primary drivers of our world economy, and the United States is in the lead.

But there is a growing group of advocates who believe that STEM is missing a key component – one that is equally deserved of renewed attention, enthusiasm and funding. That component is the Arts. If these advocates have their way, STEM would become STEAM.

Their proposition actually makes a lot of sense, and not just because the new acronym is easy on the ears. Though many see art and science as somewhat at odds, the fact is that they have long existed and developed collaboratively. This synergy was embodied in great thinkers like the legendary Leonardo Da Vinci and the renowned Chinese polymath Su Song. One of Carl Jung’s mythological archetypes was the artist-scientist, which represents builders, inventors, and dreamers. Nobel laureates in the sciences are seventeen times likelier than the average scientist to be a painter, twelve times as likely to be a poet, and four times as likely to be a musician.

Camouflage for soldiers in the United States armed forces was invented by American painter Abbot Thayer. Earl Bakken based his pacemaker on a musical metronome. Japanese origami inspired medical stents and improvements to vehicle airbag technology. Steve Jobs described himself and his colleagues at Apple as artists.

At TED 2002, Mae Jemison, a doctor, dancer, and the first African American woman in space, said, “The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin… or even different parts of the same continuum, but rather, they are manifestations of the same thing. The arts and sciences are avatars of human creativity.”

By teaching the arts, we can have our cake and eat it, too. In 2008, the DANA Arts and Cognition Consortium, a philanthropic organization that supports brain research, assembled scientists from seven different universities to study whether the arts affect other areas of learning. Several studies from the report correlated training in the arts to improvements in math and reading scores, while others showed that arts boost attention, cognition, working memory, and reading fluency.

Dr. Jerome Kagan, an Emeritus professor at Harvard University and listed in one review as the 22 most eminent psychologist of the 20th century, says that the arts contribute amazingly well to learning because they regularly combine the three major tools that the mind uses to acquire, store, and communicate knowledge: motor skills, perceptual representation, and language.

“Art and music require the use of both schematic and procedural knowledge and, therefore, amplify a child’s understanding of self and the world,” Kagan said at the John Hopkins Learning, Arts, and the Brain Summit in 2009.

With this realization in mind, educators across the nation are experimenting with merging art and science lessons. At the Wolf Trap Institute in Virginia, “teaching artists” are combining physical dance with subjects like math and geometry. In Rhode Island, MIT researcher Jie Qui introduced students to paper-based electronics as part of her master’s thesis exploring the use of technology in expressive art. Both programs excited students about science while concurrently fueling their imaginations. A potent blend of science and imagination sounds like the perfect concoction to get our country back on track.

Celebrated physicist Richard Feynman once said that scientific creativity is imagination in a straitjacket. Perhaps the arts can loosen that restraint, to the benefit of all.

Insects in the Children’s Festival

Children Fest Organising Team May2011
The Team

After a month spent on pulling together an arts grant application, the Tableland Folk Festival, Children Festival organising team met at the Tree Kangaroo Cafe, Malanda, North Queensland, Australia. Winter has come early to the Tablelands in this tropical mountain area, so we took our chairs into the carpark to catch the sun. We are talking about how to design the arts and music activities of the Children Festival around an Insect Theme. A dance teacher will design an insect choreography. A giant puppet shall be made – ?Praying Mantis. Any ideas most welcome, especially making insect sounds.