Week 8: Devika & Michael
When we say protons exert a force, I imagine them as vectors (or little arrows) oriented in a specific direction. They maintain this orientation while precessing either parallel, or anti-parallel, to the magnetic field. To demonstrate this idea, below is basic schematic with two protons positioned in different directions. The vertical line in the center represents the external magnetic field.
Yet, protons move, or rather precess, and so, what we see now is just a specific moment in time. If you wait a second, the protons may be in a different position because of this movement (the speed of which will vary depending on the magnetic field). Like a camera, the MRI machine is designed to take detailed pictures inside of your body, and to ensure full coverage of the brain, we need to maximize the number of slices. Slice thickness plays a role here, but standard pre-operative protocols call for hundreds of slices.
To portray this in dance, I would need to manipulate light. In between moments of darkness, each dancer would “precess” their way to a new pose - each one different from the last. For simplicity, I may use certain poses, and here are a few that have inspired me. I may have the “standing” positions represent protons at higher energy levels, while “sitting” positions representing protons at lower energy levels - because sitting demands less energy than standing. However, not all “sitting” positions are the same - some may be a bit more difficult, but not as energy-consuming as the standing ones!
Demonstrating parallel and anti-parallel orientations is a bit more complicated, and while I mentioned having the dancers not face each other in my previous post, I am now thinking of using specific hand gestures (mudras) instead to convey these two positions.
The act of precession (that is, the act of spinning) would be constant, but the degree to, or the intensity, with which they spin will vary among the dancers - as this will depend on which axis of the Cartesian coordinate system they are spinning on and how many protons (or dancers) are present on each axis.
Still, while opposing magnetic forces of protons in the x and y axes cancel each other out, individual magnetic forces (or vectors) in the z-axis do not! Rather, these foces will team up and generate a magentic vector in the same direction of the external magentic field. In the coming weeks, I hope to expore ways of depicting this phenomenon, which will be both interesting and challenging, because in a way, it’s as if the person has their own magnetic field.
This entry is dedicated to the inimitable and ever inspiring Leonore Gordon, who
we lost recently. My fellow poet friend, caring activist, community organizer, and
fighter for a better life -may your loved ones know peace, and may they also
know how much you were loved by the people you touched. Thank you for your
poetry and your life that shined for others…
I’ve been feeling a bit lost lately. Swimming in the sea of possibilities and
circumstances. I am feeling the rush of time like I’m in a stolen car evading police, and
although I enjoyed the newest Robert Redford movie, “The Old Man and The Gun” I
hardly feel like the hero in this story. Perhaps because, as of late, people close to me
have been hit quite hard by the disease -by Parkinson’s- in different ways; but it all
feels the same, and that’s what makes it all the more painful. Whether it’s dropping
down a level on the rungs of mobility, or worse, this disease is unrelenting and it waits
for no man. There are clues and steps towards health, and studies for cures (thank you
to those who study this for a living, adding valuable concrete evidence to people like me
delving into the creative world to help people live healthfully by whatever means we
know how). In essence, everyone who lives within the PD community, whether
personally, peripherally, or those working to find a cure are all in search of the same
thing. Understanding. The reasons for why this happens seems out of reach, as
sometimes the reasons, “Why go on?” might feel just as far from one’s grasp. But
understanding how to live the best way possible, how to live with the ups and downs or
on’s and off’s, is probably the most vital key to happiness. And, I believe, in order to
understand this disease, in order for me to continue on this trek of making a
performance piece to teach others what it’s like, what it takes, and what connects us all,
whether we have the disease or not, demands a closer look- closer than I’ve ever
The theatre piece I conceived almost three years ago, has been co-written by folks with
PD, and, like a good epic poem or play, drops you into the thick of it - of the disease’s
repercussions - and doesn’t necessarily teach the audience anything. I’m not sure it
should, for pedanticism can be perverse in the theatre, or maybe it’s what the theatre is
made to do…? Suffice it to say, I at least want to engage the audience in something
unique and semi-educational, something that puts them in the shoes of someone with
PD. But how do you explain something that stems from something so fundamentally
similar, and yet has so many distinct (read: varied) manifestations?
I am slowly coming to the realization that perhaps it is the medical/scientific explanation
for the disease, i.e. what happens within the brain’s Substantia Nigra that might help
clarify things. Why not go to the source? Let’s go to those failing dopamine producing
neurons, which is the issue at hand. Maybe that is what is needed to connect things, to
actually show just that? To build something abstract at first, something seemingly “out
there” - a conglomeration of dancers or actors moving about, perhaps in their own
“dopaminergic” fashion -some language I create with the help of true science,
resembling and recreating cellular metabolic activity, and/or neural activity to better
create one of the choreographic languages or movement motifs of the piece…
And perhaps after a long while, we see correlating movement themes among each
person in the story, really focusing on the two main heroes of the play. Then we see
shifts in these thematic elements - throughout the loss of dopamine and its varied
effects - like transitions or chapter headers/closers, throughout key moments of shifting
narrative points, i.e. like the first time someone falls, or if someone goes to the hospital
and a test seems to suggest an infection), or a major stress develops. Once we
develop an understanding of this new language being spoken, we might be able to
share and develop that movement language to selectively tell a story without the use of
dialogue or real life representations at all, but eventually with just movement. The
movement disorder through movement.
Maybe that is what this piece needs to connect it all, science through art. The
representation therein being the tie that binds - ay, there’s the rub - that choreographic
Perhaps I can really get to know the nitty-gritty of what happens to people on the inside.
Deep inside their brains. Not just the symptoms, with which most of my teaching work
revolve; not as therapy per say, but as an artistic means to set themselves free and
approach their own bodies as creative beings, not patients with physical cues, but as
dancers with imagery-driven, musical, and creative cues.
Thus, in building the piece it might be easier to add science as the transitional
scaffolding to the more narrative elements that act as the heart of the matter. This
scaffolding will not try to represent symptoms, which is a tender subject and hard line to
toe, but will represent the internal structures (perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of
this disease) while depicting the effects of the disease on each individual involved.
Most everyone will have witnessed the tremors, or the rigidity, bradykinesia, dyskinesia,
festination before, but what they might not know is the cause of such things. To show
them the inside in order to help us understand the outside. To provide cerebral context
as a character. As a key player, in order to allow us to process the rest of the story.
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