still at it


We haven’t been actively promoting our work lately, but we’re still at it even when we’re not in production mode. Just last week we got to teach a short course at the National Science Teachers Association regional meeting in Salt Lake City. For us, this means that we got to share our work in an expanded, three-hour format with a couple dozen teachers from around the country. They danced and physics-ed with us, using materials we’ve developed over many years now. It’s gratifying that educators from science, arts, and other fields see how the practices of these disciplines overlap, and how our traditional silos can be merged in order to better understand the processes of knowing and learning in general.

This is work that we’re passionate about and dedicated to. Even in times (like now) when we’re not running performances, we’re excited to work with others to find ways to bring it to classrooms and other learning contexts. I know that Erik and I both regularly refer to this work in our own classes and with teachers we work with, and we’ll continue to team up to bring these and other workshops to anyone that welcomes it.

Forces at Play performance invitation


Forces at Play

Monday, October 2, 2017
12:30 PM (seating available at 12:00 PM)
Austad Auditorium, Browning Center, Weber State University

Join us for a celebratory performance that integrates science and art on a single stage. “Forces at Play” is the creation of Erik Stern (Weber State, Dance), Adam Johnston (Weber State, Physics), three professional dancers, and our ongoing collaborations and workshops. We’re welcoming teachers and students for this free presentation, suitable especially for students in upper elementary (4th grade and up), middle school, and high school, as well as university students and faculty.

This 40-minute production (followed by Q&A) includes compelling science demonstration and artful dance performance. More important, it emphasizes the parallels and overlap of science and arts practices and overarching themes that are important in both. Investigations, questions, design, patterns, models, and other themes that are shared by art and science — and are common objectives in both educational settings — will be featured in the performance.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Please register and reserve seats for your class, here at this link (

For more information about this work, the performance, workshops, and class materials, see our webpage,, or feel free to contact us with questions.



New production: Forces at Play


“Forces at Play” is our second show, based on some of our work from A Body in Motion, but also largely extended from the work we’ve done with teachers and students in workshops. Snow College was thoughtful enough to invite us to present some of our work at their colloquium series, which led us to think about how to re-work our ideas into a new presentation. Like so much of what we’ve done, this started with an idea and grew exponentially. Getting three dedicated dancers to work with us was essential to this work.

As we’re documenting this, we have yet to actually perform the piece, so we have yet to see what it becomes. But we have high hopes. There’s a certain clarity and focus to the work to go along with our whimsy, the dancers, and some essences of science that parallel practices of art. We’ll post more as this work becomes more distilled.

For now, here are the opening lines of Forces at Play. They’re accompanied by some action on the stage, but this might give you the feel for where we’re going:

When I first got pulled into this project, of course I was enamored with the way that dancers can float up to a balanced pose and contract back to the ground with the utmost grace. But, then there’s also this thing: dancers applaud for one another after a class – students never applaud after physics lab. But, what really strikes me is the practice of dance. The experimenting . . .  A getting a feel for nature; see how it can be poked and shaped. Because, while we’re beholden to nature,  we still get to figure out ways to make use of it . . .

And it continues. We get to model how art and science both interrogate nature and use it to give us a space to create. By the end, we’re wondering to ourselves if dance is something we “engineer,” and if a mission to Mars might be something we “choreograph.” We are adamant that arts and science are distinct, but we’re equally adamant that the practices of these fold into and support one another.

Stay tuned for more to come.


In rehearsal, Erik and Adam play with structures of sound in a pipe while dancers work with paper.



An hour before our first show last week, we broke out of the warmup circle on the stage.  The dancers called themselves together and pulled in tight to give themselves a sending cheer before the performance.  I was walking towards the wings when I heard them, all together, yell:


I stopped in my tracks and turned to them, revealing my wide grin.  There are a few distinct and specific teaching memories that I hold onto, images that are painted and hung in some exclusive gallery inside my head.  I added this canvas to the collection.

Why “stardust”?  The dancers, immersed in the art of dance, have had to extend themselves more than just from toe to fingertip.  They are tasked with conceptualizing and encapsulating big, crosscutting ideas of science.  One of these, with background narration provided by clips from a Neil deGrasse Tyson interview, is the fact that our physical essence is something that has to have been “cooked” somewhere else.  The original batch of universe would have only given us hydrogen and helium, for the most part.  But we are decidedly structured around much heavier elements, such as oxygen and carbon.  These are the byproducts fused within massive stars that have lived out their energetic lives and spread these materials out amongst the galaxy in a massive explosion.  Our solar system is a later generation built from recycled parts.  You, your DNA, your cat, your chocolate — all the important things have their origins in the hearts of some other long-passed stars.

The universe is in us; we are the universe.  “Stardust” is as inspiring a cheer as any I can think of.  Bodies in motion on the dance floor celebrate the long journey of each spec of carbon, whether we’re aware of it or not.

But as far as we know so far, we’re also the only pieces of stardust aware of its source.   To be stardust is one thing; to know that you are such is staggering.  I think it means that we have some responsibility.  We act on the responsibility to understand what we’re made of, because who else is going to if not us?  This is the role of science, and I suspect that on some level we all place value on scientific enterprise because it allows us to be conscious of our context in time and space.

And, I think it’s our responsibility to dance (as well as to sing, to paint, to write).  It’s all what this bit of stardust is meant to do, billions of years in the making: to express that we are all a part of something, responsible to the whole while making sense of the self.  It’s a hard job.  But I’ve learned through this project that dance and dancers are up to the task.

not a piece of paper


Last week saw the official premier of Body in Motion that has been in the works for the past year.  Buses carrying a thousand elementary students paraded up to the curb of Weber State’s Browning Center, spilling a flood of children into Austad Auditorium.  The following day, five hundred middle and high school students attended as well.  The large stage, expansive room, and (especially) the enthusiastic audience were all what this performance was created for, so it was exciting to get to present this invention that we’d been preparing for so long.

After each performance, we took questions from the audience.  There were lots of the usual good questions: how much practice, what do the dancers study, how did we think of this or that, etc.  But the question that struck us this time was:

paperpushaway“What is the paper supposed to mean?”

In typical fashion, Erik turned the question back to the student.  “What do you think it means?”  She told us not what we were expecting or what we were ready for, but what is definitely a beautiful answer:

“I think the paper represents ideas.”

Erik and I both stopped short.  That’s the answer we hadn’t thought of; and of course it was a great way to encapsulate what we’d been doing for months.  (To get a feel for this if you haven’t seen the performances, you might take a look at our Paper prompt, including a short video clip.)  So much of the work that’s gone into creating the pieces, the performance, and the entire program of school visits remind us that this is all about ideas.  We need to float the ideas — especially the wrong ones — to figure out what’s going to work best. They are tenuous, difficult to hold onto. They get blown away.  They are both precious and unpredictable.  They’re influenced by everything around.  They’re fun to play with. 

More important, the sheets of paper we used in the piece, like ideas, were put onto the stage and put to use in a variety of forms.  We can choose what we’d like to do with them, how we’d like to act on them. This reminded us of our handout that we gave to teachers after the performance.  At the top it says clearly, “This is not a piece of paper.” Sure, it is a piece of paper, but it isn’t just this.  It’s a dance prop and a science experiment, with an infinite number of possibilities just waiting to be tried.

You can download your own copy, either the one-side version with just the print of the “Not a Piece of Paper” text, or a two-side version that includes our performance poster that promotes our public performance this week at Orchesis.  (Tickets are available at

press and preparation


Nancy Van Valkenburg of the Standard-Examiner highlighted our upcoming public performances for the spring Orchesis dance recital.   (It includes some interview and rehearsal video footage.)  There are three shows, April 9-11, 7:30 PM, in the Allred Theater in the Browning Center.  You can order these tickets at the Weber State box office.

We would love to see you there!

At the same time that dancers and stage crew are preparing for these performances, they are also anticipating a performance for hundreds of elementary students from Weber School District in the same week, followed by trips to local schools to host dance/science workshops.  And, Adam just got back from a trip to Vernal, UT to plan our trip in May to do a performance, classes, and some dance-science extensions in the area.  We’ll post news about these adventures here.



As we get ready for our largest performance of the year and the public debut of A Body in Motion, we’re also trying to prepare resources for students and teachers.  These include something we’ve grouped under the “lessons” menu item, but they’re really more like ideas, prompts, and ways of thinking about dance and science.  In these, we take ideas, photos, or even video of some of our dance/science works, and we suggest ways to bring them into a classroom or other discussion.

At the bottom of each of these pages there is room for your comments and ideas.  We’d love to see what you have to say.

As we assemble more of these, we’ll continue to list them on the lessons page and in the menu.