Thursday, 17 July 2014

Maths in Dance - Drew Hedditch

Interview with Drew Hedditch

Drew was born in Canberra and started tap classes at the age of five; he started ballet at the age of eight. He studied at the Lisa Clark Dance Centre and the Australian Ballet School. He toured with The Dancers Company in 2012 and 2013, and joined The Australian Ballet in 2014.

Drew is a keen rugby player and once harboured ambitions of
becoming Australia's first tap-dancing Wallaby.

Drew kindly agreed to answer some questions about how he sees the relationship between mathematics and dance.

Photo by James Braund

The Questions and Answers

Describe what math lessons were like for you at school. 

I loved maths at school, I always preferred maths and science to English etc.

When you left school, did you expect to be using any of the math that you were taught ever again?

I expected to be using percentages in relation to shopping (sales!) and also number patterns, eg patterns with music.

Do you divide dances or movements into parts or sections that might be expressed as mathematical fractions?

Yes, for example you might repeat a step four times within a musical bar of eight, therefore each movement has a value of two musical counts, the fraction being ¼.

How aware are you of angles in your technique – angle of body, angle of arms and legs, angle of movements?

Angles are strongly used in relation to positions of the legs. Angles often describe the height of the leg in relation to the supporting leg and floor eg. A 90 degree arabesque has the back leg raised parallel to the floor.

When you are moving in a performance, how much is “mathematical thinking and calculating where the space is” and how much is “feel for the space”?

When performing we have a strong sense of the eight quarter and centre stage marks that are specifically measured and marked by our stage management crew.

Is estimation good enough or do you rely on accurate measurement of distances and times?

Estimation is not good enough, particularly in the corps de ballet, but that’s also why we rehearse. Each travelling movement has a value of how far it is meant to travel, if you estimate this you could possibly ruin the overall shape.

How aware are you of timing and beat when you are dancing?

I am very aware of timing – if movements are out of time, it looks wrong. The music is not always a constant rhythm either, for example you could have three bars of eight, one bar of twelve, and a bar of nine – you need to be aware of this when dancing.

Have your teachers or choreographers ever used math and physics to explain your technique?

The angles of legs are a key factor in the positions within your technique. Physics is strongly used particularly with weight placement. You need to be very accurate with this, otherwise you can fall over when lifting your leg, during a pirouette or landing from a jump!

Do you look at statistics much to analyse your training and performance?

Yes, if eight out of ten people are doing one arm and two are doing a different arm – this needs to be fixed.

Do you have any other insights to offer into how you use mathematics in dance?

With all our Pilates and strength training, we need to be particular with the amount of weight/resistance we use as we want this to benefit our dancing and not our physical shape.

Photo by Luis Ferriero

Thank you Drew for taking time out to be a part of the "Maths in Dance" project.

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