Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Maths in Dance - Linda Gamblin

An Interview with Linda Gamblin

Linda Gamblin trained with the Royal Ballet School in London and has performed in a number of principal roles whilst working with The Australian Ballet, Royal Ballet London, National Ballet of Portugal and Sydney Dance Company. She has worked with choreographers such as Michael Clarke, Meryl Tankard and Graeme Murphy and has performed works by Jiri Kylian, Maurice Bejart and Jerome Robbins. 

Linda is a passionate dance educator and has a keen interest in understanding the workings of the body. She attained her Level 3 Diploma in Anatomy and Physiology whilst teaching Pilates, and has continued to develop her education on the muscular and skeletal systems and biomechanics. This knowledge has become an integral part of her teaching practice.

Linda is excited to ... challenge and inspire (students) through the exploration of what dance practice is as well as what it can be. Linda is passionate about embracing a dancers’ individuality and uniqueness and working with them to reach their ultimate potential.

Linda very kindly accepted the invitation to participate in the "Maths in Dance" project and answer a few questions for me. I am, once again, overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness and generosity of professional dancers who have given up their time to write. 

The Questions and the Answers

1. Describe what maths lessons were like for you at school. 

I loved maths at school as I was able to link it directly to my dance training. I had a very musical dance teacher and feel this is linked to my understand of timing, space and outcome. With my own children, who are 14 and 10 years, I often relate their maths homework back to every day movement soccer, tap dancing, surfing or eating pizza when it comes to fractions….

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

Strangely I link a lot of my life to equations.

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

Absolutely there's no question about it.

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

I am very interested  in somatic practices and biomechanics of the body. We speak angles every day. I get my students to visit the physiotherapist to confirm the degree of external and internal rotation they have in their hip joints and whether limitations come from structural weakness. We would then discuss and work with the angles to create optimal physical ability.

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

We look at spacial awareness, proprioceptive self image, space and time every day. Understanding one's own body mathematically is imperative for a heightened sense of spacial awareness and proprioception.

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

Dancers have to estimate. We can't rely on accurate measurements. We are human. We are not a computer or calculator. The ability to estimate distances and time to a near perfect result is what we practice every day. There is a great game we play call triangles. I'm not sure where it comes from but a lot a choreographers use it to warm up with. It hightens the group's sense of spacial awareness and communication. Each  dancer choses 2 other dancers to make a triangle with. You don't tell anyone else who you choose and every dancer chooses someone different. So you can imagine it's difficult to stay in a triangle with 2 moving people but a lot of fun. There was only once in my lifetime that we all found 'stillness'  in our respective triangles as a group after about 10 minutes. Felt like a miracle! We are often asked in an improvisation 'you have one minute to find stillness'. This is timed and when we get it exact it is very rewarding. However it takes some time of practice to be precise more than once.

7. How aware are you of timing and beat in dance? 

Yes again every day. And it's not just the ability to count to 8!! Some times to be truly present in dance we count in 'ones'. Then it's a call and response with the music especially if its a very difficult piece of classical music. I guess that's why an orchestra will have a conductor…  to let the players know what part of that one beat they should play. This is very similar to dance however we don't have a conductor. We have to be aware of what part or fraction of the beat we are all looking for and eventually without counting being precise with the movement and music.

8. Have you ever used maths and physics to explain your technique, movement or choreography? 

I really wish I had of concentrated more in my physics classes. Yes it is so related to movement technique and choreography how could it not. Every day I use concepts such as energy and force, potential energy, centripetal force and often quote Newton's Laws.

9. Do you look at statistics much to analyse your art? 

I guess we should. I'd love to be more scientific about it. I know dance is really heading that way in the contemporary art form and hear of much research going on and linking with science units at well known universities.

For more information about Linda and the Evolve Dance visit:

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