DanceWorks upcoming CoWorks show 8 minutes 17 seconds is created and conceived by Lucy Rupert/Blue Ceiling dance with additional choreography by Karen Kaeja, Emma Kerson, Jane Alison McKinney, and Michael Caldwell. Here, we ask Lucy to share more about the upcoming world premiere.
8 minutes 17 seconds is the length of time it takes light to travel from the Sun to Earth. It is an awkward amount of time. What can you do that takes that long — no more, no less? If something terminal happened to the sun, we would have 8 minutes 17 seconds before the lights went out here on Earth. This precise measurement between our star and our home is absolutely essential to the development of life. We are in the “Goldilocks zone”. Our planet evolved defence mechanisms against the destructive forces of the Sun and its light. Some of those mechanisms have been weakened by our (humanity’s) consuming nature. Light may travel as a wave or a particle, or a wave of particles, or a particle piloted by a wave. We do not see light, but what it hits. This is big territory to investigate through dance.
So…we started with a poem that seemed to me, somehow, to reflect all the aspects of light in space, time, and photons.
We started with these lines, divided the poem into in 8 sections, assigned creators and dancers to each section, and dove in. What was our beginning – the poem — you may now experience as a plot or a map or a series of curious ideas. You can fold it, put it in your pocket and take it along with you through the performance.
What would you do with the last 8 minutes 17 seconds as you disappear “into the northeast”?
I, for one, would dance.
Chorus by Tomas Transtromer
(translation by Robin Robertson)
It has been this way forever it will be this way forever
until the last man dreams fire and the end has come
until we revolt against everything in order to destroy
break out of the circle and turn away from
and breathe in so deeply that we faint
so deeply that the whole Milky Way blazes in our lungs
and then we can disappear into the northeast
with a calm face
There are many beginnings to my love of the science-art intersection. The simplest is my parents. From birth, my sister and I were taught about nature, the Latin names of birds and wildflowers, how to identify them, how to protect them. We were encouraged to draw them, find their sounds in music, go play in the park and pretend to be them.
My parents also emphasized getting artistic and scientific knowledge through school. It was in high school that I came up against the prejudice and alienation of art and science. Though I was a really good student in everything (except phys ed!) the deeper I got into art, the more I found adults steering me away from pursuing the hard maths and sciences academically.
This experience planted a seed in me, a stubborn little seed that was determined to grow into a woman who would be an artist – just as I set out to be when I was 5 – but who would also understand about the universe and ecosystems and maybe neuroscience and evolutionary biology as well.
Professionally, the science-art connection started in 2005 when there was an international call for artists to make works inspired by the centenary of Einstein’s theory of relativity. I plunged into trying to understand relativity, reading everything Einstein wrote that I could find – the Toronto Reference Library was an amazing resource! It was through this project – later entitled “The Speed of Our Vertigoes” which has been performed throughout Canada and in Germany – that I really came to understand the structural and organic similarities between scientific and artistic process.
Personally, I am drawn particularly to astrophysics and cosmology as a way of contending with the mounting sense of mortality since having a kid and passing what is likely the half-way point in my life. Understanding the universe creates a deeper sense of belonging and place in all of this and calms my anxiety about the what-ifs.
My mom died when I was 15 and my dad when I was 22 – at that point I obsessively read Darwin and Sagan: the only things that offered perspective and resolve outside of being a mess and not ready to be an orphan at 22. This personal preoccupation with science re-emerged after having my son.
8 minutes 17 seconds really is a community. It’s the biggest project Blue Ceiling dance has done with 18 people involved plus all those who helped along the way. We have a range of creation models: choreography, collaborative choreography between me and the whole cast, a collaboratively-made duet and trio and a commissioned solo. It’s complex and has taken a lot of faith from all those involved, as I have been the only person who understood the big picture as we worked.
These last two weeks of rehearsal before we move into the theatre will be thrilling as everyone will be together and find a deeper understanding of how all the parts of this behemoth will dovetail. If I stop to think about it for too long I get a little weak in the knees. Every member of this team is astonishing in their own ways – collectively a fireball of energy, thought and movement.