The UMass Amherst Dance Program is reaching out for your generous support of dance as we complete Convergence, an original dance film and experimental evening-length work that will premiere on February 2, 2023. Convergence artistically renders methods and findings from an active clinical trial at UMass Amherst that focuses on dance in relation to health among adults. Toward inspiring greater interest in the benefits of dance, Convergence utilizes art, science, and technology to unveil dance as an accessible, dynamic, and potent mode of physical activity and so much more.
Convergence is being produced as both an experimental evening-length work and dance film by the UMass Amherst Dance Program, with additional support from Five College Dance. Your generous contribution to the making of Convergence ensures this new film about dance and health will be available to a wide audience in an aesthetically legible format. Donors to Convergence who share their names may be listed on future materials related to the project.
Using Science to Understand Dance at UMass Amherst
Laboratory for the Scientific Study of Dance (LAB: SYNC), a biobehavioral research lab in the Department of Music & Dance, has been home to the nation’s first National Endowment for the Arts Research Lab to focus on the relationship between dance and health in adults since the autumn of 2021. The present aims of the NEA Research Lab at UMass Amherst are to develop and validate sensor-based methods for quantifying dance exposures in adults and to test relationships between multiple health outcomes and self-reported lifetime dance exposures. The NEA Research Lab is directed by Aston K. McCullough, Ph.D., MS, MA, and he is joined by co-investigators Bruna Martins-Klein, Ph.D.; Pierre Rouzier, MD; and Ravi Ranjan, Ph.D. Currently, McCullough and co-investigators are conducting the METRIC study (Measurement of professional dance training exposures and health correlates in 18- to 85-year-old adults), which will conclude in August 2023.
Translating Science into Art
Toward using imaginative, multidisciplinary avenues for communicating scientific results, McCullough has teamed with Five College collaborators Chris Aiken, MFA; Barbie Diewald, MFA; and Jenna Riegel, MFA to stage the METRIC study research design and preliminary results conceptually and theatrically in a new, evening-length multimedia dance work titled Convergence on February 2 – 4, 2023 at 7:30 PM in the Totman Performance Lab.
As an alternative to a traditional scientific presentation, Convergence brings the audience into a blended world of dance performance and scientific research communication. Each outfitted with sensors, dancers Aiken, Diewald, McCullough, and Riegel display their own live-streamed data, as they open an impressionistic window into the scientific rationale and design for the METRIC study. With an interactive live sound score composed by Salvatore Macchia, DFA, and performed by percussionist Ayano Kataoka and Audio Engineer Jazer Giles, the dancers’ individual and unique dance behaviors directly influence Macchia’s mercurial sonic world via computer vision.
As the dancing quartet generate and respond to their own physiological data visually while demonstrating preliminary results from the METRIC study, they also attend to unpredictable real-time changes in sonic stimuli caused by their own movement choices. Along with dancers Frankie Barron, Brette Cronin, Sophie Leveille, Nicole Lombardi, Jillian Murray, Alec Galavotti, and Julia Susi, the group ascends and descends musical scales and dance intensities, skip and bound across dance modes and styles, and –while intertwined in a network of sensors – display the versatility, complexity, and perhaps the ubiquity of dance.
Convergence will be archived as a dance for film in order to share the work with a wider audience in an aesthetically legible format.
Artistic Director, Aston K. McCullough; Director of Photography, Cristian Solimeno; Lighting Designer, Matthew Adelson; UMass Amherst Biomedical Engineering Senior Design students Priya Atiyolli, Alexandra Lazarov, Brian Simoes, Shlomo Warren.