Art Meets Science at Cedar Lake

The World Science Festival presents Armitage Gone! Dance in the New York premiere of Three Theories, an evening-length work inspired by renowned physicist Brian Greene’s best-selling book, The Elegant Universe, June 3–6, 2010, at the theater at Cedar Lake in New York City.

Karole Armitage has always been interested in the intersection of art and science and began contemplating Three Theories after reading The Elegant Universe. Greene’s book details the inherent conflict between the two great pillars of modern theoretical physics: Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, and ventures into the remarkable ideas emerging from attempts to resolve the conflict, particularly string theory. Using key concepts specific to each theory as a springboard to generate movement, Armitage has created a work in three distinct sections — Relativity, Quantum, and String — each defined by its own dance structure and musical language. For Armitage, contemporary physics is replete with visual metaphor. Her aim is not to illustrate scientific constructs, but rather to use such principles as a means for exploring new possibilities in movement and patterning.

A work for eleven dancers, Three Theories is set to a commissioned score by maverick composer Rhys Chatham, Sangeeta Shankar’s South Indian Classical Carnatic violin music, and John Luther Adams’s evocative Dark Waves. The dance features lighting design by longtime collaborator Clifton Taylor and costumes by Deanna Berg. Three Theories is performed by Leonides Arpon, Kristina Bethel-Blunt, Megumi Eda, William Isaac, Luke Manley, Bennyroyce Royon, Abbey Roesner, Marlon Taylor-Wiles, Emily Wagner,Mei-hua Wang, and Masayo Yamaguchi.

Three Theories opens with a prelude inspired by the Big Bang, set to an excerpt from Chatham’s Two Gongs.  The first section, Relativity, takes its cue from Einstein’s idea that gravity is the warping of the space-time fabric. Here, Armitage furthers her exploration of bending and twisting the vertical and horizontal lines of classical ballet, intricately weaving the dance into Shankar’s Raga Jag, Vilambit Ektaal. The seven-note scale of Carnatic music, where the use of quarter tones and other pitches produce “warping” sounds not present in Western tempered tunings, influences a recurring gestural language.

The second section is fueled by Quantum Mechanics’ description of the volatility of the universe on the particle, or micro, level. In response, Armitage has created four precarious, high-speed, off-kilter duets, set to Chatham’s driving original score for 100 massed guitars specifically tuned to produce micro-tones. Quantum Mechanics’ formulation of “sum-over-paths” has inspired the choreographic structure, which emanates from a single dance phrase that is manipulated in a variety of ways.

The last section draws from string theory, which posits that the fundamental matter of the universe is a virtually infinitesimal vibrating string, its vibrations caused by the volume of the folded, complex geometry surrounding it. The choreography is shaped by morphing, tangled group formations that shift in response to individual contact. Set to Adams’ Dark Waves, the score “plays with the simple interval of the perfect fifth – the basic building block of harmony…to suggest a huge entity of indeterminate shape” (Alex Ross, The New Yorker).

Performances will take place at the theater at Cedar Lake, June 3–6, 2010 (Thursday and Friday at 7:30 pm; Saturday at 4:00 pm and 7:30 pm; Sunday at 4:00 pm and 7:30 pm). A gala reception will follow the performance on Thursday, June 3. For more information about the gala call 212-431-3134. Post-performance discussions with Armitage and leading physicists will be held following the Friday performance and both Saturday performances. The theater at Cedar Lake is located at 547 West 26th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues.

Tickets are $30. To purchase tickets by phone call: 212-352-3101 or 866-811-4111, Monday–Friday 9:00 am–9:00 pm; Saturday–Sunday 10:00 am–6:00 pm. (Phone sales handled by Theatermania/Ovation Tix), or purchase online at www.ovationtix.com. To purchase World Science Festival tickets in person, visit NYU Ticket Central in the Skirball Center lobby at 566 La Guardia Place (at Washington Square South), Tuesday–Saturday 12:00–6:00 pm. Remaining tickets will be available at the door at the theater at Cedar Lake, two hours before showtime.

Three Theories is the result of several years of development during which Karole Armitage met with physicist Brian Greene to lay the foundation for the work. Three Theories received its world premiere at the Krannert Center in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, on April 6, 2010. Following the New York premiere, Three Theories will be performed at Jacob’s Pillow in July 2010, and next season at the Lied Center at the University of Kansas, the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College, and the Flynn Theater in Burlington, Vermont.

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