Dancers defy gravity.


Don Armel

This morning I was watching CBS Sunday Morning, who reported on the upcoming Broadway reprise on Shuffle Along. The first play starring, written and produced by blacks, first performed in 1921. I much enjoyed the story as it focused on two of the up and coming dancers. That is the point I drifted off to physics.

The dancers ability to create the illusion of floating is awe inspiring. I know that this is not possible. Gravity has a set of forces that influence all objects on Earth equally. The illusion is a dancers’ ability to appear to stay aloft longer that is humanly possible. I know that my ability to jump and float is limited by an age and weight related lack of vertical leaping. I cannot jump to high. And I use my skill (such as it is) as a reference point against others people’s abilities. These dancer athletes have tremendous leaping ability.

The dancer adds speed. While running faster does not change ones jumping height, it creates distance while jumping. So not only do the dancers jump higher but covering a greater distance giving the illusion of floating. Consider those awesome dunks from Michael Jordan. It is all framed against our own experiences which are limited in comparison.

I know the science is fixed and there is no supernatural force aiding the dancer, but I cannot help to marvel in their skill and my perceptions. We are easily fooled. Being cognizant that there is a difference between perception and reality helps me to be skeptical and not only double check the world but myself. Anything supernatural is not awe inspiring, poof it’s done. The results from nature, now that is awesome.



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