NIMBioS Extracurriculars & the Mathematics of Dance

“It may be possible to do without dancing entirely. Instances have been known of young people passing many, many months successively, without being at any ball of any description, and no material injury accrue either to body or mind;–but when a beginning is made– when the felicities of rapid motion have once been, though slightly, felt–it must be a very heavy set that does not ask for more.” — Jane Austen in “Emma”

No, this is the not the first interdisciplinary workshop on the mathematics of English country dance, but perhaps it could be.

A man of many talents, NIMBioS Director Louis Gross donned his Elizabethan attire last week to join other local English country dancers in teaching a few steps to students in a 200-level English class at UT that includes the works of Jane Austen. The dancing was very popular at the turn of the 19th century during Austen’s time and featured in her novels, not to mention a good number of modern Austen movie adaptations.

Gross has danced with the local group, Lark in the Moon, for about 15 years. Weekly dances to live music are held every Sunday at the Laurel Theater. Newcomers are always welcome.

“It’s a wonderful group of folks, good exercise, and has participants from elementary school to retired folks,” Gross said.

With their weaving and whirling, the dances reveal a formal mathematical structure akin to abstract algebra, Gross observed, making his visit to the classroom yet another NIMBioS contribution to foster interdisciplinary connections across campus.

Who ever said that college English class is not interesting?!

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