Scientifically curious choreographer Megan Rhyme collaborates with neuroscientist Miriam Sach of University California-San Diego to present an evening length dance work about body mapping, a term used to describe the patterns of nerve cells in the brain's motor cortex. It will be presented by the Chicago Fringe Festival in Pilsen this coming September 2nd, 4th, and 5th.
Megan Rhyme has spent months researching and collaborating with neuroscientist Miriam Sach. Megan and Miriam first met in February 2009, when Megan performed as a dancer in a different piece also based on Miriam's research. Miriam was one of the winners in an internet contest called "Dance Your PhD". Her prize was to be paired up with Chicago choreographer Helena Reynolds, who created a piece which was performed at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's February 2009 conference. After performing as a dancer in this piece, Megan was inspired to create her own collaborative dance-science work. She sought out Miriam in order to learn more about neuroscience, particularly the neurological connections behind movement.
"Every voluntary movement originates from the cortex of the brain (=surface of the brain) where all neurons (=nerve cells) are located. Interestingly, the spatial distributions of neurons, which are responsible for the movement of certain body parts, represent the importance of that body part for the human nature (e.g. the larger the area of neurons for one body part, the higher the importance of that particular body part). - Miriam Sach, PhD.
Over the past year, Megan and Miriam have been talking and researching movement to represent the patterns and connections of neurons in the motor cortex of the brain. The result is a work about body mapping, a term used to describe the spatial distribution of neurons in the motor cortex and the patterns of neurons that reflect our movement experiences. The piece investigates how body mapping connects to the learning process, particularly through the concept of plasticity - the brain's ability to change and adapt itself to new circumstances. Dancers become neurons and molecules, the stage transforms into the space inside the brain, and the process of learning becomes illuminated from the inside and out. Neuroscience is re-conceptualized as something that happens not just in a lab but exists inside us and is happening every moment.