Welcome to the 8 Minutes Creative Learning Resource
This website is designed to accompany the schools workshops that Alexander Whitley Dance Company will be delivering alongside the new stage production 8 Minutes. It is also, however, freely available to be used by teachers interested in exploring the relationship between artistic and scientific processes.
It contains a series of lesson plans aimed at Key stage 2 children based on the ideas explored in the creative process of making 8 Minutes as well as host of resources to support these lessons including interviews with the creative team.
THE LAWS OF MOTION
A foreword by Alexander Whitley, Artistic Director and Choreographer of 8 Minutes
Here’s a definition of physics taken from Wikipedia:
‘Physics involves the study of matter and its motion and behaviour through space and time, along with related concepts such as energy and force.’
Replace ‘physics’ with ‘choreography’ and you have an equally accurate definition of the field I am most familiar with! This goes to show that two disciplines we might think of as worlds apart can actually be very similar in their fundamental enquiries.
Physics and choreography present very different kinds of findings of course, with science aiming for objective fact and art embracing subjective interpretation. But they both require some form of inspiration to set them off, they need a method to develop their ideas, involve problem solving, getting feedback and often a lot of creative thinking in order to tackle the questions they ask of the world. They both rely on processes, therefore, to achieve their results.
The workshops we’ve developed here, then, are aimed at highlighting the parallels between artistic and scientific processes, using each discipline to shed light on the other. They will introduce young people to scientific concepts which will in turn be used as a basis for generating and developing movement ideas. Discussions and feedback at various stages of this process will also engage them in critical thinking around the work they’re doing, encouraging a sense of enquiry and curiosity around the subject.
Most people might assume that dancing doesn’t require a great deal of thought and this might be true if you consider thinking to be something that happens exclusively in our brains and through language. I don't believe that though, and am passionate about revealing what can be immensely complex thought processes involved in dancing, or what you might also call ‘physical thinking’.
Thinking through movement offers us a different way of experiencing and understanding ideas and it’s my hope that these workshops, in getting young people to physicalise scientific concepts, will offer them a more direct way of engaging with ideas that can otherwise be abstract and hard to grasp. It will also reveal to them that concepts and ideas exist in movement too and these are the building blocks of choreography.
Contemplating the enormous scales and forces of space science, as I have learnt, requires a pretty huge effort of the imagination and inspires a different perspective on the world we are familiar with. The theatre, too, is a place in which our imaginations are activated, a blank canvas where new worlds can be created, where things transform and possibilities extend beyond the everyday.
The parallels here are what got me so excited about making 8 Minutes in the first place. Space science is a fascinating and awe-inspiring subject matter to learn about and has filled me with a sense of wonder and enthusiasm for the kind of ideas and feelings I can bring to the stage in a dance production, hopefully activating people’s imaginations in the way mine has been.
Curiosity, creativity, imagination and a sense of wonder are characteristics many would argue are essential to human flourishing and it’s really important to me to show young people that they are features of both artistic and scientific lives, not one or the other. I think we should all aspire to be childlike in our enthusiasm and curiosity about the world (and beyond!) and work hard to keep this alive in young people.
THE SCIENCE OF ART AND THE ART OF SCIENCE
A foreword by Hugh Mortimer, lead scientist on 8 Minutes.
There are tangible benefits to the collaboration of the art and sciences. Art inspires science. This has bene shown countless times with examples of science and fiction combining to develop concepts that foster ideas and grow the imagination. From Shelly’s Frankenstein to Abraham’s Star Trek.
Science on the other hand builds the tools, methods and media that are in turn used by the artist, be that photography, film or virtual reality. The knowledge that is created in the scientific process is intrinsically linked to the art that uses it, which in its own turn inspires the science.
However, art and science have more in common than this. What has surprised me most is the similarities between the scientific method and the artistic process.
We know that art is subjective and the sciences objective. But from my time working with artists it has shown me that the foundation of art is based on the same principles that are used in the scientific method: A hypothesis that leads to a period of learning and experimentation, the results of which are analysed and conclusions drawn. This is the scientific method but these are also the principles used by the artist to develop their art. The artist then adds another layer to this process - one of reflection of the personal interpretation.
The consequence is that the artistic process blends the scientific method with a personal, and sometimes emotional, interpretation of the world, as seen through the artist’s eyes. What is portrayed is a piece of art that combines the analytical with the humanity, awe and wonder where it is captured and displayed.
Science shouldn’t pass comment but objectively describe the world, however art should. It is this complementarity that give art science collaboration such power and enable the artist to learn from the science and the science to learn from the art.
Find out more about Hugh here: http://www.alexanderwhitley.com/8-minutes#8-minutes-team
A special thanks must be given to Melanie Precious for her wonderful work in developing this Creative Learning Programme.