During the creation process Alexander Whitley utilised the idea of orbiting both in patterns on the floor and within the body– arms around each other, forearms pivoting, dancers circling others, legs circling the axis of the body. Whilst it is of course difficult to make a part of the body completely orbit another part as our limbs are attached very firmly to our torso, it is fun to try! Alexander created lots of unique and interesting movement playing with the challenge in this way. See what kind of interesting movement you can make…
Take the image above and display on a whiteboard (source: Nasa). Discuss the elliptical shape of the orbit that the moon makes around the sun. Discuss the meanings of the words perigee and apogee.
Discuss the shape that the earth makes around the sun. Discuss the meanings of the words perihelion and aphelion.
Discuss whether the sun itself is orbiting, or whether it is stationary in the sky.
ORBITING: Concentric circles and elliptical floor patterns
Try to stage the above picture using people. Choose a huddle of people to represent the sun. Have them facing outwards, back to back in their huddle, so they can see the action.
Choose someone to represent the Earth. Using chalk if needed, walk out an elliptical floor pattern. Whilst you may not have the space to do this to scale, this will need to be large as it takes a whole year for the earth to make this orbit.
Ask the Earth to be still for a moment. Invite someone to represent the moon. Have them walk a much smaller elliptical orbit around the Earth. This orbit takes approximately a month.
Have a go at having these two orbits happen at the same time. In theory the moon will have made 12 full orbits around the Earth in the time it takes for the Earth to make one full orbit around the sun.
Divide the group into smaller groups and ask each one to create their own small solar systems. They might want to give themselves made-up planet names. (NB: each group should be larger than three otherwise the tendency will be for them to replicate the model of Sun, Moon and Earth.)
Ask children to use the pattern they have just created on the floor, one of bigger and smaller ellipses and of one planet travelling shorter distances than the other, to inspire the creation of a new floor pattern. This is a different universe than the one we are in and can have different rules so ensure the young people understand that they DO NOT have to stay true to the scientific accuracies of the Earth, Sun and Moon. Instead have the creative freedom to create their own planets with their own ‘periods’ and elliptical orbits. Each group must therefore decide what its ‘rules of the universe’ must be. For example, do your planets move around one other planet like the sun? Does that planet move too? How fast? How slow? Are your orbits as simple as an eclipse shape as they are in our solar system or can they defy gravity and be more complex, such as a figure of 8? Decide on any other ‘rules’ or criteria for your own solar systems.
Ask the children to plan this on paper first before translating this into movement.
When they are ready, invite them to set the maps moving and walk these patterns out. NB: As the focus of this task is on the creation of interesting floor patterns, encourage the dancers to keep movement very simple and use a combination of walking at different speeds and heights (tip toes, crawling) to create their dances.
Ask each group to perform these dances to the group. At the end of each sharing ask each group to talk about the decisions they made to construct their dance and to invite feedback and questions. What were their ‘rules of the universe’? Could the observers spot any of these?
Can the groups use the floor patterns they have created as the basis for a short piece of choreography? Planets can potentially move up and down on their vertical axis, or use their arms and legs to create shapes. Moving planets will have to keep to the floor pattern they mapped out but can make these orbits using any travelling dance moves they want. Start slow but suggest that as they get more confident with their choreography they might want to speed it up a little. This task could be improvised or you could use it to have them create set sections of dance that they can then repeat and share to each other.
Ask the young people to find a space on their own in the room.
Ask each young person to think about how they might create an orbital pattern with a part of their body.
Ensure the young people understand that they do not have to create perfect ellipses but certainly they should be inspired by the shape and make an attempt to replicate this using parts of the body.
The movement may be very small – a head making half an ellipse by turning to one side then the other. Or much bigger – an arm circling by the side of the body.
Call people back to a circle and ask each person in turn to demonstrate their movement.
For each person have a go as a group at replicating that movement.
Invite some direction from the movement’s creator to encourage them to ‘own’ it.
Ask them questions such as should it be performed fast? Slow?
Is there any other information you need about the movement in order to perform it correctly?