“Dance of the Neurons” Masterclass

On Thursday, the Bryn Mawr College Dance Department brought choreographer Jody Oberfelder to the Modern III dance class to lead a masterclass on neuroscience and dance. She recently choreographed a dance exploring the motions and functions of neurons (brain cells), and we got to watch short excerpts of her piece, “Dance of the Neurons.”

The masterclass started with us lying on the floor. We were told to relax and find our inner selves. Then she had us recenter our bodies around a certain body part and move around that body part. We next tried to imagine ourselves as cells. Jody would tap certain people to spark off a different style of movement and the rest of us, the other cells, would react — similar to a brain impulse, spark, and wave. Next, we split into two groups: Exciter cells and Inhibiters cells. The exciter cells would move around “excitedly” and the inhibiter cells would try to calm them down.

Our final activity was to express in pairs an action that happens in our brain through dance. My partner and I tried to act out the state of putting thoughts in their place, taking back thoughts, and formulating future thoughts. I immediately thought of what happens inside my brain when I try to improvise. Improv, whether in dance or music, has always been a difficult concept for me to grasp. I don’t like having to think about what to do next or the lag in thought between movements. We tried to show this state of mind by sending a dance “impulse” to each other and trying to move in an unsure, shy way.

They say that watching someone dance invokes feelings of empathy in the brain. It was interesting to learn about the effects of dance on my brain as well as mimicking the movements inside my brain.

One thought on ““Dance of the Neurons” Masterclass

  1. Thanks for writing this! I think you’re overthinking improvising. There’s intuition at play, and it’s the ability to be in the moment that you learn feel out. The body and brain are more in sync than you think.

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