Physics in Theatre

I admit, it’s been a very long time since I took a physics class. So I had to look up the definition of centrifugal force, to understand the movement rehearsal for A Midsummer Night’s Dream this morning. Our choreographer, Darren Stevens, co-founder of Push Physical Theatre, was working with the fairy attendants, and introduced the concept as the basis for a piece of partnering work.

imageWhile I watched, I visited the first line of defense, wikipedia, for a definition:
“Centrifugal force (from Latin centrum, meaning “center”, and fugere, meaning “to flee”) is the apparent outward force that draws a rotating body away from the center of rotation. It is caused by the inertia of the body as the body’s path is continually redirected. In Newtonian mechanics, the term centrifugal force is used to refer to one of two distinct concepts: an inertial force (also called a “fictitious” force) observed in a non-inertial reference frame, and a reaction force corresponding to a centripetal force.”

Most of that definition is lost on me (and here I have to apologize to the late Mr. Hesling, who tried so hard to instill the principles of physics into the mind of a high school theatre geek), but the Latin actually gives me an image of something fleeing from the center of a circle – the rotating movement causes the object to move towards the outside of the circle.

OK, Jenni, but what does this have to do with Midsummer? Imagine the actors paired up in male-female couples, and the woman puts her hands on the hips of the man. He puts his hands on the small of her back. Standing like this, there’s no way the man could lift her. But, if he just turns, her legs will fly off the floor, and the physics take over – he’s not holding her, but the centrifugal force on her body makes her float.

A little piece of magic on a cloudy Saturday morning…or is it just science?


2 thoughts on “Physics in Theatre

  1. Not completely relevant, but one of my favorite quotes anyway:
    “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistingiushable from magic.”
    -One of Arthur C. Clarke’s Three Laws

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