10 Apr 2019

Maths and dance combine in The Fibonacci

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:26 pm on 10 April 2019

Mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci discovered a sequence that would help him to calculate the growth of rabbit populations in around 1200 AD. 

In the 19 Century, theorist Édouard Lucas dubbed this the Fibonacci sequence - each number is the sum of the two before it. It’s now one of the world's most famous mathematical formulas.

There are many things that inspire art, and for kiwi choreographer Victoria Colombus, she's made her latest piece a tribute to the sequence, The Fibonacci

The Fibonacci dance piece

The Fibonacci dance piece Photo: Claire Gordon

The sequence dubbed "nature's secret formula" is woven through the piece, from timing to rhythm. It's commissioned by the New Zealand Dance Company and the Festival of Colour.

Victoria who goes by Tor, says the Fibonacci sequence was something she came across last year and became really fascinated by.

“It just provided so much inspiration for movement and visualisation for imagery, so I attached myself pretty quickly to it. When the opportunity came to create this work, the more I dug into it, the deeper I got and the more it fed the concept and the process of the piece.”

Applying it to movement Tor found many forms of inspiration.

“I love the idea of the cyclic nature that’s represented a lot throughout the natural world and sort of gave a rhythm to the work.”

That cyclic nature also provided structure for how the dancers were able to use their bodies to form landscape or patterns in the space that also reflected the sequence.

Composer Rowan Pearce interlaced a counting system throughout the structure of the music.

The Fibonacci sequence is evident in more than just the movement sequences in the work. The costuming, the lighting and the sound all reflect warm tones - a nod to the golden ratio. 

Together with the dancers, Tor discussed the sequence’s place in history and in architecture.

“How it’s related to the human form and also this sense of connection that you get when you talk about it being connected to all of those different things, so science and art and maths, all of those things interconnecting and that providing a sense of feeling in a space - we use that as motivation and stimulation for the dancers to explore ways of movement.” 

It was a collaborative process, Tor brought in imagery and provided motivation and the dancers provided a lot of the movement, together they found a cohesive language.

The dancers were really intrigued and invested in the concept and research was done as a group, Tor says.

“It was a beautiful experience for me, with the dancers, the concept and the work really elevated and expanded into something that I hadn’t actually planned.

“It’s a really fascinating thing once to you start to unravel all of the layers I think you can’t help but get quite immersed in it.”

As an audience member, you might begin to notice the repetition, a code of sorts, as the work unravels.

The piece is a tribute to a good friend of Tor’s who passed away last year, Susan Patterson, and Tor says she thought of it as an opportunity to keep Patterson’s spirit alive in the dance world.

“I’m very honoured to be given this opportunity in her name because she was such an incredible human.”

Tor works full time at the New Zealand School of Dance as a contemporary dance tutor and as a choreographer for the World of Wearable Arts. Fibonacci is currently touring the country. 

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