During the grand jeté (great leap), a dancer can appear to float. But it is the way she raises her legs, spreads her arms, and tilts her head that fools the eye. (RB)

During the grand jeté (great leap), a dancer can appear to float. But it is the way she raises her legs, spreads her arms, and tilts her head that fools the eye. (RB)

During a pirouette, the dancer is en pointe (tippy-toe). If her feet were flat on the ground, there would be too much friction to spin around. (RB)

During a pirouette, the dancer is en pointe (tippy-toe). If her feet were flat on the ground, there would be too much friction to spin around. (RB)

Keith Chavez shows her flexibility in the Chorrillos neighborhood of Lima, Peru. (AP)

Keith Chavez shows her flexibility in the Chorrillos neighborhood of Lima, Peru. (AP)

Claudia Chircca poses en pointe in Lima, Peru. (AP)

Claudia Chircca poses en pointe in Lima, Peru. (AP)

Ballet students from left: Ariana, Ivana, Claudia and Dana (AP)

Ballet students from left: Ariana, Ivana, Claudia and Dana (AP)

Law-Abiding Dancers

Posted: July 1, 2019

Here’s one kind of law: “Honor your parents,” “Don’t steal,” “Don’t lie.” You can choose whether or not to obey those rules. There’s also another kind of law. “What goes up, must come down.” But you don’t have a choice about whether to obey laws like that. Those are what we call God’s laws of nature.

The science of physics tries to explain the laws of nature. And we find the rules of physics at work everywhere, including ballet.

For example, force is what pushes or pulls on an object. Gravity is a force that pulls downward. Balance happens when the forces are equal. A dancer doesn’t float away because the gravity pulling down is matched by the floor pushing up. Torque is a force that turns an object, like when a dancer pushes off to begin a pirouette (spin).

Ballet is graceful and artistic dance. But part of what makes ballet fun to watch is the way dancers seem to defy the laws of nature.

Grand jeté is a great leap. By raising the arms and pulling up the legs mid-leap, a dancer creates the illusion of “hang-time,” or floating in the air. But the dancer’s center of mass follows a curved arc that doesn’t change. (In mathematics, this is called a parabola.)

Fouette is a series of turns that seem to go on and on without any help. In Swan Lake, a dancer spins 32 times in a row! The performer seems to be spinning in perpetual motion. But we know that’s an illusion, because of friction. That’s a force that slows down two things that are rubbing against each other. The friction of a dancer’s feet against the floor slows down her turning.

When a ballet dancer stands en pointe (tippy-toe), she has a very small area of contact with the floor. (Think of the pointy end of a toy top.) Less friction means her turn loses less momentum. Oh my! There’s another physics word! Now you can see why God’s laws of nature keep even brainy professors chewing their pencils and scratching their heads. There’s so much to discover about how the Creator designed the world.