Monday, May 12, 2014

The Mathematics of Classical Ballet

Have you ever thought about the mathematics of classical ballet?  Yes, these are the things I think about when I'm watching my daughter's ballet classes and performances.  I talk about them with her and I think it's awesome that she can see math in ballet now too!   

So this weekend my daughter had her final recital for the year.  I couldn't help but ponder how much mathematics has gone into her training this year.  She dances at a very technical school.  I watched and was amazed at the abilities of these students.  The amount of mathematics that goes into the highest level of ballet is incredible when you really stop to think about it.  
Let me share with you the math that I see in ballet.  First and foremost, let's talk about the classical music.  Music is very mathematical - arguably we all know that.  Classical ballet is steeped in fantastic classical music!  Dancers are often moving together across the stage in symmetrical patterns, and there are combinations of circles, lines, arcs, degrees and tangent circles...lots of patterns.  Ballet is geometry at its finest.  It requires spatial perception - it's experiencing time and space at their proportional relationship.  There are algorithms and numerics at the barre.  There is also reversing numbers and patterns.  Of course, there is lots of counting, adding, subtracting... Choreographers are terrific mathematicians too!    

Next time you go to the ballet, see what math you can find as you watch!


  1. My latest job is dance teacher. In addition to homeschooling, I'm teaching two dance classes and there is so much math involved..... lots of patterns. Before that I taught aerobics. Once I began choreographing, I quickly realized how everything needs to add to 4 or 8 beat steps. Some steps begin and end with the same foot and other steps are used to switch feet. In step aerobics, some steps end with momentum going in one direction and flow into other steps better than when the momentum is leaning in an opposite direction.

    After choreographing the steps of our dance routine, the next step is working out how the dancers move from two lines, to three lines, to v's, w's and circle patterns on the stage. I'm looking forward to figuring out the movement of this complicated pattern play.

    Have you read the Math in Your Feet blog? - The author is a dance teacher who teaches assemblies and special classes for the public school. She has done a lot of thinking between the relationships of math and dance.

    1. Julie - love the input! Thank you for the blog - sounds great - will have to check it out. Thank you for stopping by and reading!
      Blessings - Colleen

  2. So much math in both music and dance. I totally agree.

    1. Ticia - thanks for reading along and commenting! I read them all. :) Blessings, Colleen