We all know that dance is a sport, but how often does someone tell you that dance is science? That’s exactly what Ph.D. candidates work to prove in the annual “Dance Your Ph.D.” contest hosted by Science and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Each year, they ask scientists to “explain their research through the most jargon-free medium available: interpretive dance.”
This year, taking the win for the social science category and the overall win was Ph.D. candidate Antonia Groneberg for her thesis “Early life social experiences shape social avoidance kinematics in larval zebrafish.” If you don’t understand avoidance kinetics or even know what larval zebrafish are, that’s ok. Antonia uses modern dance and brief titles in her dance video to carry viewers along in the zebrafish’s story of isolation and movement.
Antonia has been dancing since she was a kid, and working on her doctorate in neroscience at Champalimaud Research in Lisbon, Portugal didn’t put a stop to that. In fact, while she’s been working on her degree, Antonia has also been teaching jazz and modern dance. In an interview about her win, Antonia told Science, “Science and dance have always been my passions.”
Chosen from 30 submissions by the judges–a panel made up of scientists, dancers, and artists–Antonia’s video stood out because it brought neuroscience into a new realm of understanding with her choreography. Judge Alexa Meade, the artist behind Ariana Grande’s “God is a Woman” artwork and music video, praised Antonia for “some of the best combinations of science and interpretive dance [she has] seen!”
Other winners in the competition included a “Belly ‘Dance Your PhD'” submission about tomato genes, “Cyanobacteria in bioenergy,” and “Utilizing multispectral lidar in the detection of declined trees” which included an original rap.