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The Physics of Dance



I'll let you in on a little secret: I am a terrible dancer.  Dancing has always been my weakness when it comes to doing shows, and I typically try to make up for it with singing and acting.  When I see good dancers do it so effortlessly, I am extremely jealous.  This crossed my mind because I actually have to go to dance rehearsal soon (and this is where I say everyone please come to IHS's production of The Music Man March 15-18).  Anyway, time for the physics.  As you have probably guessed, there is a lot of physics involved with dancing.  When dancing and moving in a constant direction, you are creating momentum.  The momentum is determined by your mass and how fast you're moving.  If you develop more strength and can move more quickly, you will increase your momentum.  When it comes to dance turns, torque is very important.  For example, in some turns, you extend and retract your leg, which changes your rotational inertia.  When the leg is extended, rotational inertia increases and you slow down in your spin.  When the leg is retracted, rotational inertia decreases and your spin gets faster.  Unfortunately, understanding the physics does not make me any more graceful or a better dancer.


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