Sharing Science Through Dance

Tillinger dancing with Solstice Studio

Debra Tillinger first turned to dance to interpret her feelings as a scientist. In doing so she discovered dance as a gateway to interpreting science for a broader audience.

Tillinger’s an oceanographer. She studies the acoustics of ocean currents.  Tillinger’s also a modern dancer and choreographer. Her two seemingly disparate interests came together last year on a research trip to Antarctica. Overwhelmed by the indifference of the Antarctic landscape to human visitors, she decided to choreograph a dance to reflect her experience.

Through performing her dance at what she refers to as “hippie” festivals, Tillinger found the audience surprisingly receptive to also hearing about her research. She often performs at dance festivals that involve everything from burlesque dancing, to hula dancing, to fire dancing. She realized she could use science-inspired dance as a bridge to talking about science with people who wouldn’t usually seek out such information.

What I like most about Debra is that she couldn’t care less about appealing to the pragmatic, traditional science audience. To her that’s preaching to the choir. She wants to appeal to people on the fringe, and reassure them that as a scientist she’s not going to challenge their beliefs in things like an Earth Mother, or the energy of the universe, or metaphysical forces. But she does want them to know the science behind their health and the environment.