Upcoming Geek Speak Lecture at BHSU to explore how dancing and math are related

Author: BHSU Communications/Tuesday, March 7, 2017/Categories: 2017

Dr. Dan May, assistant professor of mathematics, will discuss how types of dance have deep mathematic properties in the next Geek Speak lecture Thursday, March 16 at 4 p.m. in Jonas Hall 110 on the BHSU campus.

The next Black Hills State University Geek Speak lecture will explore types of dance that have deep mathematical properties.

Dr. Dan May, assistant professor of mathematics, presents "Do-si-dos and dihedrals: mathematics and, wait, what...dance?!?" Thursday, March 16 at 4 p.m. in Jonas Hall room 110 on the BHSU campus.

May says his lecture will mostly focus on a type of line dancing called contra dance.

"In contra dance you have two long lines of dancers facing each other broken up into subgroups of four dancers. Each group has a caller who calls out various moves for the group to engage in. For example, dancers would end up circling left one quarter. The dancers would all rotate and end up with a different dance partner," says May.

According to May, if the dance continues in this order each dancer will end up dancing with every other dancer in the line. During the Geek Speak lecture, attendees will participate in this dance to see first-hand how the math applies.

"One of the reasons I like this group theory math so much is that it does lend itself towards these hands-on activities," added May. "For contra dance, the goal is that each couple will move on down the line and get a chance to dance with the next couple. There are mathematical rules that dictate what specific change will happen. The sequence of moves has to be in order for the dance to progress."

May says this type of math, called group theory, is math that most people only learn if they are math majors in college. While the underlining mathematics is very deep, May says he will give an overview at the lecture.

"I hope the audience can learn about what advanced mathematics looks like in reality. Hopefully they enjoy the dancing part of it too. I hope people have fun," says May.

The Geek Speak lecture series, sponsored by the BHSU University Honors program, features academic discussion and topics not normally discussed in the traditional classroom. The goal of the weekly lectures is to expose students to diversity within the disciplines.

For more information, contact Dr. Courtney Huse Wika, director of the University Honors Program and assistant professor of English, at 605-642-6918 or email Courtney.HuseWika@BHSU.edu.

In addition to the on-campus presentations, some Geek Speaks will also be presented at the Jacket Zone store in downtown Spearfish.

The following on-campus Geek Speak presentations, which are held Thursdays at 4 p.m. in Jonas Hall, room 110, are scheduled for this semester:
  •  March 23, "Advocating for the Protection of Native Women Through Theatrical, Spoken Word and Slam Poetry Performances" by Dr. Nikki Dragone, assistant professor of English
  •  March 30, "Bad Bureaucrats? The Future of Whistleblowing in a Post-Snowden World" by BHSU alum and Ph.D. student Cody Drolc
  •  April 6: "From Blake to the Beatles and Beyond: The Legacy of Romanticism" by Dr. Martin Fashbaugh, assistant professor of English
  •  April 20 "Metapatterns" by Dr. Liz Fayer, instructor/coordinator Project SECOND, and Dr. Joanna Jones, former BHSU professor
  •  April 27, "Madness in Popular Culture: The 'Insanity' of Women, by Dr. Laura Colmenero-Chilberg, professor of sociology
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