Ballet Dance Muscle Memory Science Fair Project

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Ella, a fourth grader, chose to do a Ballet Dance Muscle Memory Science Fair Project because of her dancing. Her video script is below.

Hello, My name is Ella I am home schooled and I just finished the 4th grade and am going into the 5th grade. I am taught by my mom and dad, and participate in the Memphis (TN) Homeschool Education Association group. I want to be an oral surgeon when I grow up. I also love to dance ballet. I love ballet so much I decided to do a science fair project about it.

Big Question: My science fair project is titled “Can muscle memory counteract having both eyes and ears covered when doing beginner ballet moves”? I consider myself a pretty good dancer with 8 years of experience, but I wonder how much experience does one have to have before muscle memory kicks in when learning beginning ballet.

Hypothesis: My hypothesis is that, I think muscle memory will be enough to compensate even if an experienced dancers eyes and ears are covered. A hypothesis states a comparison between 2 very specific variables. Example: Female ballet dancers with experience of more than 5 years dancing can make specific required moves with their eyes and ears covered whereas female ballet dances with less than 5 years will not be able to perform specific moves. I think I will see this in the most experienced dancer and that the most experienced dancer will be able to do the required moves as easy without eyes and ears covered as when they are covered.

Procedure: The procedure for this experiment will be that 4 dancers will be chosen. Each of these 4 dancers will represent a level of dancing experience and talent accumulated from a certain number of years of dancing. The dancers will consist of an expert dancer with 18 years of experience, an intermediate level dancer with 8 years of experience, a beginning level dancer with 4 years of experience and a control with no experience. The 18 year experience dancer will represent the threshold at which muscle memory should compensate for the handicap of having both eyes and ears covered while doing beginner dance moves.

4 dance moves have been chosen for each dancer that represents beginner dance moves that incorporate balance, turning, leaping, and full range of limb movement. The dance moves chosen to be demonstrated are a shanay turn, a leap, pirouette, and tour jete. The dancers will also do the moves without any sensory canceling devices on, then with only the noise canceling device, only the sight canceling device, and the sound and sight canceling device for comparison.

The dancers will be judged by a panel of persons of various knowledge in dance. The dancers and judges will be Allie (18 years of dance experience), Ella (8 years of experience), Eli (4 years of experience), and Emilee (0 years of experience). This cross section of knowledge should prevent bias in the scoring due to judges already knowing in detail what the moves are supposed to look like. The judges will be looking at general balance and flow.

The dancers will also record their thoughts on how difficult each move was with the various handicaps. Each dance move segment will be given a score between 1-10. These scores will be added up and recorded. Each dancer will have their scores totaled according to their overall score in each handicap category and their grand total recorded as a hopeful indicator of their representative experience level. This data in the form of scores will be translated into charts to see if there are any trends in movement and corresponding handicap.

I think that the more experience a dancer has the higher their score will be. I also think that dancers will have the hardest time overcoming both eyes and ears being covered while doing the dance moves.

Data: When the dances were complete and the scores were totaled all the various experience almost lined up, with the most experience (Allie) getting the most overall points and the second least experience (Eli – 4 years) getting the least points. I think this might have happened because the various dancing 4 different moves with 4 different various, 16 dances in total, required time, focus, and fitness. Eli may have gotten tired and this affected his score.

Conclusion: In conclusion, the dancers all seemed to struggle with the handicap of having both eyes and ears covered. This occurred from the control (0-years) all the way to the expert level (18 years). This was not expected. The dancers all describes the eyes and ear covering as being disorienting to balance and inhibiting the ability to “spot” their landing.

I think this experiment was interesting because I didn’t get all the results as I anticipated. This experiment helps people by showing them the time that goes into learning these moves. This experiment also helps people by showing how much we rely on our senses for movement and balance. This also helps us appreciate those that do not have these senses and still perform tasks, such as beginning dance.

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