Dancing Throughout the Photo voltaic System because the Grand Canyon’s Astronomer in Residence


After I first imagined choreographing a dance in regards to the connection between the Grand Canyon and the way people discover the photo voltaic system, I figured the thought was somewhat too “on the market” to be taken severely. And but, final month, I stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon because the park’s official Astronomer in Residence. Perched on a ledge of Kaibab limestone, I started the primary gesture phrase that might describe the canyon’s geologic historical past—and type the spine for Chasing Canyons, a contemporary dance solo I premiered on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim on February 23, 2024.

I’m a educated dancer and choreographer, however I’m additionally a planetary scientist and impression physicist, which suggests I examine the geologic options that get created when an object from house hits a planet. There are different canyons throughout the photo voltaic system, from Mars to Pluto, which might be wider, longer, or deeper than the Grand Canyon, however none of them match its sheer energy within the human consciousness. Over the month of February, I used my twin backgrounds as a dancer and planetary geologist to choreograph a bit in regards to the emotional and geologic connections between our world and people past. My purpose? To mix artwork and science right into a singular expertise for and in regards to the Grand Canyon.

As somebody who actively practices each artwork and science, I firmly reject the dichotomy we’ve constructed to separate them. I grew to become a scientist to attempt to perceive my place within the historical past of the Earth, the photo voltaic system, and the universe. I grew to become a dancer and choreographer for those self same causes. The planets are all the time in movement, and so are we; to me, bodily embodying the planets’ orbital dynamics, geologic histories, births, and deaths, is simply as legitimate an method for connecting with them as gazing via a telescope.

As we take into consideration shifting on to the moon and Mars, dancing can assist us take into account the sorts of futures we’re constructing. After I dance the canyon, I middle my surprise on the scale of what I’ve seen, moderately than the methods by which my information of the canyon can be utilized and commodified. I’ll all the time be chasing canyons, however I ought to by no means, ever, attempt to personal them.

Denton, wearing a loose white shirt and black pants, stands at the rim of the Canyon on a brilliantly sunny day, smiling into the camera, her elbows forming right angles, with her left hand pointing to the sky and her right to the ground.
C. Adeene Denton filming on the Grand Canyon. Photograph by Rader Lane, courtesy Nationwide Park Service.

In making Chasing Canyons, I got down to choreograph a site-specific dance for a web site so large it’s inconceivable to see in its entirety. I started with my geologic information of the Grand Canyon, constructed from my years of scientific coaching and the weeks I spent climbing up and down its partitions. The ensuing gesture phrase follows the canyon’s life cycle: the preliminary crush of its basement rocks, the tilting of overlying strata, the huge hole in time generally known as the Nice Unconformity, subsequent deposition of layers upon layers of sediments, and, lastly, the approaching of the Colorado River to uncover all of it. From there, I started to attract the components of the canyon that I may see, tracing the terraces and aspect canyons, dragging toes and fingers from the tops of the cliffs to the shady hollows on the base. I labored within the positions of the celebs above the canyon, which mark its location in house and time. Then I merged all of it collectively to create a shifting map, not simply of the canyon, however of how people relate to it.

Connecting the canyon to the celebs raised extra questions: How will we work together with stunning areas, right here on Earth and elsewhere? Once we land on Mars, will we be house owners or caretakers? On the finish of the piece, I reply these questions: I erase the map. Very similar to artwork and science, I believe that “to boldly go” and “take solely photos, go away solely footprints” are two complementary, not conflicting, philosophies.

My time because the Astronomer (and dancer) in Residence on the canyon has ended, however I’ll carry it in my physique in addition to my thoughts. It’s my biggest hope that in making these sorts of dances, I can encourage audiences to broaden their minds—to discover the alternative ways we will perceive, be taught, and recognize the universe by which we stay.


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