I had an discussion at breakfast today with a sax player about the nature of mathematics as it relates to precision dance troupes.

He was saying that, unlike fellow reedman Artie Shaw, he had never really gotten very far with mathematics, and wished he had because he felt that mathematics was visible everywhere he looked. He wondered why so many people like himself "hit a wall" with learning math. I told him I thought it was because mathematics reward a high level of abstraction and that most people are much more comfortable with concreteness. I pointed out to him that when people speak of the "mathematical" precision of a group of dancers, they are picking up on the way that each dancer's identity has been sublimated to their part as a unit in a system, and that the payoff is watching a complex system strut its stuff in synchronization: a very mathematical idea.

Pretty deep stuff for a pair of strangers over their first cup of coffee . . . .


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