Monday, May 15, 2006

Go, Brittney, Go!

(Left) Extension, développé à la seconde

After "Wizard of Oz" on Sunday afternoon, I heard episodic screaming, broken by deathly silences, coming from the lobby of the Hoblit Performing Arts Center. What could that be all about?

Turned out, it was Brittney Almendariz, taking advantage of the expanse of the carpeted lobby to perform her athletic abilities for her friends!

According to the "Wizard of Oz" program, Brittney, age 10:
is a level 7 gymnast at Pozsar's Gymnastics and is highly ranked in the state for her age and level. She also takes tap and jazz at Deane Dance Center, and has been in the Sacramento Ballet's, "The Nutcracker" twice.
Dancers really blossom in ability between the ages of 12 and 15. Brittney hasn't even reached that age range, yet has already mastered crucial details. In six years, she is likely to be strong indeed!

Brittney body-flipped the length of the lobby several times. She also performed other gymnastic feats, like a "bridge" (arching backwards with feet and hands on the ground, while looking squarely at the floor) and at Clare Lawrence's urging, began showing her ballet abilities as well.

Brittney, en-route between Point A and Point B

Below left, a handstand. Below right, an arabesque penchée.

(Left) Bridge

Brittney is to be commended for her skills!

Why is it that people have such a hard time retaining gymnastic skills into adulthood? Size is the big problem: it's not even weight, it's height! As Kenneth Laws points out in "The Physics of Dance", the longer the limbs, the more time it takes to move them around. Longer limbs also means greater torques are required.

For example, in Appendix D, Laws calculates that a 15% increase in height and length of limbs effectively doubles the moment of inertia, and thus doubles the amount of torque required, to carry off a pirouette. Now there is some compensation: strength also increases with increasing size. Nevertheless, the moment of inertia increases roughly as a function of limb-length, cubed. At some point, at some size, it becomes difficult to move fast enough to accomplish the moves.

Nevertheless, with consistent, dedicated training, many of these skills can be retained well into adulthood. It's all about coping with longer limbs!

[P.S.: Brittney's mom approved the general idea of posting these photos, but she hasn't seen these specific photos yet.]

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