By Alexander J. Miller ’20
String theory, first suggested in fringe scientific communities in the 20th century, is a bizarre theory based on an extremely simple proposition: all things in heaven and earth are made of strings. There are straight strings. There are curvy strings. There are strings of so many shapes and configurations that one might only hope to accurately describe them as silly strings, existing not necessarily as tangible matter but rather as energy given physical properties by its vibrations. In order to discern the shape of a string, one need only understand its vibratory patterns. It stands to reason that with a reasonably well-developed understanding of these energetic vibrations, one could theoretically delineate the rules that govern all of existence. Exciting, yes?
But hold up: we live in a scientific society, in which thorough observational study is conventionally necessary to prove a discovery right. The unfortunate reality is that strings as we understand them are the product of theoretical physics. There are no pictures of strings. There are only chalkboards and journals filled with mathematical musings, singing loudly the song of strings as equations discovered simultaneously from two different continents come together in harmony; the strings vibrate in a proverbial symphony that transcends, like, literally everything.
“BUMP THOSE (META)PHYSICAL JAMS ALL NIGHT LONG. I WANNA BELIEEEEEEVEEEEE.”
–Albert Einstein, I’m pretty sure
But if you want to believe in strings, there is an existentially hard pill you’re going to have to swallow, and that pill is 16-dimensional. Even if we had microscopes powerful enough to see them (which is problematic considering that string theorist Brian Greene noted that “if an atom were magnified to the size of the solar system, a string would be the size of a tree”), our minds would probably go supernova upon glimpsing them because humans only have the capacity to comprehend three physical dimensions. We can handle points. We can handle an entire band of points. We can even handle a complex loop of points. What are we missing out on?
From the perspective of someone who was told absolutely nothing about the artistic vision or the creator’s intent, I would suggest that we are missing the next step in dimensional complexity—the Bandaloop. And thank goodness I finally got to making that pun so that we can now transition from the theoretical physics to the performance.
It would be impossible to accidentally stage a performance on a vertical stage. When a director tells a performer to make a stronger choice, that performer cannot simply spice things up with a little bit of anti-gravity.
“O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou still on the ground? Deny thy gravity and refuse thy laws of physics!”
–I’m also pretty sure that one is Albert Einstein
Therefore, the fact that Bandaloop performers can be seen skimming the sides of buildings and doing what I loosely understand to be a modified jitterbug while 15-30 feet in the air is not a result of a let’s-just-try-it-and-see mentality. It is a very well executed subversion of our expectations of the physical limitations of live performance. More specifically, it is a head-on challenge of our rigid perception of dimensions.
A striking and physically impressive blonde performer, dressed in an understated black top and a chic printed skirt descends in a straight line down a flat glass wall—it reminds the audience of their math teacher drawing a two-dimensional ray, though the arrow they drew was never quite so fabulous as this. When the music begins, she leaps to the side. Suddenly it’s the arc of a circle, still flat on the wall but beginning to occupy more and more of the usable space. The performer draws a newspaper from a secret cache, revealing it to the audience just as she tears forth a page and lets it loose into the wind. It flutters downwards and upwards, and she dances around it. When she finally passes behind it, the audience is sure: there’s a third dimension.
But then she begins to handspring. It’s hard to track her from this far away, and what would be a simple up-down jump in her perspective appears to us as a stab into three-dimensional space. Who has the more accurate picture? Is it a simple line, or is it more than that? Is it some sort of prism?
Her dance is over now, and the audience turns a full 180 degrees in space to view more. But this time there are two performers, and they begin to mirror one another. The simple motions and accented breath make the audience wonder: are there really two people, or are there two planes of existence at play?
Are we witnessing the bandaloop?
I believe that in this case, no equation will do it justice, nor any academic dissection. In this case, I think one has to go watch it.
About the contributor:
I’m interested in so many things and most of them happen at the Hop. From being a member of the Dartmouth Aires to working in the Jewelry Studio to serving as an Arts Ambassador in my freshman year, I participate in the arts because I strongly believe they are the most exciting manifestations of human life and thought.