UC Irvine Faculty Collaborate for Innovative Interdisciplinary Event: “Club Lab Freestyle: Molecules in Motion”

This feature has been edited for current information as of May 16, 2024.

Have you ever seen chemists moving like chemical reactions?                                                                                                   

Irvine, Calif., May 7, 2024 – Three faculty members from the University of California, Irvine (UCI), including the Claire Trevor School of the Arts (CTSA) and the School of Physical Sciences, are joining forces to present “Club Lab Freestyle: Molecules in Motion,” a groundbreaking interdisciplinary event merging dance and chemistry. This unique collaboration aims to foster creativity and explore chemical reactivity through movement and artistic expression.

Professors Gregory Weiss (Organic Chemistry, Department of Chemistry), Cyrian Reed (Hip Hop, Department of Dance), and S. Ama Wray (Jazz, Department of Dance) have designed this innovative project. UCI Illuminations is presenting the event with CTSA as the host. The event will take place on Thursday, May 16, 2024, from 6:30-9:30 p.m. in the CTSA dance studios 120 and 128.

“Opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaborations with my inspirational colleagues in hip hop and jazz dance are exceedingly rare and very exciting,” says Professor Weiss.

Professor Wray emphasizes the significance of student involvement, stating, “We have students who are double majors in both Dance and Chemistry who are helping to shape this event, and to collaborate with them to support their classmates is awesome.”

Assistant Professor Reed adds, “This project is just the beginning, and I am thrilled that hip hop dance is at the heart of this innovation.”

The dance spaces have been temporarily redesigned as Dance-Chemistry Labs for the program’s embodied molecular syntheses by UCI CTSA alumni Paloma Perez-Rojas and Bela DePalatis. Attendees will be invited to witness or participate as a distinguished group of dancers, musicians, and chemists fuse movement, music, light, and a sense of curiosity to bridge these art and science disciplines.

This freestyle event embraces a time-proven approach to achieving a creative state through improvisation. The language of dance, specifically hip hop dance, will be used to provide students with a foundation for innovation. Although the chemistry they invent might not ultimately prove successful, the process of bringing molecules together and imagining possible outcomes will provide students with an unusual tool for experimental thinking, manifesting in a different, though tangible, form. Pre- and post-event surveys will assess student learning among participating students.

During the event, students will be challenged to interpret chemical reactivities and trends through representational movements uncovered through experiential learning. This freestyle event embraces the time-proven approach to the emergence of brilliant forms of dance and music from improvisational artistry. This art form is synonymous with the U.S. and has shaped aesthetics and cultures all around the world. Such expressions of creativity form the bedrock of African American forms of music and dance – from the Ring Shout to the Harlem Shake.

From a chemistry standpoint, the goal is to encourage students to think beyond the textbook about the chemistry of organic molecules and metaphorically invent new reactions, both covalent and non-covalent. Sophomore-level organic chemistry only gets students partway to such creativity. Together with the dance students, the experience of scientific creativity will spark entry into uncharted territory with infinite possibilities. Ultimately, the undergraduate researchers seek to translate their own embodiment of poetic movement into tangible innovations in chemistry and other STEM classes.

The experience will also be multilayered for the dance students as they encounter novelty during the transfer of knowledge to new bodies. They will discern the foundations of the Chemistry of Life as they collaborate with the chemistry students to build expressions of overlapping orbitals inherent to chemical reactivity and consider the central concept of molecular recognition as a tangible event. These effects will occur through the dancing body, animating musical dynamics brought to the event by a trio led by jazz saxophonist and CTSA alum Matthew Nelson and DJ ACE.

To participate, pre-register via https://illuminations.uci.edu for an assigned time between 6:30 and 9:30 pm. All are welcome to join this playful and investigative experience. The dance studios 120 and 128 are located on the CTSA campus adjacent to the Claire Trevor and Robert Cohen Theatres. Fee-based parking is available at 4002 Mesa Road, in the Mesa Parking Structure.

Event Details:

NEW Date: Tuesday, May 28, 2024
Time: 6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Location: CTSA Dance Studios 120 and 128
Address: Building 713 on UCI map
Parking: Fee-based parking available at Mesa Parking Structure, 4002 Mesa Road
Website: https://illuminations.uci.edu

Image (left to right): S. Ama Wray (Jazz, Department of Dance), Gregory Weiss (Organic Chemistry, Department of Chemistry), Cyrian Reed (Hip Hop, Department of Dance). (Photos by Skye Schmidt Varga, Steve Zylius)

(Please make sure to check back for any new details)