‘It’s All Relative’ is a whole new approach to Einstein | AspenTimes.com

‘It’s All Relative’ is a whole new approach to Einstein

Eben Harrell
Director Tracy Straus leads the cast of "It's All Relative" during a dress rehearsal. Students from the Aspen and Carbondale Community schools, Crystal River Elementary School and Crested Butte's Slate River School join together for the play, to be staged tonight at the Aspen District Theatre. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.

Around 200 students from four schools will assemble tonight in Aspen to re-create Albert Einstein’s universe.The show, a dance performance called “It’s All Relative: A Musical Exploration of Einstein’s Genius,” features faculty and students in kindergarten through eighth grade from the Aspen Community School, Crystal River Elementary, Carbondale Community School and Slate River School, a private elementary school in Crested Butte.The four schools split the cost of hiring instructors from the National Dance Institute of New York to choreograph the performance.Einstein was chosen as the subject of the show because 2005 marks the centenary of his “miracle year,” in which the physicist published his most influential work, including his famous paper on the special theory of relativity. All the schools have been discussing Einstein in conjunction with the show.”To try to understand Einstein’s theory of relativity at 10, or 48 for that matter, is not easy,” Aspen Community School principal Jim Gilchrist said. “But the kids are really getting a grasp for Einstein’s work through movement.”

If that sounds a bit heady, have no fear: Judging from Thursday night’s dress rehearsal, audience members will not be forced to sit through the intricacies of quantum theory. “It’s All Relative” is your basic dance show, filled with running, ruddy children too cute to resist. After all, physics is dynamic, just like dance; both involve the study of movement.”To get the kids moving and spark their imagination is enough to get them excited about science,” Gilchrist said.Audiences should not expect too much from these darling dancers, however. One of the basic premises of physics is that the universe tends toward entropy. The feat of getting 200 young children to move in unison, if it can be achieved tonight, will be as monumental and elegant as any of Einstein’s work.In charge of attempting such a feat is National Dance Institute instructor Tracy Strauss. At Thursday’s dress rehearsal, she was stretched to the limit, running around maniacally (and with immaculate posture) attempting to get the show running.

“Tracy has organized the whole show in eight counts,” Gilchrist said. “Which is awesome for the kids studying math and fractions.”If Einstein could see the show, chances are he would love it. The costumes, for example, are as eccentric as the old genius himself. Kids don strange mohawks, weird Elizabethan frocks, and even shirts with numbers pasted on them. Of course some of the numbers are backward. No matter, Einstein was himself dyslexic.The show finishes with a testament to Einstein’s famous aphorism: “Imagination is more important that knowledge.” (A beautiful sentiment, albeit one with which Colorado School Assessment Program administrators probably wouldn’t agree; CSAPs are mandated state tests that gauge knowledge in core educational disciplines.)But “Imagination is more important than knowledge” could be the mission statement of the Aspen Community School, and it’s certainly the founding principle of the dance show. The Community School, located above Woody Creek, has steadfastly held to its alternative education approach even after the onset of state-mandated testing seven years ago. Now the school is one of the strongest CSAP-performing schools in the Roaring Fork Valley.”When the CSAP tests first became a requirement, I’ll be the first to admit that the school didn’t think it was a true measure of learning and resisted the whole idea,” said Gilchrist. “I think we’ve proved that schools can teach art, music and dance while still reaching the highest levels of proficiency in reading, writing and math across the board.”

“It’s All Relative: A Musical Exploration of Einstein’s Genius” will be held at 6 p.m. at the Aspen District Theatre. Tickets are on sale at the Wheeler Opera House box office and cost $10.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com

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