Merritt Moore is defying the laws of career expectations by becoming a professional dancer with a PhD in Quantum Optics too! She shows us how to successfully combine Arts + STEM to become both a professional dancer and a physicist.
Dancer one day… physicist the next!
How to become a professional dancer… It’s not easy
I started dance late at the age of 13. I started physics late at 17. Most people said it was too late to be professional in either, but I loved both so decided to continue regardless. I got into Harvard and focused on physics, not believing I could ever dance professionally.
I was still dancing on the side, and my sophomore year I went to a ton of auditions and got into my dream company, the Zurich Ballet! After a year in the company, I was getting pressure to go back to school so I returned to Harvard thinking I was retired from dance.
I accepted a scholarship to pursue a physics PhD at the University of Oxford, thinking surely this is my retirement. Two years later I was on stage with the English National Ballet performing 37 Nutcrackers and 16 Swan Lakes in a month. At this very moment I am writing this from my dressing room at the Norwegian National Ballet.
How to fail well
I fail all the time! But my mom always told me that I should be proudest when I fail and get back up. When I was younger, I auditioned for ballet companies 25 times in a year… and was rejected 24 times! My life motto is; “Nothing is impossible. Possible just takes time”.
The art of STEAM
So far I’ve combined physics and dance in VR films, films, and installations. The dream is to pursue physics research and publish papers through dance.
For example, a VR project we created consisted of rooms that incorporated quantum physics concepts so that quantum properties and behaviours could be more intuitive to the audience. For the robotics installation, we programmed choreography and then had the torque, velocity and position mapped onto a projection.
The SASters Squad
I found it a lonely journey pursuing trying to pursue physics and dance so I started SASters (Science-Art-Sisters, find us at @sasters_squad on Instagram and Twitter) to create a supportive community of Art+STEM enthusiasts and to encourage young girls to think about science in a different, more creative way. They share photos of themselves doing Art+STEM and it inspires me every day.
It’s all about balance
Having different career/passion helps create appreciation because it keeps things in perspective. When I’m exhausted in the dance studio, all I want to do is curl up with a physics book in a library. When I’m cooped up reading all day, it keeps me hungry to get back into the dance studio and try new movement.
To anyone pursuing their passions, my advice is summed up by Newton’s 3rd law of motion: “For every action, there is equal and opposite reaction.” Everything you do inevitably circles back. All the work and intention you put into a dream will pay off (not always in the way you think, but in other exciting and rewarding ways).
Author: Eliza Brockwell
Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.