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Dance and Math Major Calculates Her Moves


Lauren Vogelstein surveys the scene. Photo by Tom Stoelker

As Lauren Vogelstein, FCLC ’13, guides visitors through New York City’s Museum of Mathematics, (MoMath) she does so with the poise of a dancer.

That’s because the young mathematician is a dancer.

“Some people think it’s strange that I love dance and I love math but I see a million and one overlaps in how they work,” said the recent graduate. “The problem solving, the creativity, and the pattern-seeking in mathematics definitely come out in the arts.”

Vogelstein, who completed a bachelor of science in mathematics and a bachelor of fine arts in dance, was recently hired as fulltime employee at MoMath, the only museum in the United States to be devoted entirely to math.

Standing before one museum exhibit, she pulled several levers, and spun what looked like a crystal ball. A simple cube-shape on a computer screen morphed into a complex geometric model. She noted that the exhibit device was attached to 3-D printer that could then print out the final composition as a little sculpture.

Nearby, several of the visitors’ creations sit in a glass case displayed like jewels. Marveling at the creations, Vogelstein said she enjoys the experience of making math tangible.

“Math is often viewed as some scary mathematical monster under the bed,” she said. “But people in the field know that’s not true, and communicating that is very important. That’s how this place came to be.”

Vogelstein said that the mini-sculpture exhibit reminded her of her own efforts to carve space as a choreographer. The rules that delineate mathematics, she said, also help to inform her art.

“When you work within the confines of a set of rules, you are allowing yourself to find the infinite possibilities within that set of rules,” she said.

While at Fordham, Vogelstein choreographed several pieces incorporating mathematical principles. At the museum she developed a movement-based lesson plan that encourages young students to physicalize the math. She said the lesson is based on the choreography of William Forsythe, who took nine points in a square, on three different levels of a cube, and then had dancers move throughout those points. 

”It was wonderful to see these young math students take a mathematical concept that they knew and then see them think through it and feel through it,” she said.

Despite her seamless transitioning between math and dance, Vogelstein said that friends often ask if she still dances—as though the math major were chosen as a safety net. Indeed, she is working on two dance pieces at the moment, one of which is site specific.

While her dual passions may confuse some, it was just such thinking she said she was encouraged to pursue while time at Fordham. She said that Fordham’s core curriculum taught her that every subject influences other subjects, and vice versa.

“A wider view is what’s important,” she said. “What you learn in a philosophy class can help you in a calculus class. Nothing in this world exists in a vacuum.”

Read more on recent Fordham grads and their first jobs following graduation: Isabella Fante, FCRH ’13 and Natasha Rimba, GSB ’13.

Watch the video to see Vogelstein’s choreography that was based on her research in algebraic geometry:


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