The Red Queen’s Hypothesis

Music: 12/12 by Café Tacuba and Kronos Quartet; Costumes by Markas Henry
Last staged: November 2008 at the University of Colorado at Boulder

The idea for this piece came from my fascination with the evolutionary theory of the red queen’s hypothesis, which states that co-evolving systems need continual development in order to maintain existence.  L. Van Valen proposed the principle in his 1973 article “A New Evolutionary Law,” inspired by a passage in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass where Alice finds the Red Queen.  The two run as fast as they can and yet they do not move.  The Queen explains to her “now here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place” (Carroll, 210).

An example of this is the “arms race” between predators and prey, where predators compensate for better defense by developing better offense.  Both species must continually enhance their survival modes relative to each other in order to survive.  Ultimately they are running and evolving as fast as they are able, yet are staying in the same place relative to each other.  If one pulls ahead of the other the delicate balance shifts and either may end up out of the race.

In the dance, I played with this theory by showing a world racing as fast as it could to try and outrun change, yet in the end finding that its identity has shifted nonetheless.  This thematic material is evident in the dance through full-bodied movement layered in space and time, which gives the dancers little opportunity for rest or recuperation.  Throughout the piece the dancers grow increasingly weary and the relationships become increasingly volatile and chaotic, yet they still push on, running to survive.  In the end the society looks very similar to how it was in the beginning, yet a change has taken place and evolution has occurred.  This dance reveals the process behind a shift of power within the group as the force of this community’s evolution.

Watch THE RED QUEEN’S HYPOTHESIS

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