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The Hoffberg Principle

There is a tendency amongst the more technical amongst us to look to science to settle disagreements, even within dancing. Sometimes, we might not even actually disagree so much as just want to make sure that there is some nuance present in the discussion of different bodies moving differently. With that in mind, I want to produce a single axiom, which I propose we call The Hoffberg Principle for reasons that will become clear entirely soon enough.

The Hoffberg Principle states: A leader with more mass will not necessarily place more force on a given follower.

But, wait, you say, already suspicious of my thesis, not even waiting for my methods. Force = mass * acceleration! It’s like, practically the most well-known physics equation, other than E =mc2, how can that be true? To answer your urgent question, as well as the question of why the fuck I’m calling this The Hoffberg Principle, I present an example.

Let’s say we have two leads working on the same routine with Jo Hoffberg. (After all, this is clearly the next logical step of this year’s Jo-Am at ILHC: everyone dances the same routine with Jo Hoffberg, and whoever does it best wins). Let’s further simplify this example – say that while these two leads are the same height, they have different densities, such that one is heavier. But, our two theoretical leads want to match force with one another and travel the same distances throughout the routine to make it easy for Jo to perform the same routine twice. Plus, I mean, there is obviously an optimal way to perform the routine, and maybe if they match each other precisely, there will be a draw.

Let’s call these two leads Josephina and Joseph, because then we’ve got a Jo-Jo and that’s even better. Let’s say Joseph has more mass – they’ve really been pumping iron at the gym, so they’re a bit denser than Josephina. For the first swingout in the routine, both Joseph and Josephina want to make it really punchy, because, dude, first swingout in the routine. Naturally you suggest that Josephina, having less mass, will have to travel further to exert the same force on Jo, right (e.g., have an increased acceleration to match Joseph’s)? But that will also create a difference in their routines!

But friend, you’re forgetting an important thing! This is not a single force equation! We’re not talking about a point moving backward while rigidly attached to another point, but a human being who is also in control of the muscle tension in their fingers, arms, back, abdominals, and legs holding hands with another human being who also is in control of the muscle tension in their body. To match Joseph, Josephina could take a larger step, or could instead hold a higher amount of body tone. Or, there’s always the part where Jo herself could also make modifications to reflect the amount of distance because she too is an acting agent in this example.

The Hoffberg Principle, thusly illustrated, reminds us that the number of relevant factors in the physics of dance are numerous and complicated by the sheer agency of the participants. The more time you spend dancing, the more dimensions you can control and the less basic physics equations directly apply. Note that I’m not saying you will literally be defying physics, just that the equations used to describe your trajectory through space and the forces acting on you and being generated by you include so many additional variables that your mass will be essentially non-essential.

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