Summer in the City: Evolution

Did you know that if you were to compare the skeletons of a baby chimpanzee and a baby human that there are few  differences? The picture below really says it all. You can see how humans have evolved. This photo is  from the permanent collection at the American Museum of Natural  History in the primate section. I thought it was the most impressive  argument for evolution. The resemblance between the two skeletons is  quite dramatic. The note for the exhibit pointed out the larger craniums  (heads/brains) of the skeletons – which, in both species, grow larger  before the face and jaw.

I wonder if our dance moves could be traced back to our ancestors. This idea became evident to me as I looked at the exhibit of skeletons.   Perhaps our ability to move is from our agile distant relatives for whom it was  necessary for survival to be limber and move freely as a matter of life and  death. It could be that our own human movements are holdovers from our ancestral past. Think about it: Can’t we compare  our ability to nimbly move our fingers and grasp onto objects or hold a  partner’s hand or to move our feet in a set rhythm or complicated  number to running from danger or hanging out in the trees?

We often use natural history terms to describe ideal movement – leap  like a gazelle, run like a deer, swim like a fish, strong as an ox, swift like  a fox. We don’t hesitate to compare our own bodies in motion to that of  animals. Yet I hadn’t thought about the skeletal relationship between my body and that of a primate, our closest animal relative.  

I’m going to plan a trip to a zoo when the weather cools off a bit – or maybe watch Animal Planet – to observe how primates move. I expect to get some inspiration for choreo that flows naturally with the structure of the body.

I’m no expert, but no matter what side of the debate you fall on – whether Creationist, Evolutionist, Intelligent Design etc – you have to agree a picture is worth a thousand words.

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