Skip to main content

The quantum ballerina

Dancing the robot pas de deux

Merritt Moore’s life might have been dreamt up by Disney, says Louise Levene in the Financial Times. Part professional ballerina, part quantum physicist, Moore, 33, grew up in California, and only tried dance because her mother was worried about her slouchy teenage posture. She was 13 when she took her first class and was hooked within weeks.

In ballet years, 13 is ancient – most bunheads start when they’re toddlers – so Moore had her work cut out for her. At first she was one of the worst, she recalls: “I don’t have particularly bendy feet and I couldn’t do the splits until I was 15.” But she was determined. “I would train on my own. I would put my feet under sofas.” It paid off. Today she is an alumna of four leading ballet companies, although she keeps trying to improve. “Even now… I force myself to sleep in the splits.”

That’s one half of her life. The other half is physics, which she studied at Harvard before doing a PhD at Oxford. Unable to choose between science and dance, she did both, at one point running back to the lab between the matinée and evening performances of La Bayadère with Boston Ballet. “I slept maybe five hours a night throughout college, maybe less” – but the “fire was so strong, I don’t think I could have slept even if I’d wanted to”.

The “quantum ballerina” is combining her passions. She has even built a dancing robot, with which she performs duets. Her hope, she says, is to use science to “make even better art”.

Watch Moore dancing with a robot below👇