Title: Co-artistic Directors of the Dr. Schaffer and Mr. Stern Dance Ensemble
1) YouTube: Dr. Schaffer and Mr. Stern Dance Ensemble
2) Math Dance with Dr. Schaffer and Mr. Stern, written by Karl Schaffer, Erik Stern, and Scott Kim
Sardonic songwriter and mathematician Tom Lehrer.
Physical and verbal comedians The Marx Brothers.
Quote: “Put your books away; push the desks aside; let’s warm up. It’s time to do mathematics.”
Our Story: Twenty-five years ago Karl and Erik began a dance company in Santa Cruz, California that later came to be called the Dr. Schaffer and Mr. Stern Dance Ensemble. Drawing on their combined backgrounds in dance, mathematics, science, writing, music, theater, and athletics, they were drawn to uncommon fields as fodder for their choreography. Writing for the San Jose Mercury News, dance critic Judith Green observed about one work, “It’s one of the many witty pieces about things that are hard to dance about, except Karl Schaffer and Erik Stern don’t seem to realize it.”Their first work was 4-Footed Hamlet, a danced/spoken reverent parody of Shakespeare’s play. With renowned dance artist Gregg Lizenbery, they made “Guy-o-saurs,” a dance comparing the extinction of the dinosaurs with the fate of jocks. Their concert “Dr. Schaffer and Mr. Stern, Two Guys Dancing About Math”, reveals the wonderful connections between mathematics and dance and has been performed nationally over 500 times. In 1994 they created “The Secret Life of Squares” with puzzle-master and artist Scott Kim. Their book Math Dance with Dr. Schaffer and Mr. Stern, co-written with Scott Kim, highlights the many ways to link math and dance in the classroom. The ensemble has performed throughout North America, and recently in Hungary and Paris.
They’ve enjoyed the support of the National Endowment for the Arts: a Choreographic Fellowship and five NEA grants for their arts education work. They have given their workshops on math and dance to educators and artists around the world, including at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where they are Teaching Artists for the Partners in Education Program.
Karl also teaches mathematics at De Anza College in Cupertino, California. His recent concert “The Daughters of Hypatia: Circles of Mathematical Women” celebrates the great women mathematicians and their struggles to create groundbreaking mathematics. He collaborated with NPR “Math Guy” Keith Devlin and world choral group Zambra on “Harmonious Equations”, which uses song, dance, and prose to expound on the most important and beautiful mathematical equations.
Erik Stern’s dance-theatre work Demolition Derby, when a mind loses its license to drive follows a son through the scrapes and near misses of caring for his two parents with dementia. Demo Derby forged associations with medical researchers, Alzheimer’s Associations, artists and the general public and was performed in New York City in 2008. He is currently collaborating with microbiologist William Lorowitz, and teaches at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.