Combining the arts and sciences provides unique inspiration

Balancing the arts and the sciences comes naturally to Natali Diaz-Yepes, a graduating senior double majoring in dance and biology. Diaz-Yepes’ father is a doctor of biology statistics, and she’s been in love with dance since the age of three. This solid foundation in both fields keeps her days interesting and her evenings busy.

The last few semesters, she has found herself alternating dance and science classes throughout her days. Many people may find this a challenging switch every couple of hours, but Diaz-Yepes finds it really plays to her strengths.

“Whenever I go to one of my biology labs, I seem to approach the experiments very creatively; and when I’m in the dance studio working on choreography, I always rely on very calculated and methodical approaches,” Diaz-Yepes said.

Diaz-Yepes finds inspiration in interesting places. In an invertebrate zoology class this spring semester, studying the movement of jellyfish inspired the choreography for a recent piece.

“Anatomy, chemistry, physics, genetics – the list goes on. All of these are really about movement and transformation, and that’s what dance does as well,” Diaz-Yepes said. “In my mind, I can receive any information about a biology topic and use it as an inspiration.”

Michelle Heffner Hayes, chair and professor of dance, sees the connection between the sciences and the arts all the time. Two-thirds of dance majors at KU are double majors, most often in a science field.

“I think we’re looking at the future when we look at the overlapping spheres of art and science. We see students graduating who have these very vibrant, artistic experiences, and then they bring them across to different professions like medicine or physical therapy,” Heffner Hayes said. “I think the professions of the future will be occupied by these kinds of thinkers – people who are capable of being strategic and creative at the same time.”

Another bonus to Diaz-Yepes’ mixture of classes: It’s naturally de-stressing. Going from an inactive class to an active one keeps her centered.

“Without dance class mixed throughout my days, I wouldn’t be able to live the crazy, hectic, busy life I have chosen,” Diaz-Yepes said. “I get to experience two of my favorite things in the world every day. What’s better than that?”

KU has been the perfect place to pursue both her passions. It provided the hands-on experience in both departments that she was searching for. She added, “I couldn’t picture myself sitting in a lecture hall for hours and hours. KU offered me the experience that I needed.”