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When Dance Meets Free Markets, or How an Economist Sets the Stage

The domain of Dr. Antony Davies, Duquesne University associate professor of economics, is generally spreadsheets and free markets. But this weekend, he will be involved in a dance performance at Washington & Lee University.

Davies, who studied tap and ballet for 15 years, conceived a work that gives the audience control over what happens on the stage in a collaboration with his sister, Jenefer Davies, assistant professor of dance at W&L, and Shawn Paul Evans, W&L assistant professor of theater.

In the performance, Tragedy of the Commons, the audience will test an economic principle of the same name that shows how a group of people will deplete a resource when the resource is communally owned but will conserve the resource when the resource is privately owned.

The stage lighting is the resource and the audience will have a set of rules and the ability to “consume” the resource by turning the stage lights on and off during the performance. Live data, statistics and real-time consequences will be displayed as the audience takes control of the dance and makes choices that impact its outcome.

Davies will introduce it and debrief the audience at the end of the performance, showing how the audience’s behavior exemplifies the economic theory, then showing examples of the same principle in action in the world around us.

“The value of experiments like this lies in demonstrating that economics is a powerful predictor of human behavior,” Davies said.  “Economics helps us better understand why we do what we do, whether in making a purchase, selecting a spouse or lighting dancers on a stage. The first step to making the world a better and more sustainable place is in looking at it through the lens of economics.”
After this weekend’s presentation in Virginia, the video will be posted online.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.