A Chesapeake Nutcracker with a pinch of crab

Swirling jellyfish, tumbling crabs, a committee of scientists -- and a biologist, stuck in the middle, head in her hands, wrestling with a nightmare about it all.  These are the features of a high-energy dance about the Chesapeake Bay that was performed Friday at Roland Park Elementary School in Baltimore.

The dance, called "A Scientist's Nightmare," was choreographed by my wife, Liz Pelton, who runs the dance club at our local school.  A friendly neighborhood biologist, Dr. Eric Schott, brought a bunch of live blue crabs to the dance studio, so the dancers could observe their movements and imitate them on the dance floor. As might be predicted, the kids love to pinch each other.

As part of an artistic biology lesson, the students wore shirts with different designs on the front -- narrow finger-like shapes on the bellies of the boys (representing the male or "jimmy" crabs) and wide triangles on the girls (who played the female or "sook" crabs).

The plot revolves around a scientist who attends a conference about the Bay.  She then falls asleep reading a report I wrote for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation called "Bad Water and the Decline of the Blue Crab in the Chesapeake Bay." (This is actually the least realistic part of the dance, because the report is a page-turner).  The scientist wakes up to visions of crabs, jellyfish and white-coated researchers dancing in her head (a sort of Chesapeake "Nutcracker," just in time for the holidays).