Group Leader Prof Veronica Buckle and PhD student Caroline Harrold (Hughes group) from MRC MHU worked with Impelo, a leading community dance company based in Wales, to support a new dance performance.
CELL is a new project that explores human cells through intricate choreography. Using giant inflatable nucleus and cells, it is a playful exploration of cell biology and immunology. The production features a soundtrack by Grammy award-winner Tchad Blake and an inflatable set designed by renowned environmental artist Steve Messam. The installation-like cells come alive with movement to make audiences marvel at the body's power, quirks and hidden landscapes and to allow young people to discover the life-giving world inside their bodies; a universe smaller than a grain of sand.
The researchers from MRC MHU participated in the R&D workshop that took place in Wales in October 2018, specifically providing scientific expertise in the areas of gene expression and DNA folding. The workshop also included researchers from Imperial College, providing expertise in immunology, as well as education specialists from Abingdon Science Partnership, to ensure curriculum relevance.
Talking about her participation in the project, Professor Buckle said: "This has been a fascinating project to be involved with. We spent a few days with the dance company explaining the science and helping to establish a storyboard for the project. I was so impressed by how quickly the dancers picked up on the core ideas. I was also impressed by all the specialties in science, design, sound and dance that had been assembled together. Spending most days in a laboratory, this was a completely different environment for me and one which I enjoyed hugely. I can't wait to see the final performance!"
lmpelo Director Amanda Griffkin said: "Our last show Flying Atoms looked out to the universe explaining that there are more stars than all the grains of sand on all the beaches in all the world. CELL looks within and toward the microscopic with a starting point that one grain of sand is the size of 5,000 human cells. We will capture imaginations, physicalise scientific concepts and allow mindful reflection on the body as a complex network of cells that makes both growth and illness possible. Developing partnerships outside of the Arts is a truly exciting way forward for us. Being able to engage with respected scientists and science organisation to develop CELL has been a fantastic learning experience for us all"
The first performance to a school audience is happening today (2nd of July) at Imperial College's Great Hall. Pupils from Dorothy Barley Jnr, Islamia School, Flora Gardens, Grey Coat Hospital, Colveston Primary, Oak Thorpe Primary and Sennybridge Primary from Wales will sit amongst inflatable cells to learn more about the exciting world within each of us. The production will then go on tour around the UK.
CELL is an Arts Council Wales funded research and development project that has been created by Impelo, in collaboration with Imperial College London, Coney, MRC MHU (University of Oxford), Dr Anna Fenemore, Abingdon Science Partnership and access consultant Jonny Cotsen.
lmpelo is one of the leading community dance companies in Wales and has a first-class reputation for its wide-ranging work in Powys, from inclusive projects co-developed with participants to ambitious high-quality performance work rooted in the principles of creative learning.