Science & dance festival kicks off

Sunday 20 April 2003

Scientists from the University of St Andrews will team up with some of the countries leading experimental choreographers in an innovative Science & Dance Festival starting tonight.

The 3 day event (beginning tonight, Monday 21st April until Wednesday 23rd) will be a ground- breaking artistic exploration of dance and human emotions as seen through the lens of recent scientific discoveries.

The Dance Spark 2003 Mini Dance Festival is a three-day event packed with workshops and performances for all ages and abilities. The Festival, to be held at the Byre Theatre, St Andrews, aims to interpret research from the University of St Andrews School of Biology through dance and movement.

This unique event will provide people of all ages and backgrounds an opportunity to gain an insight into the findings of biomedical research and talk to scientists from the University. The group of scientists involved are Professor Keith Sillar and Drs Frank Gunn-Moore, Eric Flitney and Mark Evans. During the three days they will deliver presentations and take part in ‘Talk with the Scientist’ sessions.

Dr Mark Evans, a Lecturer at the School of Biology, said: “The performance aims to re- create the ‘Eureka’ factor that originally caught the public imagination in respect of scientific discoveries in bygone days. We seek to achieve this by using high technology and the expertise of leading-edge research scientists.”

Tom Gardner, Managing Director of the Byre Theatre, said, “This Festival offers a rare opportunity for the value of science and the excitement of discovery to be communicated to a wider audience through this most unusual collaboration between scientists working at the frontiers of knowledge and creative artists making original work that will surely stretch their frontiers in very new directions.”


The Festival’s workshops and performances invite you to explore the mysteries of human movement and emotions and discover how these are triggered through stunning colour images and auditory displays of cell, brain and heart function. Leading experimental choreographers, Andy Howitt (Artistic Director of Scottish Youth Dance), Catherine Cassidy (Artistic Director of Topiary Dance Company) and Tricia Anderson – Dance Spark’s founding member – will be providing workshops for all ages and abilities over the three days.

The festival culminates in a performance at 8:00 pm on 23 April, a “sharing of work” inviting the audience to experience a journey of scientific and creative discovery, bringing together spontaneous dance, music and movement arising from the Festival’s workshops and audiovisual displays of hitherto unseen images from state-of-the- art biomedical research. An experimental multimedia performance developed jointly by The Byre Theatre and the University of St Andrews, this sharing of work can fairly be described as a ground breaking approach to engaging audiences off all ages through the use of dance, music and the visual arts to illuminate complex scientific knowledge.

Rita Henderson, Director of the Dance Spark Festival, said, “It is the first time that the University and The Byre Theatre have come together for such a purpose. I hope that the final day of the festival will take our audience and all those involved, on a journey of discovery, and show us a glimpse of what can be achieved in a very limited time span and an insight into what can be achieved in the future.”


High resolution images and animations of cell functions and of developmental sequences supplied by biomedical scientists will be on display to provide an insight into the workings of the human body and to stimulate the creative impulse for the Dance Spark workshops and performance. These film sequences, which will be shown during the festival and during the final performance, illustrate three lines of scientific enquiry in the biomedical sciences – fertilisation and development, the brain and nerve cells and the heart, heart cells, and blood flow.


During Dance Spark there will be an opportunity to talk with leading edge biomedical scientists and to view short presentations given in the foyer of the Byre Theatre. The topics that will be covered include – Control of locomotion by the brain – Neuronal circuits and their regulation of locomotion from Professor Keith Sillar’s Laboratory, Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease from Dr Frank Gunn-Moore’s laboratory, The cell skeleton – The cytoskeleton and the control of cell form and function from Dr Eric Flitney’s laboratory and The cardiovascular system and the control of blood pressure, from Dr Mark Evans’ laboratory.

Tricia Anderson, choreographer. said “We are very excited by the prospects that this project opens up. The idea for the Dance Spark project arose over a year ago from conversations I held with Mark Evans, when we started to muse about how a dancer would approach complex scientific concepts, and how a scientist might give shape to his scientific insight through movement, light and sound. We hope that you will come and see what we are doing, participate in the workshops and join us in this Journey of Discovery. ”

To book workshops and performances please contact The Byre Theatre Box Office on (01334) 475000.

For further information on the event please contact:: Debbie Butler, Press Manager, The Byre Theatre (01334) 468726, [email protected]

Or to contact the scientists involved contact:

Gayle Cook, Press Officer, University of St Andrews – Tel: 01334 467227, mobile 07900 050103, or email [email protected]




Dance Spark is an experimental science and dance festival hosted by the Byre Theatre. A unique collaboration between researchers at the University of St Andrews and leading experimental choreographers, Dance Spark aims to engage the audience in an interactive interpretation of bio-medical research through dance and movement. This is the first of a series of events to encourage a creative exploration of key scientific concepts, images and processes through the performing arts. Future interactive events will explore diverse scientific themes and be accessible to people of all ages, but the key process by which they are delivered aims to foster creative engagement with young people in the age range 10- 20. The core team behind Dance Spark comprises Rita Henderson, Mark Evans, Tricia Anderson and Madeleine Campbell.

For further information or enquiries about future projects, call 07803 892 846 or email: [email protected]

Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews Contact Gayle Cook on 01334 467227, mobile 07900 050103, or email [email protected] Ref: dance and science pr 210403 View the latest University news at

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