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New contemporary dance inspired by biophysics

6 November 2019

Contemporary dance
Image credit: Jonathan Dunn

Laser microscopy might not be the most obvious inspiration for dance.

But the cutting-edge research of one Cardiff University scientist is being used as the basis for a new contemporary work.

Inspired by the work of Professor Paola Borri, who researches connections between life and physical sciences, choreographer Jack Philp has created OPTO NANO.

In particular, it draws on Professor Borri’s work on laser-scanning optical microscopy.

Professor Borri, herself a dancer, develops novel microscopy technologies, building unique new microscopes in the lab and working with lasers to analyse biological systems.

Vibration, movement, light and matter at the nano scale are core concepts of the research, which Mr Philp hopes to reflect in the choreography.

Professor Borri
Professor Borri

Professor Borri, from the University’s School of Biosciences, said it was “very exciting” and she was looking forward to seeing the reaction to the dance.

“As both a scientist and a dancer, I am a strong believer in the value that creative thinking offers to science, and I am delighted to be involved in this project which offers up a new and exciting approach to public engagement,” she said.

“By creating a work that goes beyond entertainment, Jack has taken the complex concepts of my research involving advanced laser micro-spectroscopy techniques and opened them up to a brand-new audience.”

The pair met through amateur dance classes and Mr Philp has shadowed Professor Borri in the lab to learn about her work.

“I’ve always been really interested in exploring the meeting point between the academic and the creative, looking at how we can take complex methodologies and make them more accessible to the general public,” said Mr Philp.

“There are not many examples of dance-science taking place in Wales - although it happens successfully elsewhere - and I’m keen to take a bold and ambitious approach that brings these two areas of work together and opens people up to new experiences.”

Mr Philp is working with three dancers and Wales-based composer R. Seiliog to further develop the piece, which is supported by National Dance Company of Wales and received funding of £3,000 from the Arts Council of Wales.

He said his ultimate aim was to develop the dance into a production and take it on tour.

An open rehearsal for OPTO NANO takes place at 3pm on 6 November at the Dance House, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay. It’s free to attend and all are welcome.

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The School has an international reputation for its teaching and research, and offers some of the top research-led bioscience curricula in the UK.