Flexible fellows take to the floor

October 3, 2003

Academic flexibility is taking a new twist as a team of scientists gets ready to work with choreographer Wayne McGregor in a scheme that brings together science and art.

The £30,000 research fellowship in choreography and cognition is one of 16 totalling more than £500,000 funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board and Arts Council England.

Geoffrey Crossick, chief executive of the AHRB, said: "Many of the most exciting areas of research lie between and across the boundaries of 'traditional' disciplines or subjects."

Peter Hewitt, chief executive of Arts Council England, said: "This collaboration opens up opportunities for artists to work experimentally in new contexts and to connect artistic research to leading-edge research in the sciences."

Cambridge University experimental psychologist Rosaleen McCarthy, who will lead the choreography and cognition project, said cognitive psychology was "very bad on the whole at dealing with expressive movement and a sense of the body and the self. This is something that is confronted all the time by choreography."

The team, whose expertise ranges from cognition and brain science to movement analysis, may also be able to work with Mr McGregor, artistic director of Random Dance Company, to create new forms of choreographic notation. But will any academics take to the dance floor?

Dr McCarthy said: "It may be necessary to get up and do some of the actions, but these dancers are all lithe teenagers or in their 20s and most of us have said goodbye to our 40s."

Other projects include a Nottingham University project to combine geographical information science with fine arts, a Birmingham University investigation into whether literature can help us understand sub-atomic physics, and an Oxford University probe into whether it is possible to levitate a loop of water.

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