Science Inspired Performance Arts
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Star Cells Part 2 is an eye-catching flashmob performance project & 8 months of inspirational dance investigation & workshops inspired by exciting neurophysiology research taking place at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) and Imperial College.
The vision for Starcells 2 was to build on the success of Starcells 1 and design a project that allowed for deeper engagement and a lasting legacy. Thanks to funding from Arts Council England and The Physiology Society, Starcells Schools Challenge was born.
The choreography uses dance to inform and illustrate the science of how the body moves and reacts, the project conveys the impact of neuromuscular diseases in a powerful visual medium that raises awareness of these conditions. We are proud to launch this performance in support of a fantastic charity, the MND Association two days before global MND Day 2022.
Starcells Schools Challenge involved recruiting enthusiastic young dancers from four schools & colleges across London to work with a select group of highly in-demand professional dancers. The pupils challenge was ultimately to perform & devise unique contemporary & urban dance works in public at the Great Exhibition Road Festival in June 2022. This international festival celebrates trailblazing ideas in science and the arts.
Starcells 2 is ultimately a communication exercise – can an art form like dance educate as well as entertain an audience? Will people walk away from the performance having learned something about a debilitating disease like Motor Neurone Disease? Will they take the time to find out more or even hopefully donate to the Motor Neurone Disease Association? The MND Association have over many years funded the research that has lead to the science that you have watched being depicted in the Starcells 2 performances.
The aim of the Starcells 2 Schools Challenge is primarily to engage young creative people on a deeper level and to inspire them to use an art form like dance to communicate hard hitting science-based subjects in the future. The beneficiaries of this project are pupils from St. Angela & Ursuline School, Forest Gate; Richmond Park Academy, Sheen; Richmond upon Thames College, Twickenham; and vocational students from Rambert School working alongside established professional dancers from Combination Dance and Ombrascura Dance Company.
Star Cells is another collaborative dance and science project delivered by award-winning London based Combination Dance & Artistic Director Anne-Marie Smalldon. Choreography created by established dance artists Matt Walker, Chloe Mead and Jeffrey Felicissimo. Costumes by Mike Lees, films created by Luke Toddfrey, images by Scott David Photography and we are proud to have Carbon IT Services as our digital partner.
The artists worked closely with the lead scientist, Emma Hodson-Tole from Manchester Metropolitan University and a team of scientists and staff at Imperial College including Dr Paul Strutton.
This project is supported by an Outreach Grant from The Physiological Society. For more information about them, please visit http://www.physoc.org.
In addition funding was gratefully received from https://www.artscouncil.org.uk
Artistic Director Anne-Marie Smalldon and international choreographer Matt Walker worked with Combination and Ombrascura Professional dancers and students from UK leading dance conservatoire Rambert School to create an abstract dance inspired by the science of how the body moves set music created by Heather Sterland from www.interstellarduo.com
The dance opens with a series of movements that are slow and sustained as the artists investigate slow twitch fibre movements only.
The second section spirals into a circular muscle pattern as the dancers elude to the start of the destructive nature of MND. Latest research suggest that sticky proteins or indeed rogue Star Cells could be the cause of this cascade of negative events within the body. The circle expands out as the artists now play with only fast twitch accelerated movement that exhausts them.
The third movement displays the beauty of the cellular ballet of ions within an actional potential flowing down the Motor Neurones or nerve cells towards the muscle. The dancers disperse as per the calcium ions in the muscle fibre when the action potential crosses the neuromuscular junction. We see the dancers twitch here as sadly in MND even though the affected muscles still contract when they receive commands they also begin to contract independently (involuntarily) this firing is random and appears as localised twitches (fasciculation). The dancers next form the striped part of a muscle fibre the sarcomere and we see the sliding filament theory in action. We watch a power stroke as Myosin attaches and pulls the thinner Actin filaments closer together during a muscle contraction. In MND the fibres ultimately loose connection to the nervous system the muscles atrophy causing increased muscle weakness.
The finale´of the piece displays the gradual effects of atrophy but is inspired by celebrated artists and scientists who are living or who have lived with MND who have continued to create and inspire using their incredible bravery and resilience. As one disabled dancer told us they can continue to dance in their minds.
Choreographed by Chloe Mead and students from St Angela’s Ursuline School in Forest Gate.
We looked at the fibres, nerves and cells that make up our muscles and how they work to make our bodies move. But what happens when these break down? How do we support ourselves and one and other?
Music Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Part (Excerpt) performed by Martin Roscoe and Tasmin Little
Featuring professional dancers Chloe Mead, Tilly Woodford and Owen McHugh is choreographed by Anne-Marie Smalldon and the dancers. Set to beautiful piano music “Breeze” composed by inspirational neuroscientist Phillip Smethurst.
This emotive trio is inspired by the story of inspirational MND campaigner and patient Lucy Lintott https://lucysfight.com Aged 19 Lucy returned from working in Camp America and was diagnosed with MND. Her incredible story includes the strength she receives from her wonderful family and friends and her resilience. Congratulations to Lucy on her recent wedding and birth of her two children. The dance also includes movement derived from a moving patient survey where MND patients told us about their hopes for the future please see view their comments here:
Choreographed by international urban dance artist Jeffrey Felicissimo (please read more about his incredible career in Meet The Team). These two uplifting dance routines are literally a celebration of the joy of movement and dance! You can even try joining into the last section yourself! The choreography is inspired by the powerful and inspirational lead female scientist Emma Hodson-Tole and MND Warrior Lucy Lintott. The formations are taken from our study of the patterns that muscles make in our bodies – pop back to our science hub for more info and diagrams. Can you spot the muscle patterns? The first section includes vocational dance students from one of our key partners Richmond upon Thames College and the second section features students from Richmond Park Academy in West London.
Dr Emma Hodson-Tole Professor in Neuromuscular Biomechanics at Manchester Metropolitan University said “Dance is an incredible way to communicate scientific learning to the public and also students about muscle and neurophysiology. I love the way that the creative team have combined our science research at MMU with some incredible movement & music. The setting of the Great Exhibition Road Festival is an incredible backdrop for this project.”
which took place in 2021 here. Enjoy a self-guided promenade virtual dance in around St Pancras International Station perfect for a holiday activity in London around some incredible architecture #starcells