It’s hard to imagine the potential when contemporary dance and molecular biology collaborate. But ‘bodystorming’, a technique devised by a team at the University of Minnesota, does just that. Aiming to pave the way for the dance form to take on India, the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) and the Antara Artists’ Collective have teamed up to bring bodystorming experts, professors David Odde and Carl Flink to town, for a series of public talks, workshops and an extended residency for dancers.
NCBS researchers Jitu Mayor and his student Darius Köster first encountered bodystorming at a marine biology conference in Minnesota, when Odde suggested that their work on unexplained patterns in cell membranes could benefit from live reconstructions on the dance floor. “I’ll admit that at first I was not so sure,” says Mayor. Köster, who has a dance background, was more enthusiastic. “I found it absolutely fascinating. Odde and Flink use people’s bodies to bring cellular processes to life,” he explains. But both researchers were astounded by the results. “By giving each dancer simple rules to follow, we were able to identify patterns that furthered our understanding. And with each person representing a molecule, we could get first-hand feedback from the dancers about their experience,” Mayor says. Watching clips of bodystorming by the Black Label Dance Movement run by Flink, we were also taken with the performance value of the form, which works with trained dancers to create aesthetically stunning results.
Movers and shakers
“As artistes, we’re always looking to collaborate. But we usually look within the arts. Scientists can add a completely different dimension, so this is a great opportunity,” says dancer and Srishti faculty member Shabari Rao, who will be documenting the project in the city. Hoping to bring on board skilled city-based dancers, she says that “We need to leave our narrow identities, whether it be Bharatanatyam dancer, Odissi dancer or anything else, aside, and follow new rules. We need to become movers rather than dancers.”
—Maegan Dobson Sippy