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To stimulate dialogue between science and dance, scientists like bee biologist Mark Winston (left) participate with dancers like Leigha Wald (centre) and Darcy McMurray in an attempt to convey the human side of research.

Blending scientific and artistic worlds

January 27, 2011

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SFU biology professor Mark Winston doesn’t create experiments anymore—at least not the scientific kind.

But he did recently participate in the LINK Dance Foundation production Experiments: Where Logic and Emotion Collide, with SFU ecologists Anne Salomon and Larry Dill and former ecologist and sculptor Lee Gass.

SFU’s VP-research office and the Canada Council for the Arts funded the piece, which ran for three nights in Vancouver in November and has plans to tour elsewhere. It received a glowing review in the Jan. 6 edition of the prestigious journal Nature.

Experiments interlaces movement, sound, video and lighting as it strives to convey the human side of research. The result is a stimulating dialogue between dance and science that probes the parallels and contrasts between both disciplines as they employ creativity, experimentation, logic and intuition to understand the world.

The scientists offer their voices and ideas during the performance through video projected on a screen, and Dill is part of the cast.

“The emotion around science is one of the deepest ways to see how nature reveals its wonders,” says Winston, a renowned bee researcher and communicator who closed his lab several years ago and now directs SFU’s Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue.

“Strong rigorous science by itself is not enough,” says Winston. “Science in isolation limits our capacity to achieve the deepest possible understanding of the only question that all of us ask at the end of the day: Why are we here? What’s it all about?”

LINK artistic director Gail Lotenberg, who spent three years researching the piece, says artists and scientists share many qualities. Both are “tortured by ideas they seek to surface,” both employ rigorous discipline, both include practitioners who “stay on the safe edges” and others “with courage and imagination (who) are rewarded with discoveries of elegant truth about human experience and reality.”

The collaborators plan to take the show on the road to universities, science centres and dance venues across Canada within the next 12 to 18 months.

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