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  • Writer's pictureKatie Hardwick

Aerial Installation for The Wellcome Trust

Switch - Epigenetics illustrated through aerial dance, light sculpture and soundscape with a narrative.

Metta Theatre Double Helix

Switch by Metta Theatre, aerial choreography by Katie Hardwick and Leyla Rees.

"Congrats and thank you for putting on a great show last night. A big success and much appreciated by all." - Mark Henderson, Wellcome Trust.

"I think it achieved its purpose of introducing London society to Wellcome in a very good way. Lots of attention to detail on the various acts making science accessible as well as getting the tone just right." - Claire Matterson, Director of Strategy, Wellcome Trust.

"Thank you for creating such a beautiful thing (...) You are amazing." - Sarah Punshon, Curator.

switch silks shape

Evening Standard Top 1000 Influential Londoners 2014

The event was hosted by the Wellcome Trust, at the Francis Crick Instite's newest building just behind the British Library.

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Our piece, Switch, was performed as guests entered the event and walked past a large windowed area in which aerial rigging points had been put in especially for us.

Metta Theatre's William Reynolds designed a double helix structure with LED lights which changed colour throughout the performance.

Switch Model Double Helix.jpg

Model of the double helix light installation by William Reynolds

An informative and dreamlike soundscape, including extracts from interviews with scientists Professor Tim Spector and Dr Juliette Harris, was composed by Filipe Gomes. The 14 minute long piece explained how research into identical twins has led scientists to discover that genes can be switched on or off by environmental factors.

Director of Metta Theatre, Poppy Burton-Morgan, asked Leyla and I to choreograph an aerial piece which reflected the narrative of the soundscape. Beginning on aerial hoop, we mirrored each other to demonstrate how identical twins are made up of the same DNA, genetic clones of one another. We wore the same costumes and blue wigs to look like identical twins.

Gradually as they go through life, outside factors effect identical twins in different ways so that they develop differences as genes are switched on or off. To represent this, I took off my dress so that we were different in costuming and, and moved out of the double helix structure to begin a choreography on silks. Leyla then climbed another silk and we found moves where we could use the same basic shapes and patterns to show variations in style, representing the variations which can occur from the same basic DNA.

After training to move together since the age of 8, Leyla and I enjoyed using our strong bond as performers to create this piece about twins.

Rigger for aerial circus.JPG

I really enjoyed creating this piece with Metta Theatre, as I've always been interested in science. I took physics A Level mainly to learn about the interesting knowledge on the syllabus, before going to university in Falmouth to study English Literature. One of my favourite modules was Science and Literature, where I was able to look deeper into past ehxibitions which had gripped me as a child and teenager. I explored ideas of what the human mind is, and still enjoy going to the Wellcome Collection now to get a pop science view of current scientific knowledge.


ENCODE: The dance of DNA

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to be involved in the launch of the Who Am I? exhibit at the Science Museum, also looking at Epigenetics and the way that genes can switch.

DNA silks science museum.jpg

Picture by Andrew Matthews

Michele Laine, director of Viva Aerial Dance, completed a PhD in Materials Engineering so was the obvious choice as choreographer to use silks to illustrate the discoveries in Epigenetics which were explored in the new exhibition. The silks represented DNA, and we were proteins.

At the National Centre for Circus Arts, we found movements and shapes on silks which emulated those of DNA. For example, we made loops to illustrate how DNA loops back on itself, and made sure that our silks twisted and rotated clockwise around our bodies as this is the direction in which DNA twists.

Coverage in The Telegraph - DNA dance performed at Science Museum

Blog entry by the Wellcome Trust - Dance of DNA: A new perspective on genomics

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