Dancing with the Stars – blending science and the arts for Manchester Day

Astrophysicists from The University of Manchester and The University of Cambridge have teamed up with secondary school students and Dance Manchester to create a performance to tell the story of the formation of stars in our solar system.

The dance, Stellarium, gave its debut performance in the Great Northern Square on Manchester Day in June.

The performers – students from The Derby High School, Falinge Park High School and Wright Robinson College – staged a dance created by Manchester-based choreographer, Bridget Fiske. She created movement based on the cutting edge research of leading female University of Manchester astrophysicist Dr Rowan Smith supported by Dr Helen Mason. The dance motifs were created using their recent findings to make the choreography as scientifically accurate as possible.

Stellarium, created in response to Greater Manchester being the European City of Science 2016, is a partnership project between Dance Manchester, the dance development organisation for Greater Manchester, and The University of Manchester’s Science & Engineering Education Research and Innovation Hub (SEERIH). Supported by the Lowry and Walk the Plank, it focusses on communicating science through dance in a fascinating way to spark interest in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) in school children – and particularly in girls, who are less likely than their male counterparts to aspire to have careers in those fields.

These efforts tie in with Manchester City Council’s recently published Manchester Strategy, which noted that ‘Schools are the custodians of Manchester’s next generation of inventors, scientists, teachers, nurses and high tech engineers…excellence in these subjects is key to securing employment in the jobs of tomorrow, but we also recognise the value of combining this with arts and creativity.’

Dr Lynne Bianchi, Head of SEERIH (Science & Engineering Education Research and Innovation Hub) said: “This project is really fascinating in itself. It’s bringing together a leading scientist with a dance choreographer and a brilliant group of schools to take an aspect of contemporary science and make it more understandable to lots of different people.”

Deb Ashby, the Director of Dance Manchester, said: “We at Dance Manchester are proud to be bringing women to the forefront in this dance and science collaboration. We are keen to demonstrate how the arts – and dance in particular – can enhance learning in other subject areas, attracting those who might not otherwise participate.”