Pink graphic of the words 'dna dance' with a graphic of a dna chain

Royal Ballet School students explore scientific research through dance with the University of Oxford 

Between June and July 2020, our then 1st Year students were involved in an online community dance project inspired by the DNA Origami research carried out by the University of Oxford’s Department of Physics. The research, led by Dr Seham Helmi, focused on applying DNA structures to electricity; this has the potential to revolutionise electronics. 

The DNA Dance project involved our students alongside young people put forward by KEEN Oxford. KEEN Oxford are a charity that provide and promote inclusive activities with the aim of making communities as inclusive as possible for disabled people. 

Over four sessions online, participants were introduced to different elements of the DNA Origami research by a scientist and then led by choreographer Manuela Benini who helped participants reimagine the research in movement using their own interpretations and creativity. The project ended with a recorded online performance edited into a short film. 

Our students were able to deepen their understanding of DNA and this research illustrated how natural structures can inform the development of handmade structures. The Royal Ballet School’s Head of Dance Studies, Zoe Francis, spoke about the students’ experience in the project: 

The students learnt more about DNA than they previously knew, but it also opened the mind to a new realm of possibilities where students learnt that anything could inspire choreography. It challenged what and how we communicate ideas in dance and how dance can be used as a tool to teach others.

The University of Oxford’s Department of Physics outreach programme aims to inform the public about its research. Outreach Programmes Manager Oliver Moore said: 

The benefit of having The Royal Ballet School on board is partly that they bring a whole new perspective, a whole new interpretation onto this research that beautifully compliments the equally unique interpretation that KEEN Oxford applied, and it’s brilliant seeing the two performances alongside each other.

DNA Dance brought together three communities in an isolating time and highlighted the way art can enhance our understanding of science as well as the symbiotic relationship between the two. 

Watch the short film about DNA Dance below