A short introduction to ‘Neurochoreography’ by Matthias Sperling

No need to worry: ‘neurochoreography’ isn’t a real thing! It’s a word that I’ve made up as part of a thought experiment about the future potentials of the relationship between choreography and the neurosciences. Rather than giving it any single, fixed definition, I use this word to invite multiple imaginations about how dance and choreography might interact with future developments in everything that we might popularly consider to be linked with the sciences of the brain and mind. Although (as far as I’m concerned) ‘neurochoreography’ isn’t currently a real thing, I think it could become a real thing in the future, and that’s why I’m interested in proposing it as something for dance artists and dance audiences to think about.

The thought experiment revolves around a fictional institution called the ‘Institute of Neurochoreography’; a place where artists, scientists and scholars collaborate together on investigating the relationship between our bodies and minds. That relationship is a long-standing interest of mine as a choreographer and is the focus of my performance-lecture Now That We Know, which returns to the Lilian Baylis Studio in November. This piece explores how dance might change in the future if science discovers exactly how our bodies give rise to our minds. In that hypothetical future, I imagine the ‘Institute of Neurochoreography’ as playing an important part in leading to breakthroughs in understandings of the relationship between body and mind.

Alongside the performances of Now That We Know this November, I’ll be inviting audiences and a fantastic line-up of guest speakers to join me for a symposium that ‘launches’ the Institute of Neurochoreography and expands on these ideas. The invitation is to join me in presuming that this symposium is, in fact, the ‘First Open Congress’ of the Institute; the first ‘official’ gathering for anyone interested in contributing to and shaping it.

The symposium will be a chance to collectively imagine what the Institute of Neurochoreography could and should become, and why. We will discuss different ideas about what the inaugural research programme of the Institute should include. What specific questions should it look into first? What principles should inform how artists, scientists and scholars work alongside one another? What ethical and political considerations are important for the Institute to be self-aware of, if its work is to make a positive and relevant contribution to the world?

I’m absolutely delighted that four very distinguished guest speakers from different fields will be joining me for this ‘Congress’, each of whom explores closely related questions in their own work in really exciting ways:

I’ve invited Choy Ka Fai – a Berlin-based artist and performance-maker and self-styled ‘Dance Doctor’ along to tell us about his Choreographic Medicine techniques, which form part of his work Dance Clinic, recently presented at Impulstanz (Vienna) alongside several of his other works.

Choreographer Colette Sadler, also based in Berlin, shares my interest in taking a speculative, science-fiction approach to choreography and will make links with her recent choreographic work Learning From The Future. Her work was recently featured in Art Night London, and will also be performed at Southbank Centre later in November.

Dr Kélina Gotman is a Lecturer in Theatre and Performance Studies at King’s College London, and collaborates widely on dance and theatre productions in Europe and North America. She will open up questions around what the Institute’s language of neuroscience does to (or with) the dancing body.

Cognitive scientist Dr Guido Orgs and I have collaborated over the past 8 years on many artistic and scientific projects. He has a background in both performing dance and psychology – he has worked with German Dance Company Neuer Tanz/VA Wölfl as a full-time performer as well as holding a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience, and is a Lecturer in Psychology at Goldsmiths University of London. Drawing on his background and our collaborations, he will outline his vision of what the Institute of Neurochoreography could become.

I can’t wait to have the help of these speakers and everyone who attends the ‘First Open Congress’ to turn the thought experiment of ‘neurochoreography’ into an embodied thought experiment through this gathering, and begin to bring the imagined future of Now That We Know into reality.

The Institute of Neurochoreography’s First Open Congress will take place in the Lilian Baylis Studio on 2 November, alongside Matthias’s performance-lecture Now That We Know on 1 & 2 November. A combined ticket offer is available for the symposium and performance together for £30.

The symposium is supported by Midlands4Cities, Roehampton University, Dance4 and Siobhan Davies Dance, in partnership with Sadler’s Wells.

Image credit: Matthias Sperling, Loop Atlas, image by David Oates.