Replace your Powerpoint with dancers

Choreographer Carl Flink and his company Black Label Movement know more about molecular biology than you might think.

Over the summer they worked with John Bohannon, the creator of “Dance Your Ph.D.” to choreograph a talk he was set to give at a TED conference in Brussels.

The gist of the talk? Ditch your Powerpoint, and enlist dancers to communicate your ideas.

Here’s the result, filmed on November 22:

John Bohannon says he learned a lot in the process of creating the speech/dance:

We had a shoestring budget, not even enough to get all the dancers to Brussels. So we had to create the dance and rehearse in Minneapolis in our spare time for free. Then we hired 6 Brussels-based dancers and arrived in Brussels 10 days early to rehearse with them. I’m amazed we pulled it off, but Carl wasn’t surprised. Professional dancers find this kind of pressure routine.

The piece changed drastically over the course of its creation. As I got to know the dancers and see how they struggled to make ends meet, especially when injuries occur without healthcare coverage, my mood darkened. What began as a small piece of optimistic theater about science turned into a satire about the status of artists in the US. As inspiration, I looked back to Jonathan Swift’s 1729 essay, “A Modest Proposal,” It was a masterpiece of political satire that proposed a seemingly rational solution to the problem of the poor in Ireland: They should sell their babies as food, generating much-needed income and reducing their population in one stroke. It was a reply to some of the brutal utilitarian policies being discussed at the time by the aristocracy. Where you hear antique language in my presentation, I am quoting Swift verbatim.

Choreographer Carl Flink says the talk has been such a hit that TED organizers are talking about them creating another dance/talk for a conference in Long Beach this coming March.

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