Leeds and Northern Ballet project wins prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering award

A pioneering University of Leeds research project about human movement has been awarded an Ingenious Award by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

“The Mechanics of Life: Movement, Mobility and Me” brings together University engineers, led by Dr Briony Thomas, with creative minds at Northern Ballet to help change perceptions of engineering by introducing new audiences to the mechanics of movement through dance. 

It is one of 16 programmes selected for this year’s Ingenious Awards, a scheme launched by the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2007 and funded by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) to support public engagement projects with grants of up to £30,000.  

Dr Thomas said: “I’m delighted to continue our collaboration with Kenneth Tindall and Northern Ballet and explore creative connections between the arts and sciences. It’s an honour to receive an Ingenious Award, and I’m excited to bring the voices of young people into the creative process.  

“I’m looking forward to seeing this partnership develop across artists, engineers and schools, and inspire a new generation of innovators to explore problems across the disciplines, starting with biomechanics and dance.” 

The project hopes to raise awareness of the diversity, nature and impact of engineering among people of all ages and backgrounds, while providing opportunities for engineers to further develop their communication skills by helping them showcase their work in new and creative ways. 

This is a fantastic opportunity for science and art to come together to affect grassroots education.

Kenneth Tindall, Associate Director for Digital and Choreographer in Residence, Northern Ballet

Through creative exploration of motion, the University’s partnership with Northern Ballet aims to inspire an understanding of medical engineering and its impact on health and wellbeing in society.  

The Mechanics of Life: Movement, Mobility and Me will finish with an experience day for high-school students, where they will help design an engineering-inspired performance to be choreographed and performed by Northern Ballet dancers, who will be captured on film. Workshops are scheduled to take place this autumn, while the final feature will premiere in early 2024. 

Mr Tindall, Northern Ballet’s Associate Director for Digital, and Choreographer in Residence, added: “I am looking forward to continuing the collaborative process with Dr Briony Thomas and picking up from where we first began, evolving our work together at the cultural institute. This is a fantastic opportunity for science and art to come together to affect grassroots education.” 

Leanne Kirkham, Northern Ballet’s Director of Learning, said: “Bringing these concepts to life through dance will enable us to engage with new and diverse audiences and help us to further understand how developments in mechanical engineering help dancers, and the general public to live longer, stronger and healthier lives.”