Arts

Royal Ballet's Connectome - The Mind Mapped Through Dance

We interview Alastair Marriott with his work and life partner Jonathan Howells to talk choreography and neuroscience. The pair met as students at the Royal Ballet School but only began working together on professional projects recently. As choreographer, Marriott takes the lead while a work is initially developed. He explores ideas on his own before sharing them with dancers in a studio where their reactions influence the work. Once the principal shape of the choreography is determined Howells takes over and directs rehearsals. He must learn all the dancers movements and communicate Marriott’s desired nuances and aesthetic. This allows to Marriott take some distance during rehearsals; keeping his eye sharp for fine-tuning.

Marriott’s ballet, Connectome, explores the theory that every individual has a unique mental map that is shaped and coloured by events in their life. As a project of neuroscience, mental mapping remains largely underdeveloped so as creative stimulus it provides huge scope for imaginative exploration. Internationally renowned set designer, Es Devlin, initially introduced Marriott to the concept. She went on to design 1000 suspended vertical poles for the ballet that when projected onto create a glittering, immersive set that digitally visualises the inside of the mind. The Royal Ballet’s Connectome fuses abstract narrative with impressive visuals and vigorous athleticism. It expresses the beauty of neural patterns with more poignancy than ever possible in scientific diagrams.