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A Comedy of Change Rambert Dance Company Ballet in collaboration with Professor Nicky Clayton
What do you get when you cross a Professor of Comparative Cognition, the behaviour of birds and a dance company?
Professor Nicky Clayton, (in action, left) of the Department of Experimental Psychology, has applied science to art by taking her knowledge about the way birds' brains work to the dance floor. She's always been fascinated by the showy displays of clever birds and their extravagant dances have inspired her to think in new ways. A serendipitous series of events led to Clayton meeting the Artistic Director of Rambert Dance Company, Mark Baldwin. She is now collaborating with him on a new Darwinian-inspired ballet called 'A Comedy of Change' to mark the bicentenary of Darwin's birth. This work has also resulted in the film 'Bird Tango' available for viewing on the University of Cambridge's website link.
Clayton's work in the lab investigates how birds and humans develop cognitive and social abilities, and one of her projects involves members of the crow family (corvids) that includes the rooks, jays and ravens. Such is her respect for the birds she studies she calls them as "feathered apes".
Her passion goes further than the mixing of science and art: "I have a dream to inspire other women in science. Science professors are sometimes stereotyped as white-haired men in white coats, and science is seen as a lonely and almost anti-social pursuit. But it's an over generalisation – I am blonde with stilletos and I follow fashion!" She says. "Making this Cambridge Ideas film has given me the opportunity to show it is possible to have an exciting profession and pursue other passions like dance. I am able to integrate two very different parts of my life and I am loving every bit of it....thanks to the birds".
Posted on 26/08/2009
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