Friday, 26 August 2016

Ulysses Unbound

Yesterday, scientists from Queen Mary University of London reported evidence of an exoplanet slightly heavier than the earth orbiting our nearest star at a distance that could sustain life. Nature, a publication not given to hyperbole, described the discovery as fulfilling "a longstanding dream of science-fiction writers — a potentially habitable world that is close enough for humans to send their first interstellar spacecraft" (see Alexandra Witze "Earth-sized planet around nearby star is astronomy dream come true" 24 Aug 2016 Nature).

Witze quoted the lead researcher, Guillem Anglada-Escudé: “The search for life starts now.”  What better timing for the premiere next month of Chantry Dance's Ulysses Unbound at Grantham's Gravity Fields science fair, Despite its title, Ulysses Unbound owes nothing to James Joyce:
"The last astronaut has left a dying earth in search of a new home. In a thrilling cascade of stunning characters, costumes and imagery, he witnesses the birth of a new star and finds himself on an alien world, populated by very alien creatures!
This extraordinary ballet combines an exciting original soundtrack with contemporary ballet danced by an exceptional international cast. Through the fascinating choreography the dancers interpret cosmic events, from the evolution of a star to the formation of a deadly black hole."
A few days ago I would have called that plot science fiction but after yesterday's discovery I would suggest that it now has a possible basis in science.

This is not the first work by Chantry Dance that has been inspired  by the heavens. Their contribution to the 2014 festival, Chasing the Eclipse, starring Dominic North and Rae Piper had an astronomical theme. A number of journalists have already speculated that the discovery of this exoplanet could be the discovery of the century. If they are correct it would be appropriate for this year coincides with the 350th anniversary of the annus mirabilis in which Sir Isaac Newton carried out not far from Grantham some of his best work (see About Us on the Gravity Fields website).

Ulysses Unbound was created by Paul Chantry and Rae Piper to an original score by Tim Mountain who wrote the music for Chasing the Eclipse. Rae Piper has also created the designs for Ulysses Unbound.

The work will be performed with The Stacked Deck, another work by Piper and Chantry based on game theory:
"Life is a harsh game - sometimes it’s difficult to win with the hand you’re dealt. But is it actually about howwe play the game?
Inspired by the concept of Game Theory and the theme of equality, ‘The Stacked Deck’ is based on a combative game of cards which four players are all desperate to win. Each time a hand is dealt, the players are given a different scenario to face. How they chose to play their hand will determine the final prize.
Intense, raw and gripping, with the dancers radiating primal physicality, this ballet challenges us to look at how we all play the ‘game’"
The double bill open at the Guildhall Arts Centre on 21 Sept 2016 before going on to Stamford,  Birmingham, Worcester and Woolwich.  Sadly they won't be in the North this year. We have got to do something to tempt them here

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