Science and dance move step closer at Kilkenny festival


Science and dance are not often willing bedfellows, but an interactive performance will marry the two at the Kilkenny Arts Festival this weekend.

The show Lost and Foundwill use inbuilt sensor technology to let the audience change the environment by guiding the dancer through a story. It is the brainchild of a collaboration between textile artist Tara Carrigy and scientists at the Adaptive Information Cluster (AIC) in Dublin.

The approach builds location sensors into the stage environment, and these change an animated backdrop when activated. The audience of children aged five to 11 will direct dancer Megan Kennedy to trigger the sensors during her performance and thereby alter the surroundings, explained Carrigy, who produced the project. "It's a fairytale about being lost and found as you move through a journey of various different environments," she said. "The interactive element is that the kids will help by looking at the interface and guiding the dancer on her journey."

The show, which is directed by Jo Timmons, will also encourage children to try out the interactive stage for themselves, she added. The technology has to be pretty rugged to withstand kid testing, explained Prof Paddy Nixon of the AIC at University College Dublin. His team, including Dr Lorcan Coyle, built 24 off-the-shelf sensors from home-security systems into the stage and linked them to a control system to change the backdrop.

"You can use time, sequence or multiple sensors at the same time," said Prof Nixon. "We are trying to explain that sensors give you a very rich way of interacting with the world. And the same technology could be used in healthcare to monitor elderly people or Alzheimer's patients, or to monitor the environment. It's just used a different way."

• Lost and Foundis on tomorrow at 11am and 4.30pm in CBS Primary School, Stephen Street, Kilkenny. Admission €10.