All Stories

For the Love of Science and Art: Q&A with Movement Storyteller Dianna David

This winter break, Science World is hosting a show filled with wonder, movement and light! The Light of Mu is the story of Mu, who was born in the Shadows of Doubt. Mu encounters Reo, a little white orb that helps her discover light for the first time.

Movement Storyteller, Dianna David magically blends art and science with her unique kinetic artistry, to tell an enlightening story through the use of urban dance, prop manipulation, shadows and light play.

Dianna sees a lot of value in the blending of art and science, so we asked her what these terms mean to her in her life and work.

Dianna, you are a movement storyteller. Can you explain what that means?

As a storyteller, I get to translate some kind of journey through creative art forms. I usually tell stories that involve expressing your authentic self, whether it’s finding the courage to achieve something you've never dreamed, experiencing wonder and awe, or developing awareness of togetherness and play.

As for movement, I love to explore how objects or my body move to express different emotions, travel different paths and create visual illusions. I've had a multi-disciplinary practice for the last 10 years in the art of clowning, physical theatre, mime, urban street dance, circus and contact juggling. By fusing these traditional concepts together, I can create shows that reach a broad audience to break language barriers and to teach universal lessons.

When you tell a story through movement, do the standard storytelling rules apply?

I definitely incorporate the structure of the hero's journey whenever I can. Since most of my work has been solo, I either create more than one character in a show that interact with each other (like a protagonist, antagonist and someone who guides the journey) or I create relationships between my character and inanimate objects that come to life and instigate change.

What inspired the story of Mu?

In my professional performing arts career, I have created stories based on my personal experiences. In the recent past, I have been fascinated with the story of creation and how it could be expressed through both scientific and artistic principles, such as sound and light frequency relative to the emotional experience. Mu represents both you and me and the universal experiences we share together.

The Light of Mu has been the most visually abstract of all my work, but at the same time, still holds the standard storytelling structure. Mu comes from the Shadows of Doubt. Mu is birthed from a single pixel that contains all the matter in the Universe—both darkness and light. Mu is the darkness and her journey is to understand her relationship with Reo the ball of light. As Mu evolves, she is challenged to experience the emotional transformation of self, after seeing all the spectrums of light for the first time.

I've worked hand in hand, for the past 7 years, with my long-time creative partner, Charity Zapanta. With her amazing digital storytelling skills and her technical wizardry, my skills have a magical container where they come to life and can be expressed as I feel it. She plays a major role in our work together and I couldn't have done this without her.

 I understand that your background is in the sciences. What was your field of study and how has your science background influenced your work?

I had a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Alberta and have worked in San Francisco and Vancouver for several years. I have always loved my physics and math classes, as they were the most imaginative, expansive and practical. Those classes examine how things move and relate to each other. I often teach my performance art lessons through basic scientific principles such as: cause and effect; potential and kinetic energy; the relative attraction and repulsion of matter; and magnetism.

Science and art are not a commonly associated. What benefits do you see in linking those schools of thought?

Emotionally, I have moved from engineering to art, because I started to recognize the difference in how one can create. In engineering, although I enjoyed it, the approach to creation was to spot “what is wrong” and “what's the solution to fix it?” But as you approach creation through art, it's about “what is right” and how can I give more to it?”

I love that in my experience as an engineering consultant, I gained the skills necessary to conceptualize, visualize, theorize and communicate my ideas to my clients clearly. But as I started to learn my artistic process, I realized that there is no difference between the two disciplines with regards to achieving my goal. The only difference is seen in the attitude, the meaning and the story that I get to build during the development process and the expression that is released from it.

Although, these seem like opposing schools of thought, they are both actually an infrastructure for humans to create a more enriched life experience. In the very end, regardless of the type of study, whether it be science, religion, meditative practice or what have you, we need gradients of these structures to balance our understanding of the world, both intellectually and emotionally.

Join Dianna David in the wonderful adventure of Mu in Light of Mu, which runs December 27–30, 2014 and January 2–4, 2015. Show times are 1pm & 3pm in the Science Theatre.