Mechanics of Life: Imagineerium Mechanics of Life: Imagineerium


The ‘Mechanics of Life’ brought together engineers from the University of Leeds, artists from Northern Ballet, and educators and young people from Batley Girls’ High School to explore the mechanics of movement through dance. The project drew inspiration from the human body as a remarkable ‘machine’ and challenged stereotypes and perceptions of the worlds of engineering and ballet.  

The Imagineerium gallery showcases work created throughout 2023/24, including creative responses from year 8 students in Class 8CBO at Batley Girls’ High School, alongside our short films. The gallery brings to life the applications of engineering and the science of dance by those involved in this unique collaborative experience. 

Explore the Imagineerium VR gallery by clicking the link below or scroll down to view the web gallery of student work.

MECHANICS OF LIFE (feat. Batley Girls’ High School)

Co-created by students based on their engineering learning, each activity they undertook created visuals, poses and sequences of movements that are woven throughout the film. These were expertly translated into mechanical and organic movement by choreographer Kenneth Tindall. The final choreography was performed in the University’s landmark Sir William Henry Bragg Building. 


Students participated in action-packed days at the University of Leeds and the Northern Ballet studios. Trampolining demonstrated the physics and forces in spinning and somersaults, and students took part in engineering challenges and visited research labs. Activities connected topics such as anatomy, language, range of motion and limits of the body, and the physics of a pirouette. Comparisons between expression in mechanical and organic movement were highlighted by a robot versus dancer challenge. 


Pupils explored the material properties of bone and cartilage; these words were then used as inspiration for movement and dance. The pupils listened to the sounds of the words and explored expression through movement. 


Students learnt about range of motion through activities with mannequins, their own movement, and the range of motion that professional dancers can perform. In response they created stop motion animation that explores movement and motion. 


Students designed mannequins inspired by their learning and activities during the experience days. These mannequins were then created for display in an exhibition at the ‘Mechanics of Life’ film premiere at the Everyman in Leeds. 


‘Mechanics of Life’ debuted on the big screen at the Everyman Theatre in Leeds in March 2024 with the first viewing by the students themselves. A centrepiece of the red-carpet event was the mannequin dancers created by students and engineers, inspired by the mechanics of movement. These featured alongside engineering curio cabinets and Baxter, one of the robotics stars of the show. 


Hear from researchers at the University of Leeds and artists from Northern Ballet about the ideas that sparked the collaboration in our short insights film.