Emily Coates and Emmanuèle Phuon
Public Talk

Dancing the Poetics of Science

by Emily Coates and Emmanuèle Phuon
February 11, 2021

This event occurred as part of the 20/21 Public Talk season. This is an archived view.

Interweaving science and dance, this presentation is a blend of performance video, artist talk and audience interaction.


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Coates and Phuon are dancers and choreographers whose work is interwoven with science. They share examples from past works created in dialogue with science, and touch on their new project which will be further developed in a summer 2021 residency at Dartmouth.

More About the Work

As a dance artist who doubles as an ethnographer of science, Coates sets up embodied, choreographic stories that interrogate the relationship between observer and observed. Steeped in American neoclassical ballet and postmodern dance, she will touch on her process of mashing up ethnographic and archival research with dance histories to create live, intermedia performances, and her current project Science Dances, in which she assembles stories of dance and science in dialogue over the past one hundred years (and as far back as 3,000 BCE), across geographies and cultures.

Drawing from Cambodian culture, American modern and postmodern dance, Phuon explores physical and conceptual ways in which tradition and experimentation can be synthesized to generate new forms of performance. Seeking to connect the animism in Cambodian cosmology with contemporary dendrology and environmental science, Phuon will illuminate inspirations for her new project, in which she will confront the rituals of the past in light of today's new climate crises.

At the core of our new project is a comparative lens on humankind's relationship to the natural world, expressed in the stories that run through our pieces: from an American scientist caring for a dying chimpanzee in Uganda, and a Japanese primatologist who teaches himself to think like a monkey, in order to understand them better, set against an ancient Egyptian astronomer-priest practicing a "star dance." Or the narratives of land use and abuse that flicker through the Reamker, crafted into new shadow puppetry for our age of climate destruction. Or psychically communing with the spirits of trees, in 21st-century secular animism. These are global stories, for our interconnected planet. 

About the Artists

Emily Coates has performed internationally with New York City Ballet, Mikhail Baryshnikov's White Oak Dance Project, Twyla Tharp, and Yvonne Rainer. Her choreographic work has been commissioned and presented by Baryshnikov Arts Center, Carnegie Hall, Danspace Project, Quick Center for the Arts, Works & Process at the Guggenheim, University of Chicago, Yale University Art Gallery, Wadsworth Atheneum, and Performa, among other venues. Awards and fellowships include the School of American Ballet's Mae L. Wein Award for Outstanding Promise; Baryshnikov Arts Center's Martha Duffy Memorial Fellowship; Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant for the Public Understanding of Science, Technology, and Economics; a 2016 Fellowship, Center for Ballet and the Arts; and a 2019 Dance Research Fellowship, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. She is associate professor and director of dance at Yale University. With particle physicist Sarah Demers, she is co-author of Physics and Dance (Yale University Press 2018).


Emmanuèle Phuon started her training in Phnom Penh at the Royal Ballet of Cambodia and is a graduate of the Conservatoire National de Danse in Avignon, France. In New York, she performed with the Elisa Monte Dance Company, Martha Clarke, Baryshnikov's White Oak Dance Project,  and Yvonne Rainer. Ms. Phuon's choreographic work has been commissioned and presented at Baryshnikov Arts Centre, New Haven's Festival of Arts and Ideas, Spoleto Dance Festival in Charleston, Guggenheim Works and Process, Singapore Da:ns festival, Danspace Project in New York and has toured Hong Kong, Amsterdam, and New Delhi. She is currently one of six authorized transmitters of Yvonne Rainer's work and has set work in major exhibitions in France, Japan, China and Sweden.


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