‘Dance your PhD’ contest won by sperm ballet

Science magazine’s annual “Dance Your PhD” award has been won by Oxford University biologist Cedric Tan with his “Sperm competition between brothers and female choice.” The routine features a huge cast performing underwater ballet and costumed theater, and a satisfied Tan says it was a huge challenge.

Metro: What can you communicate with dance that you can’t with your thesis?

Tan: People learn in different ways and this adds visual and audio components that help to reach a wider audience and popularize science. It lets others know what we are doing in our labs, without having to read about it, which would be boring for them.

Have you become a campus celebrity as a result?

The feedback has been really weird and funny, I think it’s partly because it’s full of half-naked guys. But others have said it was very informative and asked me about my findings.

Dozens of performers and several locations feature in the video. Was it a nightmare to put together?

It was a big effort and very intense. I was studying the behavior of chickens all summer so there was barely time to organize, but I had two producers and a camerawoman and we just made it.

Given the subject is sperm and fertilization, was it a challenge to keep it clean?

The idea was to make it fun and slightly ludicrous, I wanted to keep it as clean as possible.

What do you have in mind for the sequel?

I can’t say much because it’s for another competition but it will be a musical that illustrates the differences in sexual behavior between animal species.


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