What makes our behaviour uniquely human?

Touching and emotionally charged, Empathy is Adrienne Hart's latest work for Neon Dance. Five dancers jostle for position - folding, lifting and balancing against one another as they navigate through the award winning Numen's beguiling laser light design. Empathy's original score has been composed by Efterklang members Mads Brauer and Casper Clausen in collaboration with the Icelandic cellist Gyda Valtysdottir and renowned multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily.  

Taking inspiration from the work of psychologist Professor Simon Baron-Cohen (Zero Degrees of Empathy), Empathy is a truly theatrical experience where movement, sound and lighting combine and contribute in equal part.  

"Empathy remains with you long after you've left the theatre" - writingaboutdance.com


Empathy' is a brand new multi-media project put together by Neon Dance (Adrienne Hart). It’s been two years in the making, taking on various evolutions through residencies in the UK and Germany. The project is centred around the theme of empathy, and is explored and expanded through a multi-layered inquiry of sound, movement and environment.

After a series of late night rehearsals at the Royal Opera House in London back in September 2014, the whole group came together for a Berlin residency; split between Uferstudios in Wedding and Efterklang's old recording studio in Weissensee. Through a process of experimentation, improvisation and play, a piece began to emerge. Adrienne wrote a script and with the help of her collaborators assembled the various musical parts; often recorded in a rehearsal setting, a piece of choreography came to life. Empathy eventually took on a more concrete form, yet remains fluid and multi-dimensional in its realisation and performance.

Warm, pensive, tender, Empathy is an expansive but simultaneously introspective essay on the human condition and our connection to ourselves and others - something deeply personal yet somehow still universal and all-encompassing in its relevance. At its core it asks the question: what makes our behaviour uniquely human? A mixture of solo and collaborative engagements play with the possibilities of our existence, expressing through movement and its unity with sound our very human being.

The set is transformed into a space of intersections, carved by the incandescent glow of light beams that shine from above. Shards of coloured light pan across glowing silhouettes, as the bodies twist and intertwine in free-form. Bodily gestures unfold across the stage, passing through translucent walls of swirling smoke.

Much like the choreography, the music is often soft, intuitive, and human. A blend of acoustic instruments, sound artefacts, and electronic elements, the musical score for Empathy drifts across moments of beatless ambience, coloured by mournful piano and cello solos, and at others erupts subtly into glitchy experimental sound collages and IDM flavoured beats.

During the creation process, and by proxy the end result, dancers became musicians and musicians became dancers in an attempt to create an environment where movement, sound and set could contribute in equal part. Caught between oscillations of tranquility and melancholy, the nuance of ‘Empathy’ captures both the ambivalence and the rawness of our feelings, sometimes seemingly opposed, yet always equal and essential parts to the whole.

Choreography | Concept – Adrienne Hart

Dance Artists – Annapaola Leso // David Lloyd // Aoi Nakamura // Carys Staton // Ygal Tsur

Music – Mads Brauer & Casper Clausen (Efterklang) | Shahzad Ismaily | Gyda Valtysdottir (Múm)

Set – Numen • Costume – Ana Rajcevic • Research support – Professor Simon Baron Cohen

Funding & Support – Arts Council Southwest | Royal Opera House | Pavilion Dance South West | Swindon Dance | Uferstudios | Central Saint Martins (University of Arts London)

Sponsorship – LaserAnimation SOLLINGER (Germany)

10th & 11th December
Radialsystem V –  Berlin (D) 


Watch the filmmaker Tom Schumann's behind the scenes series and catch the company on tour this Autumn with Bath, Hasselt and Berlin dates featuring live music.   


Neon Dance is an internationally recognised dance company that produces exciting, collaborative work for the stage and screen. Collaboration is at the heart of every Neon Dance production with the company creating work designed for a diverse range of spaces; from intimate theatre venues to large-scale festivals.

“ Free and uplifting, evocative and genuinely moving" — The Scotsman