Photo by Malcolm Johnson

Balbir began with eight ideas for short dance pieces that explored the Krebs Cycle from different starting points. His initial notes for using Krebs’s own words in the work are below. The concept developed over time, but the essence of these ideas was retained in the final production. Note how the physical processes on a molecular level are translated into bodily movement in the choreography.

All of the pieces take the form of tape recordings. They are spoken word in the style of a scientist making notes about their work, however the content is often non-science based. All of the words are fictional except where stated otherwise.

1. Respiration. Based on Krebs’ work with Manometers.

Describing the process of respiration at a cellular level. It starts with the concept of breathing, bringing metabolites into the body and the ‘flow’ of them around the whole body. It then focuses on a cellular (microscopic) level at the process of cellular respiration, which can be described as to organic combustion; fuel is burned and produces carbon dioxide and water. Particular focus could be given to the idea of controlling this organic combustion. If too much fuel is burned at once the cell would create too much heat and destroy itself, therefore it creates stages to the process, burning small amounts of fuel at a time (producing small amounts of energy).

2. Technical description of the Krebs Cycle in action. Based upon the cycle itself.

A detailed description of the process that makes up the Krebs cycle. This should be done using scientific language without an attempt to explain the process in layman’s terms. There is something quite lyrical in the scientific description of the process, and the equations that explain the cycle. It may work nicely as a whispered, piece blended into music in the background.

The 8 Dances
Photo by Malcolm Johnson

3. White Cliffs of Dover. Based upon a description of Krebs’s memories, arriving in England.

There is a short biographical anecdote in which Krebs describes seeing the White Cliffs of Dover and the image mingles both expectation for the future and sadness for the past, within him. This section expands upon this, presenting the anecdote as a voice diary in that moment. It touches upon why Krebs has fled Germany and what he hopes to achieve in the future. The piece could either be quite abstract and/or rambling or narrative-driven, depending upon what would suit the dance best.

4. Krebs as Refugee. Based upon the above story and the selling of his Nobel Medal.

Linked to piece 3, this would expand upon the story and bring it forwards; presenting Krebs as a Refugee Scientist and noting that his family have now sold his Nobel Medal in order to set up a trust that helps support Refugee Scientists today. There is a nice parallel is cycles of things here that will reflect the Krebs cycle (in concept). The piece would be written in the 3rd person.

The 8 Dances
Photo by Malcolm Johnson

5. Science is a jigsaw puzzle. Based upon a comment from Krebs on his own work.

This piece would explore firstly the process of completing a jigsaw puzzle and how this is similar to Krebs approach to his own work. It would touch upon the creative and deductive process in both things with a particular focus on trial and error.

6. There is no Eureka. Again based upon comments about his own work.

This section would focus upon the concept of ‘slow and steady wins the race’ and the idea that there is no such thing as a failed experiment. It will also touch upon the positives that can emerge from supposedly failed experiments and how each step of the process leads you closer to discovery.

7. Extract from After Dinner speech at Nobel awards.

I discovered Krebs’ After Dinner speech at the Nobel Awards. I was particularly struck by a section that talks about work such as his often being overlooked at the time of discovery. I suggest we have a section that either reads this part of the speech verbatim, or better still uses an original recording of it (I have no idea if this exists yet).

8. Cycles in Life.

A piece drawing upon cycles that can be found across nature and the world, from Krebs’ cellular level cycles to orbiting planets, the ‘cycle of life’ and so on. This piece could work well as an overarching section for the others and potentially create a rather epic sweep. I would suggest starting the piece from a vast perspective: cycles from space, galaxies, stars etc, then Earth, oceans etc. Then a focus on cycles of life: birth, death, regrowth (of organic matter) etc. The cycle of breathing would follow – bulk flow respiration – and then finally the microscopic level of cellular respiration.

Bonus note: Krebs Voice Recordings.
Apparently there are a number of voice recordings of Krebs at the University which would be fantastic to use. I do not know the content of them yet, however regardless of this, I would suggest at least one section that uses one of them. Depending upon the content of the voice recordings they could even be used to substitute several of the sections suggested, if their content is suitably relevant.