The Withing Project: A Recap
Wednesday, December 2, 2015

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Summary

Art and science intersect in a performance piece created, in part, by a Bastyr researcher

A scene from "The Withing Project"
Photo courtesy: Mike Hipple, The Withing Project

Picture an ensemble of 30 onstage, including actors, dancers, musicians, singers and a choir, embarking on an oratorio about palliative care and the quantum physics of shared consciousness.

In mid-November, Seattle was introduced to the world premiere of The Withing Project, a one-of-a-kind theatrical collage about quantum consciousness, bridging the worlds of theater and science.

Direct from some of Seattle’s top physicians, including Bastyr University faculty Leanna Standish, PhD, ND, LAc, FABNO, the audience was given access to cutting-edge research on brain imaging to visualize what shared consciousness or “withing” looks like via magnetic resonance imaging or MRI scans. This research was spearheaded by Dr. Standish, director of the Bastyr Integrative Oncology Research Center and a professor at the University of Washington, who specializes in treating cancer and neurological diseases and also conducts neurophysiological research.

Her brain imaging research on individuals who are physically separated but consciously “in sync” with each other inspired the science explored in The Withing Project, which is based on a true story.

Layer by layer the dance, original score and story, gave audience members an immersive experience of what “withing” is: the shared consciousness of being with another.

Whether conscious of it or not, the various media all contributed a different piece to the story, the most powerful of which was in the movement by choreographer Beth Graczyk. As the story unfolds about the palliative care of a patient diagnosed with end-stage liver cancer, we see how so much more can be said and felt in the pauses between the actors’ dialogue.

The dancers filled in the spaces where the script understandably fell short in the discussion of how a mother must plan for the imminent end of her life. This showed how choreography goes beyond text with its ability to share emotions and ideas that cannot be described by language alone.

Many Bastyr University and UW students were in attendance to support the research and to appreciate a new way to examine scientific concepts. As one Bastyr University student put it, “It left me wanting to know more,” an understatement when a terminally ill patient connects pain management with the intentionality of the practitioner.