The body as our canvas: creating work the Highly Sprung way

The body as our canvas: creating work the Highly Sprung way
By Sarah Worth
31st August 2022


When we founded Highly Sprung  in 2002, it started from a shared understanding. An understanding of the role that arts and physical movement play in the development of children and young people.


We know and have experienced first-hand the transformational potential of this work. Arts interventions with power like nothing else – that give you self-belief, a voice, a platform and most importantly a feeling of value. For us to deliver these interventions at Highly Sprung, we use an embodied approach to creating work and sharing stories. I’m going to try and explain here a little of how this works in practice, and share a few of the principles that inform our methodology.


The body as a canvas


Our methodology is founded on developing a physical language that uses and encourages self-expression through activities, tasks, and frameworks that prompt a response through the body. Complex subjects and themes are translated into an expressive form of movement and performance. We have found this to be profoundly successful in engaging children and young people in learning. Giving opportunity for them to understand and apply concepts, rather than just know them. Whether this is with science, geography, Shakespeare or mental health, we get students out of their seats to learn in a new way. Drawing out these ideas and stories with body as our canvas.


The crossroads of art and science


In 2012 Highly Sprung began partnering with experts and academics to influence and inspire our work. A relationship with a physicist produced a body of work that we still use today in educational and performance settings. We applied theory to provide explorations within the body of the forces of push and pull and understand the mechanics of movement and engineering.


In 2022 Highly Sprung have shared 2 unique performances that blend art and science, using a physical language to convey complex subjects. These are Transmission: The Next Variant, which examined COVID-19, and Tree, which looked at DNA sequencing and Huntington’s Disease. Working with experts we pushed our own understanding of science to produce some of the most beautiful, original and accessible performance material.


The human and the machine


We have always had a fascination with machinery and engineering at Sprung, and a close friend and partner over the years has been Imagineer Productions. Working within physics and mechanics lead us to our greatest partnership with them – through the Imaginarium and the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Our physical processes of learning about engineering paired beautifully with Imagineer’s insights into making and designing spectacular performances.


This way of working lit in us a fire, to take this new partnership between physical movement and engineering further. To explore how mechanics could assist movement and unlock the potential of our performances. Since then, performances like Urban Astronaut, CastAway and Roots have developed. These all rely, at their centre, upon the use of mechanical apparatus to extend the potential of human movement.



These simple principles are embedded within all elements of our work – whether we are in the classroom with a group of students, performing on stage or delivering a new dancing lecture. We look forward to the next challenge!