Food and Behaviour Research

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Noel Wallace

Former dancer with the English National Ballet, and now developing his interest in the links between nutrition and creativity.

Research Interests:

Born in East London, Noel Wallace made British Ballet history as the English National Ballet’s first black dancer. He trained at the Arts Educational School London on scholarship, and then won a scholarship to the Houston Ballet Academy in Texas. Ben Stevenson Artistic Director of Houston Ballet said he is one the most gifted dancers of his generation and coached him in the ballet Three Preludes that won first prize in the international competition in Varna, Bulgaria. Noel performed many lead roles with English National ballet.

After three years with the ENB Noel joined the Bejart Ballet where he danced lead roles in the acclaimed Rites of Spring. He has since been commissioned by ENB, the South Bank Centre and the Tokyo Artist Festival. He was Artist in Residence at the ICA, Greenwich Dance Agency and Metal Culture. Noel has collaborated with Brian Eno - blurring the boundaries between performance and political installation - with David Fielding and with legendry photographer Dennis Morris on films shown at Tate Modern. He was commissioned by Andrew Logan to create a solo for Alternative Miss World as tribute to Derek Jarman.

For some time now Noel has been intrigued by the links between nutrition and creativity, asking the question: ‘Is dance a form of behaviour to music?’ Also, when working in some inner city schools such as Brixton and West Ham, he noticed how after lunch time things became very volatile and it took a long time to regain control. He saw that huge amounts of junk food were being consumed and started thinking about violent behaviour being linked to certain foods.

As far back as 1942 Dr. Hugh Sinclair speculated that among other ills, poor diets could lead to antisocial behaviour. Noel Wallace contacted Dr. Alex Richardson and Bernard Gesch , who have both spent many years looking into nutrition and behaviour , about his ideas and has been hugely guided by their expertise. He says: “I had a question, I stepped into the dark, and I’m now not alone, having had dialogue with key scientists in food and behaviour at Oxford University. Good nutrition is seen as a stabilising of one’s health for the better, but looking at nutrition as an artistic tool would enable us to re-examine the notion of cause and effect. I feel as an artist the strength of my inner conviction to articulate for the first time the reasons why I want to do this. And I believe that with the interest and enthusiasm the scientists are showing me, it is the perfect time.”

In 2005 Noel was invited by Jude Kelly OBE to be in residence at METAL - the artist’s laboratory space - and explored the idea: ‘Could Nutrition Be Used As A Catalyst To Creative Thought?’ His thesis was short listed for the NESTA (National Endowment of Science Technology and the Arts) Dream Time Award. Arts institutions such as Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Music, asked to purchase information about the outcome of the proposed trials.

Now Noel is seeking to explore a possible link between creativity and nutrition alongside some of the leading authorities on food and behaviour. A group of scientists will support him with technical information on human brain mechanism and function in a practical experiment to examine the effects of diet and nutrition on the creativity of artists from various disciplines. Information will be gathered about the way in which nutrition may have affected their creative and artistic output, both in degree and frequency. Noel is to write a paper to document his journey and the reasons he undertook this experiment, and will also be making a film with imagery and contributions from Brian Eno, Tim Marlow, Andrew Logan, Dr. Alex Richardson, Benjamin Zeph-Aniah, Susie Orbach, Jude Kelly and others. The outcome could affect artistic consciousness. Evidence of this work given to institutions will offer practitioners and students a new viewpoint on the nurturing of creative inspiration.