Scientist's "Dance Your PhD" Win Celebrates Kangaroos, Drag Queens & Cultural Fusion

The Dance Your PhD contest, initiated in 2008, serves as a platform for scientists to communicate their research through dance.

Scientist's 'Dance Your PhD' Win Celebrates Kangaroos, Drag Queens & Cultural Fusion

'Kangaroo Time (Club Edit)' is the creative vision of Dr Weliton Menrio Costa.

Dr Weliton Menario Costa, a biologist and graduate of the Australian National University (ANU), has emerged victorious in the 2024 Dance Your PhD competition. Dr Costa, who also goes by the nickname "WELI," took first place with his creative and unexpected submission, "Kangaroo Time (Club Edit)".

Dr Costa's four-minute video playfully explores kangaroo behaviour through a dynamic blend of dance styles. From drag queens and ballet to twerking and classical Indian dance, the video features a diverse cast of his friends, many of whom he met while studying at ANU.

The winning video impressed the judges, earning Dr Costa the top prize awarded annually by a prestigious consortium: the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Science magazine.

The Dance Your PhD contest, initiated in 2008, serves as a platform for scientists to communicate their research through dance, aiming to elucidate intricate theories via interpretive dance. The primary objective of the contest is to educate and make complex scientific concepts more accessible.

As per a news release, WELI stars in and directs the music video, which draws on his Brazilian roots to illustrate the distinct and varying personality traits of kangaroos using the powerful mediums of song and dance. The original and club mixes have been played more than 7,000 times on Spotify, and the song has already been featured in clubs, festivals, dance classes, and radio stations.

"Winning this contest is the equivalent of winning Eurovision for me. I think it not only shows the incredible might of the research conducted here in Australia, but also how creative we are as a nation. Even us scientists!" he said.

Reflecting on the success of 'Kangaroo Time' and the global mark it's made on the scientific community and further afield, WELI notes that at the core of his video is a message of inclusivity and diversity-something he hopes will be one of the main takeaways that viewers hold onto.

"As a queer immigrant from a linguistically diverse developing country, I understand the challenges of feeling disconnected in certain environments," he said.

"One of the main messages I wanted to convey through this piece of work is that differences lead to diversity, and this is evident throughout the entire video. It's evident in the different dancers that hail from various cultures and backgrounds.

"I think it's extremely important that we celebrate diversity, and creating a video explaining kangaroo personalities was an excellent medium for me to do this."