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2022 Mingler Scholarship awarded for circus performance for babies

March 24, 2022

What influence do acrobatics and juggling have on how babies perceive the world? And what about their sense of humour? These are two of the research questions posed by Emilie Weisse and Sabine Hunnius in their Be Kind project (in Dutch, that also means “Be a Child”).

They received the 2022 Mingler Scholarship for this project, which embraces both science and the arts.

Emilie Weisse is a dancer and stage director, while Sabine Hunnius directs the Baby & Child Research Centre at Radboud University Nijmegen. Their project applies new insights from cognitive developmental neuroscience. Based on knowledge of the perceptual and cognitive development of babies between six and eighteen months, they created an interactive performance for babies and their carers.  They also observed the preferences and sense of humour of their young audience. 

About Emilie Weisse

Photo of Emilie Weisse by Emilie Weisse
Photograph of Emilie Weisse, made by herself

Emilie Weisse studied at the Rosella Hightower ballet academy in Cannes and has danced with various companies, including in works choreographed by Balanchine, Brumachon, and Preljocaj. Through her husband, the Dutch juggler Menno van Dyke, she came into contact with the circus world, and together they developed their Juggling Tango act, a blend of juggling and dance. Since then, they’ve performed all over the world.

About Sabine Hunnius

Photo of Sabine Hunnius, made by Dick van Aalst
Photo of Sabine Hunnius,
made by Dick van Aalst

Sabine Hunnius is a professor at Radboud University Nijmegen, and director of the Baby Research Centre there. She studied psychology in Berlin and gained her doctorate in 2005 with her study of visual perception in babies. Her current research focuses mainly on early (social) cognitive development. Together with  Michiel van Elk she wrote  a popular Dutch science book on the baby brain Het babybrein: Wat iedereen moet weten over de hersenontwikkeling van baby’s. 

The Mingler Scholarship

The Mingler Scholarship is awarded by the Society of Arts in cooperation with The Young Academy, both of which are part of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Financial support is provided by the Niemeijer Foundation. The scholarship aims to encourage start-up art-science collaborations. The scholarship has been awarded annually since 2019.  Read more about the Mingler Scholarship.


The jury for the 2022 Mingler Scholarship, chaired by Academy member Koert van Mensvoort, calls Be Kind an exciting project that is expected to generate knowledge for both science and the performing arts and that may well lead to further research in this field.
The jury was made up of members of the Society of Arts, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, and The Young Academy. 

The jury members are:

  • Koert van Mensvoort // technical chair // Society of Arts
  • Susanne Janssen // member // Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences 
  • Nadine Akkerman // member // The Young Academy
  • Cynthia Liem // member // The Young Academy
  • Claron McFadden // member // Society of Arts
  • Theo Jansen // member // Society of Arts

For more information, contact Annelies ten Have at  annelies.ten.have@knaw.nl.


Photo of performance by Jona Harnischmacher



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