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Rosie Kay On MK Ultra

Ahead of her company’s new show, Rosie Kay, one of the UK’s leading choreographers renowned for her athletic movement, rigorous research and intelligent theatricality, talks MK ULTRA, calling in at HOME on Wed 3 and Thu 4 May.

Explaining my new work, MK ULTRA to people has become a lot easier in recent weeks. Even six months ago, mentioning my work looking at conspiracy theory would have drawn a snort from many over the age of 25. But it is different now- ‘Fake News’ and ‘Alternative Facts’ have become the news and the fragile balance of trust between truth, the news, our leaders and the media has been fractured. The lid has been lifted, and widespread belief and knowledge of conspiracy theory is now being looked at seriously- something I’ve been advocating for several years as I researched and watched the gulf between the mainstream, the alternative and how young people were navigating their way in this confused world of distrust. Most of us have been in a state of stasis, but young people have known and felt the disintegration of belief in our leaders and the stories they tell us.

Researching conspiracy theory since 2012, I came across the theory of the ‘Illuminati’, for those who don’t know, a supposed shadowy elite who control the media through messages in pop music, entertainment and intent on somehow ruling the world, spreading a ‘New World Order’ agenda of state control. Through my research I encountered a lot of conspiracy theory, I looked at false flag attacks, false news, alternative theories on almost every single mainstream news item, as well as theories on shadowy elites, occult sects, secret societies, modern witchcraft, assassinations and celebrity deaths.

I was influenced by my work at the School of Anthropology at the University of Oxford, understanding how one can study groups of people in modern society who exhibit certain traits of belonging; a modern tribe in effect, and what this means as a reflection of contemporary society. I was also reviving my 2010 work, 5 Soldiers and attending a lot of military seminars as part of the Changing Character of War Programme at Oxford, listening to Army Generals, public and economic policy makers and peacekeepers talk about the future of stability, and threats to security across the world. I was struck by how important communication and engagement was to everyone, but yet how out of date the methods were. I felt the ‘powers that be’ still very much wanted to set the agenda and tone of all aspects of the world we live in, but this was a 20th Century patriarchal belief and populations were becoming rebellious and distrustful of the messages fed to them.

Through all my research, I look for certain qualities- does it feel new? Does it excite me? Does it feel original? And key to all of this- how can this be expressed through dance? Where is body in this? I need to feel, within the fabric of my own body, how I think this could be expressed in a new and physical way. This is a mysterious and intuitive process for me; my research, my imagination and my body have to align for me to feel that this is a suitable project for my work.  It was when I encountered the conspiracy theory relating to ‘the illuminati’ that I knew I’d found the way in for my new work, MK ULTRA.

The conspiracy theory is that the people who created and developed the brainwashing technique of MK ULTRA teamed up with CIA and Disney to create automaton pop stars. MK Ultra was a CIA brainwashing programme that was carried out across Western Universities in an attempt to use experimental psychology to programme potential spies, soldiers and assassins. While it is historically agreed that MK Ultra did in fact take place, and many people were unwilling volunteers, there is no evidence that MK Ultra has continued past the early 1970’s. The theory is that it did continue, with the MK Ultra doctors and the CIA directors teaming up with Walt Disney to attempt to brainwash singing and acting children, and turn them into programmed stars who would perform as puppets spreading messages to alter public consciousness.

Potential stars were brainwashed through MK Ultra torture techniques and programmed to be perfect performing pop stars. This was carried out through the Disney club and took several attempts before they struck gold with their first mainstream star, Britney Spears.

But one of the downsides of the MK Ultra brainwashing, is that the programming starts to falter as the victim ages, with the individuals own personality fighting back and trying to break through their brainwashing. The stars would have some kind of episode, often with the media reporting planted stories of drink or drug addictions, before the star is put into some kind of ‘psychiatric unit’ where, the public would be told they were having rehabilitation, but in actual fact they would be being re-programmed. The stars, now re-progammed by their ‘handlers’ then return to their grueling touring and performance schedules, often looking a little bit dazed, but mostly compliant until the next ‘episode’.

This is supposed to have happened very famously to Britney, but also to Lady Gaga, Justin Beiber, Lindsay Lohan and most recently to Kayne West.

To read the full story, visit DanceTabs here. To book your tickets for MK ULTRA, call box office on 0161 200 1500, or visit

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