The New York Times describes choreographer Wayne McGregor as “the closest thing to a rock star that ballet can claim”.

With a black book that boasts the likes of The White Stripes and Mark Ronson alongside fashion designers and visual artists, it’s a fair assumption to make. After all, this is the man who made Thom Yorke dance in Radiohead’s Lotus Flower video.

However, with newwork FAR – which continues the choreographer’s fascination with the connection between the brain and the body – one could make a strong argument that McGregor is in fact the closest thing to a scientist that ballet can claim.

“That relationship is one of my constant preoccupations.

As brain sciences gets more advanced, there are more and more ways of finding out what happens in the head when making choreography or being creative,” he explains.

“FAR is very much about looking at these methodologies – how we can build better imaginative capabilities in our minds to make more interesting dancing.”

The piece takes inspiration from Roy Porter’s book, Flesh In The Age Of Reason (thus, FAR), which explores science in the age of enlightenment and, most notably, the first studies into anatomy through human autopsies.

“People started to analyse the body in a different way. It was a breakthrough time and I think that’s a real analogy for today, given how we live and the breakthroughs we’re starting to make in understanding cognition and thinking,” he continues.

“It sounds very dry, but it’s not. It is physical, visceral, speedy, aggressive movement. I’m not trying to do a science lecture.”

Instead, McGregor – who cites computers as one of his early passions and presents FAR as part of the Brighton Digital Festival – uses science in order to explain why we make the decisions we do.

“I’ve been working with scientists for about ten years. For FAR, we did a thing called ‘distributed cognition’ to explore what happens when an idea is propagated around a group. If you think about it, dance-making is very collaborative. I’m talking with the dancers and they adapt it. Ideas get shared, but often we don’t talk about how the idea changes,” he says.

Enter two of theworld’s most renowned cognitive scientists – Cambridge University’s Dr Philip Barnard and Dr David Kirsch of the University of California – who unveiled a “capture system” of several video cameras that filmed the entire nineweek rehearsal process. The data they collated was then sent stateside to be analysed. The results detailed each creative choice the dancers took.

“It gives us a way of thinking about how we make our decisions and some tools to make them differently. The job of a choreographer is to not do the same thing they always do,” says McGregor.

“But it’s very hard to get out of your own body; it’s hard to get out of your own habit. For a long time we thought the creative process was just instinctive, but actually this notion of instinct isn’t true – instinct comes from experience, and experience is what is known. So when we talk about instinct, lots of it is habit.

“The dancers love it. It stops them getting blocks, especially when it comes to improvisation. All of a sudden they’ve got different ways in which to access material.”

In FAR, McGregor has created a kinetic, pulsating and demanding piece for his dancers.

Fragmented, staccato movement weaves between primal beats, courtesy of electronica composer Ben Frost. The action unfolds in front of a pronged background of LEDs, designed by award-winning visual artists rAndom International, which casts both shadow and light to create patterns, text and numbers. Together, the components create a graphic, interdisciplinary work.

“Dance is obviously a very visual medium, but it’s not just about what the body is doing. It’s the whole language of the space – the choreographic language of the lights and the set” says McGregor.

“I’ve always been very drawn to visual artists rather than set designers because I think they have an authority, a singular vision, that I really like. I think collaboration is good when there is a tension. I don’t mean when you argue all the time, but rather a tension of approach.”

It’s this mentality that saw McGregor take up position as the first resident choreographer of the Royal Ballet from a contemporary dance background, shaking up Covent Garden in the process.

“I think choreographers should be more ambitious. You don’t always have to have music as your first muse in making dance,” he says.

“I never set out to be radical. I only set out to do the things that interest me.”

8pm, tickets from £7.50, call 01273 709709.