Rita Marcalo's controversial attempt to have an epileptic fit on stage at Bradford Playhouse ended in failure today.

The Portuguese dancer, who has epilepsy, was attempting to induce a seizure during a 24-hour arts performance.

By the 1pm finish she had not managed to do so - despite exposing herself to strobe lights and depriving herself of sleep and food.

Playhouse director Eleanor Barrett described the performance as "emotionally demanding" to watch.

She said: "She's taking control in a way she's never been able to before.

She added: "It's been quite intimate and I have been touched by how caring people have been. People have been here to support the artist's intentions."

Despite complaints, there were no protesters outside the Little Germany theatre when the event, Involuntary Dances, started yesterday. Among the 30 or so watching the show were reporters and a team of paramedics.

Miss Marcalo stopped taking her medication a month ago and was drinking wine, coffee and eating chocolate – stimulants she has avoided for years – to try to induce an epileptic fit.

She logged on to websites designed to induce seizures, and was exposed to strobe lighting at intervals throughout the night.

The performance was the first part of a project exploring the relationship between dance, epilepsy and drug research. The second part, featuring footage of Miss Marcalo trying to induce a seizure, will be at Bradford’s Theatre in the Mill in January.

Before the performance she said: "Opinion about this is very polarised. I respect people’s opinions, but I hope they respect why I’m doing this.

“My dance training is about controlling my body, but during an epileptic seizure I’m out of control.

“With dancing you grow up in front of mirrors, but when I’m having a seizure I don’t know what I look like.

“Epilepsy is a hidden disability, there are prejudices. When I feel a seizure coming on I take myself away, usually to a toilet. For once I’m choosing to make a spectacle of myself. It’s about the way I make sense of myself as a dancer.”

When asked why anyone would want to watch her attempt to have a fit, she said: “It’s human curiosity. My research involves looking at the notion of voyeurism.”

Her research project, which extends to 2011, received nearly £14,000 of Arts Council funding. Of that £900 was spent on a private medical team.

Spokesman Cluny Macpherson said: “We saw this as challenging, innovative, in some sense the best of why the arts are important, in stimulating us to think about the world we live in and who we are. There’s a long history of artists looking at their own condition. I don’t see this as a stunt.”