Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Dancing With Data Adds To The Show

Date:
April 2, 2005
Source:
Stanford University
Summary:
A member of the Merce Cunningham modern dance company, Jonah Bokaer said he couldn't wait to see the results—a digital record of his skeleton's behavior as it undulates, spins and leaps.

Jonah Bokaer, a dancer from the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, was adorned with sensors that allowed a computer to record the motions that he performed with Stanford senior Jessica Goldman.
Credit: Photo L.A. Cicero

The test subject danced wearing only blue shorts and the 50 silver balls the size of marbles that stuck to his skin, mapping out his physique.

"I know what I think my body is doing. But is it really doing that? I don't really know, but I'd like to," he said during a break in the afternoon session at the Motion and Gait Analysis Laboratory at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.

A member of the Merce Cunningham modern dance company, Jonah Bokaer said he couldn't wait to see the results—a digital record of his skeleton's behavior as it undulates, spins and leaps.

He wasn't the only one.

His March 7 session provided the final data set for one of four student projects in an unusual Stanford class, Anatomy of Movement. The class, in its second year, takes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the production of human movement.

"We're looking upside down, inside out, at the human body," said course director Amy Ladd, MD, professor of orthopedic surgery. "It's not the way any single discipline would frame the study of movement."

Ladd added, "Each project reflects an integration of disciplines spanning the humanities and sciences to portray human movement." The exercise was part of an extensive series of interdisciplinary art projects that were tied to Cunningham's performances on campus last week.

While movement is something humans do constantly without thinking, the members of this class are giving it a lot of thought: By analyzing movement from both scientific and aesthetic perspectives, they are trying to gain a deeper appreciation of why people move their muscles and bones in a particular fashion. The students evaluate golf swings, create a moving hand model, develop a standardized test for arm function and, in this particularly compelling example, probe the essence of a legendary choreographer's mode of expression.

With direction from faculty, the three undergraduates responsible for the Merce Cunningham assignment set out to reveal and quantify what they believed to be the essence of Cunningham's approach to dance. Since the choreographer has no codified set of principles for his work, the course's faculty, including Stanford dance teacher Diane Frank, who trained with Cunningham and taught for eight years in his studio, proposed a few themselves.

The central tenet they arrived at is "Biomechanical rebellion"—movements that require dancers to produce positions not generally achieved by the human body.

Next they boiled the dance style down to measurable elements. A Cunningham dancer is expected to:

# Move the torso as if it were a limb, not just a support for the arms and legs

# Make frequent and unexpected changes in direction

# Have an extraordinary sense of balance.

From there the students picked up the ball. They devised the study and, with help from the motion analysis lab's engineer Erin Butler, analyzed the data. They decided to compare the characteristics of Cunningham's dance and ballet. At the core of the project was the data collected in the motion analysis lab.

Eight cameras in that lab tracked the motion of the silvery balls on their test subjects: Cunningham dancers Frank and Bokaer and course director Ladd, who also happens to be a trained ballet dancer.

"We thought that the study needed a comparison, and analyzing someone in pointe shoes would be a good contrast," said Ladd, who has studied ballet for years. "So I reluctantly agreed."

The cameras sent the data to a computer, operated by Butler. The output includes motion capture of dancers as well as quantitative information.

Why bother going to all this trouble to demonstrate something that seems obvious to anyone who has seen Merce Cunningham's "biomechanically rebellious" dance?

"When you actually quantify something artistic, even if it seems obvious, you often learn something," said Ladd, when asked before the final class presentation last week. "You often think you know how things work, but until you quantify it you don't know for sure." Eadweard Muybridge's 1878 stop-action photos of a trotting horse exemplify this—proving that for a moment the horse is suspended above the ground.

When student Joyce Pan took her first look at the dancers' data her heart sank. "It looked like we had disproved all of our hypotheses," she said. On second look, she realized she had misread the data. In fact, their predictions had all come true, save for a few glitches due to data intake problems.

Projects like this, mixing science with art, are challenging to conceptualize, said Ladd. "We're looking for projects that merge science and art. No one really knows how to do this well yet. It's a difficult mix. It calls for a philosophical paradigm shift for people who have been trained to think in one realm or the other."

The students' contributions serve as a springboard for future projects, said Ladd.

As for the three students who did the Cuningham project, all were changed by the experience.

Pan, a computer science major with ballet and martial arts training, has gained an appreciation of modern dance, she said—a ballet snob no more. Jessica Goldman, an English major and a classically trained dancer, has decided to add a minor in a scientific field. And Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour Jr., a computer science major with no prior exposure to dance, is planning to create a dance-based computer game.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Stanford University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Stanford University. "Dancing With Data Adds To The Show." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 April 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050326011146.htm>.
Stanford University. (2005, April 2). Dancing With Data Adds To The Show. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050326011146.htm
Stanford University. "Dancing With Data Adds To The Show." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050326011146.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Computers & Math News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Thanks, Marty McFly! Hoverboards Could Be Coming In 2015

Thanks, Marty McFly! Hoverboards Could Be Coming In 2015

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) If you've ever watched "Back to the Future Part II" and wanted to get your hands on a hoverboard, well, you might soon be in luck. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robots to Fly Planes Where Humans Can't

Robots to Fly Planes Where Humans Can't

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) Researchers in South Korea are developing a robotic pilot that could potentially replace humans in the cockpit. Unlike drones and autopilot programs which are configured for specific aircraft, the robots' humanoid design will allow it to fly any type of plane with no additional sensors. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Japanese Scientists Unveil Floating 3D Projection

Japanese Scientists Unveil Floating 3D Projection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 20, 2014) Scientists in Tokyo have demonstrated what they say is the world's first 3D projection that floats in mid air. A laser that fires a pulse up to a thousand times a second superheats molecules in the air, creating a spark which can be guided to certain points in the air to shape what the human eye perceives as an image. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Apple Enters Mobile Payment Business

Apple Enters Mobile Payment Business

AP (Oct. 20, 2014) Apple is making a strategic bet with the launch of Apple Pay, the mobile pay service aimed at turning your iPhone into your wallet. (Oct. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins