science and the performing arts. science and the performing arts. science and the performing arts. science and the performing arts

Sony's Dancing Robots
More Dancing Robots
Football mouthpiece has use in performing arts
Culture, Dance & Genes
Loud Music can Collapse Lungs
Contra Dance & Math
Mirror Neurons Research
Why Are Good Dancers Attractive?
Trading Art for Heathcare
Computer Game Benefit
Mirror Neurons



technology and the performing arts. dancing robots

APRIL 2006

It is an endearing trait of human nature that we must re-make all things, animate and inanimate alike, into our own image. We seek a commonality by asking the non-human to do all manner of human movement with dance being one of the most desired. When a machine becomes more like us, we call it a robot.

The Japanese company, Sony has created has created the most advanced robot with a large number of different physical actions. It's strange flowing movement resembles Indian and Oriental dance, butoh, modern (modern being an attempt to broaden the vernacular of dance rather than a single form) and liquid dancing (now considered a form of break dance).

Named QRIO (pronounced Curio), the robot became world famous after dancing in Beck's 2005 music video, Hell Yes. You can see the video at... Dancing Robots

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science and the performing arts. dance and genetics

APRIL 2006

Sony's QR10 would easily beat all other humanoid robots in a dance contest, but other companies and engineers are working on robotic dance as well. Kosuge and Wang Laboratory at Tohoku University in Japan has developed the PBDR (Partner Ballroom Dance Robot). The robot moves on wheels.

In the manner of mad scientists everywhere, K&W labs created her with insane Barbie-esque porportions. Available in garish pink or blue, she could easily have found work in the SF cult film, The Fifth Element. The scientists claim that they will make a male model, but clearly their heart is not in it. Their girl robot, responds to the position of her male partner through upper-body sensors which then predict her partner's next steps - someting QRIO cannot do. More Dancing Robots

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technology and the performing arts. dancing robots

APRIL 2006

In 1980, Dr.Gerald Maher, a Weymouth dentist who specializes in jaw structure and facial pain, developed a mouthpiece for prize-fighters to wear to help prevent concussion. The theory behind the idea is that the mouthpiece minimizes the shock from being hit in the jaw. Maher adapted the mouthpiece for use in football and has filed for a patent. Although the mouthpiece has not had a formal study to determine its effectiveness (Dr.Maher has applied for a grant to do just this), the Duxbury High School football team used them last season and suffered no concussions. Previously, many of the players had suffered concussions, several more two or more times. A number of major league players, as well as players from other sports such as basketball, have purchased the mouthpieces. There have been no concussions among players wearing them.

"Maher's mouthpieces are designed on the principle that keeping an athlete's jawbone and temporal mandibular joint properly aligned absorbs the force of blows that would otherwise literally rattle their skulls and cause a concussion. The most susceptible position, he argues, is when the mouth is tightly closed. Then, the force of a blow can travel unobstructed up the jawbone and into the skull. Helmets protect against concussions and other injuries caused by blows to the crown of the head, but their chin straps keep players' jaws in precisely the position that Maher argues puts them at risk. His mouthpieces separate the jawbone from the joint slightly, helping to absorb the blows. They also fit tightly over the bottom row of teeth, letting football players talk to each other." - Boston Globe*

No performing artist has as yet signed on, but the mouthpiece looks very promising for performing artists involved in acrobatics and certain kinds of dance as well as allied athletes in skating and gymnastics.

Mahercor Laboratories

IntellHealth - April 15, 2006 - discusses the medical aspects and what a concussion is.

* Boston Globe Article - March 30, 2006 - discusses the origin and sociology.

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MARCH 2006

The online Public Library of Science Genetics published a paper titled 'AVPR1a and SLC6A4 Gene Polymorphisms Are Associated with Creative Dance Performance' which says that professional dancers tend to have two genetic markers in common while athletes and other non dancers are less likely to carry these genes.

The paper believes the genes involved govern feelings of spirituality, religiousity and alternate states of consciousness, not any superior sensorimotor integration. Indeed, although the synopsis of the paper goes a bit overboard, the paper's authors, Rachel Bachner-Melman1, Richard P. Ebstein1 et al are clear that many factors determine whether or not someone will become a professional dancer.

The press coverage has been universal in assuming that the paper provides evidence for a 'dance gene' demonstrated in only a lucky few even as the following quotations appeared in their articles, "People are born to dance. They have genes that partially contribute to musical talent, such as coordination, sense of rhythm. However, the genes we studied are more related to the emotional side of dancing - the need and ability to communicate with other people and a spiritual side to their natures that not only enable them to feel the music, but to communicate that feeling to others via dance." Richard Ebstein from Hebrew University's Scheinfeld Center for Genetic Studies.

An ancient skill such as dance would in all likehood be stongly built into most if not all human beings. Some might be better, some might be not as good, but all should be able to dance. The western culture's current situation, in which a few people dance and a few watch, comes from increasing specialization. Most people, if they learned to dance as children and spent ten hours a week honing their skills (a requirement to be considered a professional dancer in this study), would find that they had amazing abilities. The nervous system is incredibly plastic.

Full Story at
Press Release
Research paper at PLoS Genetics

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MARCH 2006

Loud pounding music, such as is found normally in dance clubs, has been linked to a a condition known as spontaneous pneumothorax (collapsed lung), where air leaks out of the lungs into the surrounding cavity (the thorax). European researchers have investigated anumber of cases where club-goers, partiers and boom box users have suffered this condition.

Primary spontaneous pneumothorax happens in the absence of any obvious disease, typically in tall, thin, male smokers. Young, tall people who smoke are particularly at risk of the condition, which leaves you breathless and with chest pain.

Although strong explosions have been known to cause lung damage caused by the fast change of air pressure, Dr Marc Noppen in Brussels, Belgium, and his colleagues believe their study to be the first report of loud music as a cause of lung collapse. Three of the patients were next to speakers at a rock concert or nightclub when the pneumothorax occurred. The fourth was in his car, which had 1000-watt bass box speakers.

Full Story at ABC Net

Also see

The researchers outlined the cases recently in the journal Thorax.

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MARCH 2006

"What's striking", says Bernie Scanlon, a mathematics instructor at Bakersfield College in California, "is that a remarkably high percentage of its practitioners are highly educated, often involved in mathematics, computers, or engineering. The appeal seems to lie in its being a kind of 'set dancing', where one's position relative to others while tracing patterns on the dance floor is paramount. Timing is also crucial, as is the ability to rapidly carry out called instructions and do fraction math on the fly." Scanlon introduced both the mathematical and performance sides of contra dancing to attendees at the 2nd Annual Recreational Mathematics Conference in 1997.

Full Story at Science News

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science and the performing arts. science and the performing arts. science and the performing arts. science and the performing arts

Nova video on Mirror Neurons
Daniel Glaser's Latest Study With Ballet and Capoeira Dancers
If you're skilled at a physical activity like ballet, the part of your brain that controls movement activates differently than the same part in the brain of someone who's not skilled in that activity. That's what researchers at the University of College London (UCL) have found. Their study has implications for helping injured athletes continue to train without moving a muscle, and perhaps even helping stroke victims regain lost movement.

In the UCL study, dancers from London's Royal Ballet and experts in capoeira, a Brazilian martial arts form, were asked to watch short videos of either ballet or capoeira dancers performing brief dance moves. While watching the videos, the dancers were lying perfectly still in an MRI scanner. A control group of non-dancers also participated in the study, which was published in the December 2004 online edition of Cerebral Cortex (paper version 2005 15(8):1243-1249).

The researchers found that areas of the brain collectively known as the mirror neuron system showed more activity when a dancer saw movements he had been trained perform than when he observed movements he hadn't been trained to perform. (All the dancers in the study were male.) The mirror system in the non-dancers showed appreciably less activity while watching the videos than either of the dancers' mirror systems, and the response it had was the same whether it was watching ballet or capoeira.
See the rest of Nova's webpage discussing Daniel Glaser's Study With Ballet and Capoeira Performers

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science and the performing arts. science and the performing arts. science and the performing arts. science and the performing arts

Why good dancers are sexy
Courtesy Rutgers University
and World Science staff

A new study may explain why good dancers are sexy, researchers say. The findings, they claim, support a theory that skillful dancing is attractive because it depends on bodily symmetry, and thus signals good health to a potential mate.

Scientists have long recognized dance as a courtship signal in a range of animals, including humans. And better dancers are usually assumed to attract more or better mates. But what's seemingly obvious in everyday life has not always been verified by science.

The study by scientists at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. for the first time links dancing ability to established measures of mate quality in humans, according to the researchers.

In the study, published in the December 22 issue of the science journal Nature, Rutgers anthropologists worked with 183 Jamaican teenagers. The researchers asked the youngsters' peers to evaluate their dancing ability, but not by watching them directly. Instead, the peers were asked to watch a computer-animated figure that duplicated the movements of each dancer. Each one had danced with 41 infrared reflectors attached to themselves, so that the movements could be measured and captured on a computer.

The researchers asked the dancers' peers to evaluate the animated figures' dancing ability. The figures were gender-neutral, faceless and the same size, to keep evaluators from judging based on anything but dancing.

"At least since Darwin, scientists have suspected that dance so often plays a role in courtship because dance quality tracks with mate quality," said Lee Cronk of Rutgers. "But this has been hard to study because of the difficulty of isolating dance movements from variables, such as attractiveness, clothing and body features."

Higher-rated human dancers were typically people with greater body symmetry, the researchers found.

Symmetry is an accepted indicator in most animal species - including humans - of how well an organism develops despite problems it encounters as it grows, the researchers said. Symmetry thus indicates health and quality as a potential mate, which scientists believe explains why symmetrical people are typically considered more beautiful.

"By using motion-capture technology commonly employed in medical and sports science to isolate dance movements, we can confidently peg dancing ability to desirability," Cronk said.

He and Rutgers postdoctoral research fellow William Brown also found that symmetric males got better dance scores than symmetric females and that female evaluators rated symmetric men higher than male evaluators rated symmetric men.

"In species where fathers invest less than mothers in their offspring, females tend to be more selective in mate choice and males therefore invest more in courtship display," Brown said. "Our results with human subjects correlate with that expectation. More symmetrical men put on a better show, and women notice."

The participants were ideal subjects for a scientific study of dance, since in Jamaican society, dancing is important in the lives of both sexes, the researchers said. The dancers ranged in age from 14 through 19, and each danced to the same song, popular at the time in Jamaica.
We still don't know - Interesting research, flawed theory (riDance)

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health care and the performing arts. health care and the performing arts. health care and the haelth care arts. health care and the performing arts

On October 16 2005, National Public Radio aired a piece on a hospital trading health care for art and performance. In Brooklyn, artists and entertainers bank credits toward health care by performing for patients. New York City is considering rolling it out to all of it's public hospitals.
Hear it in its entirety.

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science and the performing arts. science and the performing arts. science and the performing arts. science and the performing arts
JULY 2005

NPR's Morning Edition, July 5, 2005 had a story on dance video games ('Dance Dance Revolution' being the most popular) and their beneficial effects on teens.
Wikipedia has a more in-depth overview on the DDR phenomenon.
Check out I Am Bored's video of a one legged-DDR player who has the rest of us beat.
Submitted by Jonathan Nash

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science and the performing arts. science and the performing arts. science and the performing arts. science and the performing arts
JULY 2005

Nova video on Mirror Neurons
Also on NPR's Morning Edition, July 5, 2005 edition - a story about mirror neurons, which are what enable animals and people to mimic behavior such as when you watch a dance teacher demonstrate a move and then dance the steps yourself.
Submitted by Jonathan Nash

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The Body Series - Dancing Smart
Great website with tons of information for teachers and their more anatomically-minded students. Master teacher, Deborah Vogel sells books and videos on the website, but she also offers a free 'ask Deborah' column, a free email newsletter, plus an article archive.

Deborah Vogel is a dancer, author, and master teacher who conducts workshops across the U.S. for both student and professional dancers. Her numerous articles on dance technique and injury prevention have appeared in Dance Spirit and Dance Teacher magazines. She is the Director of the Institute for Performance Studies and a faculty member at Oberlin College and the OC Conservatory of Music.

Dance UK - Healthier Dance Program
Dance UK's Healthier Dancer Programme carries out research in areas of dancers' health, fitness and wellbeing. Researchers in Dance Health, Science and Medicine can communicate with each other and disseminate any findings directly to the dance profession via this page by posting on-line, their latest research findings or ideas. Research is accepted from Masters Degree level study onwards.

The Harkness Center for Dance Injuries - Dance Medicine & Science Career Information
The Harkness Center for Dance Injuries website has lots of useful information such as this page covering careers in dance science and health.

The Harkness Center for Dance Injuries - Common Dance Injuries
The Harkness Center for Dance Injuries website has a very useful page discussing the symptoms of various dance injuries.

Human Kinetics
Human Kinetics publishes books on various kinds of physical activity. Their range is quite broad from philosophical overviews, to technique to health and science issues.
See their dance professional development section for dance and health selection which features the classic work, Preventing Dance Injuries.

The International Association for Dance Medicine & Science
IADMS promotes medical, scientific, and educational activities aimed at enhancing the treatment and training of dancers with the ultimate goal of improving dancers' health, well-being, and performance. They host conferences and publish The Journal of Dance Medicine & Science. This is a subscription and organizational site. Many membership prices, but Dance educators, dance teachers, dance scientists and researchers, dance and arts administrators, and other dance professionals have a rate of $45.00 a year. Membership info page with full price list

The Medical Website of the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation
A HUGH amount of information for dancers, teachers and their health practioners. The information is all very technical. You must have some background in anatomy, physiology and medicine or be willing to learn. Mostly in English, but some articles are available only in French.

Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA)
Membership Fees:
Full members with voting privaleges
$150 physicians, dentists and chiropractors/ $100 therapists and other health-care professionals, educators, researchers, artistic directors, and performing artists
Associate members without voting privileges
$50 Students and trainees at accredited medical and educational programs

Founded in 1989, PAMA is an international organization comprised of dedicated medical professionals, artists educators, and administrators with the common goal of improving the health care of the performing artist. PAMA publishes the Medical Problems of Performing Artists - the first clinical medical journal devoted to the etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of medical and psychological disorders related to the performing arts.

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News in Science
This Australian news website has a very good science section. Also see their medicine and health links in the upper right of the science page.

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