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Blindfolded Swing Dancing - Dance Your PhD 2009

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Published on Nov 15, 2008

Sommer Gentry, Ph.D. 2005

Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Massachusetts Instutute of Technology

Thesis title: Dancing cheek to cheek: Haptic communication between partner dancers and swing as a finite state machine

This is an entry for the 2009 AAAS Science Dance Contest where participants are asked to "Dance Your PhD Thesis"
http://gonzolabs.org/dance/

The audio has been muted by YouTube because of a copyright complaint from the owners of the copyright to MC Hammer's song where he added 4 words to someone else's song.

This dance is NOT choreographed. Dorry is leading spontaneously, and Sommer is really blindfolded. The dancers are wearing black to draw attention to the arms, where the haptic communication (the only communication that the follower gets from the leader) is occuring.

Song choice was admittedly driven by a bad pun motif. The first song is smooth, the second song is bouncy and shows how "breaks" can be lead (points where the dancing stops with the music), and the third song, well, we wanted to go nuts and we couldn't find a 1940's song with the word "touch" in it.

It's evident that spins and translations across the floor are being led through force signals at the hands. You should also notice that the size of the vertical bounce (for example, in general smooth in the first song, bouncier in the second song, but changing even within the song), the timing of the footfalls (several examples of half-time and cut-time leads), and freezing in different poses (many examples in "Can't touch this") are all led and followed through the same hand connection. Connection points can also vary: linked elbows, the leader's hand around the follower's back or waist, and even a hip to hip connection for an aerial.


From my thesis abstract:

To see two expert partners, one leading and the other following, swing dance together is to watch a remarkable two-agent communication and control system in action. Even blindfolded, the follower can decode the leader's moves from haptic cues. The leader composes the dance from the vocabulary of known moves so as to complement the music he is dancing to.

Swing dance choreography is a finite state machine, with moves that transition between a small number of poses. My experiments presenting conflicting musical environments to two partners demonstrate that although musical expression clearly guides the leader's choice of moves, the follower need not hear the same music to properly decode the leader's signals.

Systematically addressing questions about partner dance communication could improve human-robotic interaction. Dancers embody gentle interaction, in which each participant extends the capabilities of the other, and their cooperation is facilitated by a shared understanding of the motions to be performed. To demonstrate that followers use their understanding of the move vocabulary to interact better with their leaders, another of my experiments paired a haptic robot leader with human followers in a haptically cued dance to a swing music soundtrack. The subjects' performance differed signicantly between instances when the subjects could determine which move was being led and instances when the subjects could not determine what the next move would be.

  • Category

  • Song

  • Artist

  • Album

    • Everytime we touch (The Album)
  • Writers

    • Peter Risavy, Stuart Mackillop, Margaret Reilly
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  • Song

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    • Whatever - The '90s Pop & Culture (US Release)
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    • UMG (on behalf of Rhino (Pure)); LatinAutor, Abramus Digital, LatinAutor - SonyATV, EMI Music Publishing, SOLAR Music Rights Management, UNIAO BRASILEIRA DE EDITORAS DE MUSICA - UBEM, CMRRA, BMG Rights Management, LatinAutor - PeerMusic, ARESA, and 14 Music Rights Societies
  • Song

  • Artist

    • BENNY GOODMAN
  • Writers

    • Louis Prima
  • Licensed to YouTube by

    • AdRev for Rights Holder; SOLAR Music Rights Management, EMI Music Publishing, UNIAO BRASILEIRA DE EDITORAS DE MUSICA - UBEM, LatinAutor - SonyATV, LatinAutor, and 6 Music Rights Societies

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