A new study which could help athletes and dancers improve their synchronisation will headline a University of Birmingham showcase about psychology and dance on May 28 and 29.

Dancers, choreographers and artistic directors will converge with leading national and international academics for a series of discussions and presentations on the psychological aspects of dance. This will include new findings from Birmingham on how dancers time their movements – a study which could help sports players develop their co-ordination skills.

The events are being organised by the Schools of Psychology and Sport & Exercise Sciences. They will feature a workshop to discuss motion analysis and co-ordinated movement and a symposium on the psychology of dance, featuring key note presentations by field leaders and culminating in an evening performance by West Midlands dance artists including Birmingham Royal Ballet. 

Co-organiser Juliane Honisch, of the School of Psychology, will be unveiling her research at the events. She has been investigating how dancers synchronise in time with one another and the effect of changes in spatial targets on timing by expert dancers. Her research concludes that dancers synchronise familiar moves, such as ballet, better than less familiar, as in abstract dance.

The research was conducted in the university’s new Posture and Balance Lab, which will be officially opened at this month’s psychology and dance events.

The lab features the latest motion tracking and visual display systems.

Juliane, who was a professional dancer, explains: “The new lab equipment plus new analysis methods have given us insights which we will explore as a training tool for dancers who need to execute synchronised movement sequences.”

As part of the study, professional dancers   will perform a series of steps from ballet and modern dance in simulation with a virtual dancer projected on to a large screen. Every movement was monitored using reflective markers attached to the body. Twelve high speed infra-red cameras tracked the markers and allowed the team to create a computer picture of each dancer’s movements.

She added: “This research will give us a better understanding of sources of synchronisation skills which will be of use not only in dance but in sports where synchronisation is important. It might also lead to new avenues for simulation training.”

Juliane will present her research at the 12th World Congress in Sports Psychology (ISSP) in Marrakech in June.

Anyone wishing to attend the psychology and dance events on 28 and 29 May should contact JulianeHonisch@gmx.de or a.m.wing@bham.ac.uk


Media information: Anna Dingley or Anna Mitchell, University of Birmingham Press Officers. 0121 415 8134, email a.j.dingley@bham.ac.uk or 0121 414 6029, email a.i.mitchell@bham.ac.uk

Notes to Editor

• Workshop on Motion analysis and timing of coordinated movement

Thursday 28 May

This workshop will include talks and discussion on a range of topics including motion analysis, metronome synchronisation and multiperson coordination. The Performance & Balance lab will be opened by special guests who will give a short recital

• Symposium on the Psychology of Dance: Research and Application

Friday 29 May 

The symposium will bring together nationally and internationally recognised academics with an interest in the psychological aspects of dance. The event will feature key note presentations by field leaders, interactive symposia, and panel discussions involving both dance researchers and practitioners (dancers, artistic directors, dance teachers, and choreographers). The day will close with an evening performance, which will bring to centre stage talented dance artists from the West Midlands. For further details contact: DancePsychBham@gmail.com

• Juliane’s Research Summary

Movement Synchronisation to a Virtual Dancer: How do Expert Dancers Adjust to Perceived Temporal and Spatial Changes Whilst Performing Ballet Versus Abstract Dance Sequences?

Juliane is investigating how expert dancers synchronize to a virtual 3D dancer. The virtual 3D stereo display projects temporal and spatial modified real motion data of a dancer. Firstly, we investigate how dancers synchronize in time with one another. In order to do this, tempo changes are introduced by the virtual dancer. The expert dancer will be asked to adjust to these tempo changes. Additionally, we research the factor of motor experience, investigating how skilled moves improve interpersonal synchronization in dancers. Therefore, we asked the dancer to synchronize to familiar movements (ballet) versus unfamiliar movements (abstract). It will be predicted that familiar movements improve the accuracy in temporal synchronization compared to unfamiliar movements. Additionally, expert dancers will adjust faster to tempo changes introduced during familiar movements. Secondly, we research the effect of spatial changes in movements on temporal and spatial synchronization in expert dancers. Here, we modified the amplitude of the 3D dancer e.g. decrease of 20%, whilst keeping the tempo constant. Again, we asked the dancer to synchronize in time to familiar versus unfamiliar movements, without changing their amplitude.

• The Schools of Psychology and Sport and Exercise Sciences are part of the university’s College of Life and Environmental Sciences, which also incorporates the Schools of Biosciences and Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences.