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A Dance to the Music of Time: Aesthetically-Relevant Changes in Body Posture in Performing Art

Daprati, E; Iosa, M; Haggard, P; (2009) A Dance to the Music of Time: Aesthetically-Relevant Changes in Body Posture in Performing Art. PLOS ONE , 4 (3) , Article e5023. 10.1371/journal.pone.0005023. Green open access

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Abstract

In performing arts, body postures are both means for expressing an artist's intentions, and also artistic objects, appealing to the audience. The postures of classical ballet obey the body's biomechanical limits, but also follow strict rules established by tradition. This combination offers a perfect milieu for assessing scientifically how the execution of this particular artistic activity has changed over time, and evaluating what factors may induce such changes. We quantified angles between body segments in archive material showing dancers from a leading company over a 60-year period. The data showed that body positions supposedly fixed by codified choreography were in fact implemented by very different elevation angles, according to the year of ballet production. Progressive changes lead to increasingly vertical positions of the dancer's body over the period studied. Experimental data showed that these change reflected aesthetic choices of naive modern observers. Even when reduced to stick figures and unrecognisable shapes, the more vertical postures drawn from later productions were systematically preferred to less vertical postures from earlier productions. This gradual change within a conservative art form provides scientific evidence that aesthetic change may arise from continuous interaction between artistic tradition, individual artists' creativity, and a wider environmental context. This context may include social aesthetic pressure from audiences.

Type: Article
Title: A Dance to the Music of Time: Aesthetically-Relevant Changes in Body Posture in Performing Art
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005023
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0005023
Language: English
Additional information: © 2009 Daprati et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. This research was funded by a Leverhulme Trust project grant, and a BBSRC ISIS grant awarded to PH. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Keywords: BALLET DANCERS, HIP, PREFERENCE, MOTION, RANGE
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/154632
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