research projects

ARC Discovery: Capturing Dance: using motion capture to enhance the creation of innovative Australian dance

Motion capture technology offers many new opportunities for dance analysis. Unlike video, motion capture 'captures' the body's movement in three dimensions by tracking the trajectories in space and time of 40 + reflective markers on the body's surface. Motion capture allows the recording and measurement of minute shifts and subtle interplays across the surface of a dancers' body, providing previously unobtainable levels of detailed movement observation.
A major challenge in using motion capture to analyze dance lies in determining what, out of the welter of information motion capture provides, is of artistic, aesthetic and cultural value to specific dance practices. A further challenge is to develop ways of representing this information that reflect and illuminate, rather than reduce or simplify, the complexity and dynamic subtlety of dance movement.
Capturing Dance, a three year project, at Deakin University's Deakin Motion.Lab, will use motion capture to record the movement of dancers and choreographers as they make new work and movement patterns, and will use this data to develop ways of analyzing movement. In doing so, this project will provide new insights into the subtle processes of creating artistic movement.  Working with ballet, contemporary and indigenous choreographers and dance artists, this project will 'map' choreographic process, identifying the minute changes in movement that make each choreographers work unique, and providing new insight into how motion capture might be developed into a new tool for choreographers to use in exploring and deepening their movement practices.
The project is led by Associate Professor Kim Vincs, who is a choreographer and interactive performance artist, as well as a practice-based dance researcher and the Director of the Deakin Motion.Lab. The other Chief Investigators are Dr Vicky Mak (Deakin University), an applied mathematician with research interests mathematical modeling and combinatorial optimization and Associate Professor Richard Smith (University of Sydney), who is a biomechanist who uses motion capture to understand peak performance in athletes.
This project is supported under Australian Research Council's Discovery Projects funding scheme (project number DP0987101).
Australian IT: Motion capture for lords and ladies of dance


project team

Associate Professor Kim Vincs:

Kim Vincs is the Director of the Deakin Motion.Lab, which she established in 2006, and is a creative artist specializing in dance and interactive media.

Dr Vincs' research interests are in the areas of motion capture, dance and interactive technology. Along with Capturing Dance, Dr Vincs has also worked on:
- Aura: real-time motion capture and 3D stereoscopic dance
- The Silk Road Project: real-time pipeline for interactive dance using motion capture.
- Visualizing the 'syntax' of dance movement: building capacity and profile in motion capture research.
- Intention and Serendipity: Investigating Improvisation, Symbolism and Memory in Creating Australian Contemporary Dance.
- Coding Indigenous Dance
- Dancing between Diversity and Consistency: Improving Assessment in Post Graduate Degrees in Dance.

Dr Vincs' teaching focuses on developing innovative curricula in motion capture, contemporary dance, interactive digital technologies and cross-disciplinary arts-science collaboration. Her vision, which she has embedded in a range of units and courses within Dance and Collaborative Arts at Deakin, is to empower students to be bold and confident in using new technologies, to develop their unique creativity, and to have the courage and foresight to develop their own unique career aspirations and career paths.  In 2006, she was awarded an Australian Learning and Teaching Council Award for Australian University Teaching in the category Humanities and the Arts, a Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning and a Deakin Universtity Vice Chancellor's Award for Distinguished Teaching.

Dr. Vicky Mak

Dr Vicky Mak completed a PhD in 2002 at The University of Melbourne in the area of combinatorial optimisation. Following her PhD degree, she briefly worked at the Mathematical and Information Sciences Division, CSIRO, as a postdoctoral research fellow. She then joined the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, The University of Melbourne, as a postdoctoral research fellow for about 18 months. In January 2004, she joined Deakin University as a lecturer. Her research interests include integer programming, polyhedral combinatorics, decomposition algorithms, and heuristic approaches for combinatorial optimisation problems. Areas of application include: treatment planning in intensity-modulated radiotherapy, motion recognition, wireless sensor network design, and industrial routing and scheduling problems.

Dr Mak is currently a Senior Lecturer at the School of Information Technology.

Associate Professor Richard Smith:

Richard Smith has a deep interest in human physical performance whether it is the process of recovering from injury or illness, maximising sport performance or just optimising day to day function. To pursue these interests he has a PhD in biomechanics and manages a state of the art biomechanics laboratory and a team of biomechanists and research students. He has supervised 11 PhD, 11 Masters and 14 Honours students to completion. His main research interests are footwear and lower limb mechanics and rowing performance.

Associate Professor Smith works in the Discipline of Exercise and Sports Science, Faculty of Health Sciences, at the University of Sydney.

Daniel Skovli:

Daniel studied traditional and 3D animation for four year, the last two of which being with Deakin University.  During his last year of study, he held an internship and casual employment with the Motion.Lab and became more involved in the daily operation of the facilities.

In April 2008, a few weeks after he graduated with Distinction as a Bachelor of Arts from Deakin University, he commenced his full-time and ongoing employment with the Motion.Lab as the Studio Coordinator.

Peter Divers:

Peter is a recent Deakin graduate, currently working for the Motion.Lab on several research projects, gaining experience in the many different fields within motion capture.

Although his passion is animation, something his formal education reflects, his responsibilites for this project deal mainly with real-time perfomance and the solving of complex skeleton data and visual representation.

Kim Barbour: 

Kim joins the team as a research and personal assistant, with research experience in arts marketing, the creative industries, and the creative process. She completed a MA from The University of Waikato in New Zealand, and her thesis Constructing Artistic Integrity has since been published. Kim is currently working as a casual academic at Deakin University.

Dr Wai Kuan Yip:

Working with the project team from 2009-2010, Yip Wai Kuan's research interest is in the areas of pattern recognition, signal processing, and information security. She completed her PhD in IT, specializing in key generation from dynamic hand signatures in Mar 2009. She received her MSc and BSc degrees in computer science from University Science of Malaysia in 2003 and 1999. Previously, she worked as an Analytic Solutions Development Engineer in Intel developing data mining solutions for manufacturing use, and as a Consulting Engineer in face recognition. 

Tim Harbour

Tim Harbour was a dancer with The Australian Ballet for 13 years and retired in 2008 as a Senior Artist to concentrate on choreography.He made his choreographic debut in 2005 with 'Sunken Waltz' for The Australian Ballet which was nominated as Best New Work in Dance Australia's Critic's Choice Awards. He followed this with 'Eve' in 2006, 'Fielder' in 2007 and 'Wa' in 2008, all of which received wide critical acclaim. 'Wa' has since been nominated 3 times in Dance Australia's Critic's Choice Awards for Best New Work.

2008 saw Tim create 'Schattenwelt' for The Queensland Ballet, 'Ignis' for The Australian Ballet School, 'Tocatta' for The New York Choreographic Institute, and 'Tenement' for The Melbourne Ballet Company which has been long-listed in The Australian Dance Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography. In 2009, Tim created 'Fractal Joy' for The West Australian Ballet, 'A Listening World' for the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts and 'Songs of Light' for The Dancers Company. Upcoming commissions include a new work for Morphoses - The Wheeldon Company which will premiere in London in October this year, and a new work for The Australian Ballet in 2010 to a newly commissioned score.
Tim resides in Melbourne, Australia and lectures in Classical Dance at The Victorian College of the Arts.

Lisa Bolte

Lisa Bolte was born in Sydney and studied RAD and CSTD at Caprice Dancing School in Brisbane. She graduated from the Australian Ballet School joining The Australian Ballet in 1986 under the direction of Maina Gielgud. Promoted to Principal artist in 1993, her first love was the classics and delving into the artistry and stylistic beauty of these great roles. She holds very dearly her experiences in ballets created for her by Stephen Baynes and Natalie Weir.
Lisa's international career highlights included performing with The Australian Ballet on tours to London, the USA, Japan, Greece, Thailand, China and Russia. As a Guest Artist she performed with The National Ballet of Canada, The Maryinsky Ballet, The Royal Danish Ballet performing ballets including Swan Lake, The Merry Widow, Giselle and Don Quixote. In 1998 she received a Mo Award for best female dancer.
Retiring as Resident Guest Principal Artist of The Australian Ballet in 2007 Lisa is currently studying a Master of Arts (Creative Enterprise) at Deakin. While also continuing to work in dance through research at Deakin Motion Capture studio, Lisa teaches ballet at Deakin University, The Victorian College of the Arts, St Catherine's School and continues to mentor young dancers to fulfil their aspirations in dance.

Mee Young Helena Yuk

Helena is the Artistic Director of Undercurrent Dance Company (UDC) and has been working as a professional dancer and choreographer for over 20 years. She has lectured, performed and choreographed in many countries, including Australia, Korea and the United States and in 2007 completed her PhD in Dance at Deakin University. She has been working with Motion.Lab on a project basis since 2007.

From her original training in contemporary dance in Korea through to her recent completion of her PhD, Helena is developing a style that builds on her formidable technical base to incorporate aspects of her early experience in traditional Korean dance, and her more recent dance and choreographic experience in Australia.
Helena's PhD focused on a Korean aspect of dance called 'Chung-soh' which encourages dancers to dance from their core – on both a physical and mental level – that is, engaging dancers emotionally, physically and intellectually in every movement they make. This engagement fits well with her work with the Capturing Dance project.

Carlee Mellow

Carlee Mellow graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts in 1995. Over the last 14 years she has worked in both film and live performance as a dancer, actor and collaborator with many choreographers and directors, touring nationally and internationally.
Choreographers/companies include Dance Works, BalletLab, Chunky Move, Tracie Mitchell, Lisa Nelson (US), Russell Maliphant (UK), Lea Anderson (UK), Shelley Lasica, Ros Warby, Prue Lang, and Meryl Tankard, amongst others. Directors include David Pledger (NYID), Margie Medlin (Critical Path), Chris Kohn (Stuck Pigs Squealing), Ana Kokkinos, Angus Cerini, James Brennan and Kate Denborough (KAGE).
Her own choreographic work has been presented in Melbourne and Berlin. She also works as a choreographer in theatre, most recently for a Malthouse Theatre/Stuck Pigs Squealing co-production and Arena Theatre Company.

Phoebe Robinson

Phoebe Robinson graduated from the WA Academy of Performing Arts in 2000. She has since performed in Australia, New York, Berlin and Japan in works by Sandra Parker, Lucy Guerin, Neil Adams, Jude Walton, Kota Yamazaki, and in her own choreographic work. Her works include The Futurist, Emperor's New Guns; and, in collaboration with Julia Robinson, Quiet Listening Exercises and Half Finished World.

In 2008 Phoebe was the inaugural Housemate Resident at Dancehouse, a three-month artist in residence program designed to support the creation of new work in dance or physical theatre. During this residency she choreographed and performed Only Leone, which premiered in July 2008 at Dancehouse and was subsequently performed in the East Coast Exchange at Critical Path, Sydney. This work is due to tour in January 2010 to the Hong Kong City Festival for the 'Australia on Stage' program.