Proof of Concept using Innovative Motion Capture and Analysis Tools in Professional Classical Ballet (£1,059.70)

Project Details


The focus of this project is to discover and test appropriate motion capture technology that can be applied within the Classical Ballet environment. The purpose is to provide unique technical insight relating to the demands of the codified classical dance technique in order to collaborate and research in the future with professional practitioners in the domain. This would, for example, include working with performance medicine practitioners, dance teachers and choreographers with a view to enhancing performance and keeping the dancers safe from injury.

The Institute for Sports, Physical Education and Health Sciences has a range of technology that can be readily used for 3D motion capture and analysis. The Qualisys system for example is ideal for data capture and recording of single participants who are performing discreet movements in a lab and, therefore, Qualisys is set up mainly for use in the Biomechanics lab in SLL. In order to work, Qualisys requires the participants to wear reflective markers that are applied to anatomical landmarks and/or marker clusters that are applied to the anatomical segments of interest. This type of motion capture is a gold standard method however it is problematic when applied for use to capture and analyse dance forms such as Classical Ballet. The reasons for this include:

Classical Ballet has very specific environmental requirements (Sprung flooring, mirrors etc.) that make the lab unsuitable for testing in.

Moving the Qualisys system to a dance studio, whilst possible, presents a cost and a risk of damage when moving the system. This is a risk within our Institute building, even more so when transporting it across cities (Edinburgh to Glasgow).

Moving the system to the dance studio also presents with further technical challenges as the use of mirrors is contradictory to the infra-red camera and reflective marker set up used by Qualysis.

The movements and specific techniques that are of interest to this project are Classical Ballet specific and complex in nature. Almost inevitably, therefore, there will be a degree of marker occlusion during the movements whereby the cameras cannot physically see the markers. Furthermore, movements with partners is likely to cause detachment of markers from the skin. Each of these problems means that data cannot be collected

During lockdown (March – September) we have researched, drawn on our networks, made successful contact and had productive online meetings and conversations with two leaders in the field of biomechanics (Professor James Richards, UK) and motion capture (Dr. Scott Selby, Canada). These leaders have both the expertise and a new motion capture technology, Theia, that will potentially eliminate all the above challenges for us.

As a result, we have successfully gained agreement and formed a collaborative group (Dr H Carson, Motor Control, W Timmons, Classical Ballet, Prof. Richards, Biomechanics and Dr Selby, Motion Capture) to test the new technology in the professional Classical Ballet environment.

The aims of this project are therefore to:

Provide proof of concept for a new application of innovative and marker-less motion capture technology, Theia (, to dance. This technology is already used in sports but to date has not been applied or tested within the professional Classical Ballet environment.

Provide a valid protocol and research design for the use of Theia in the professional dance studio environment.
Effective start/end date18/11/2028/12/20


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