Expressive Vocabulary

This dataset of expressive qualities is the result of the collaboration with Virgilio Sieni, director of the Venitian Biennale Danza (2013-2016) and founder of the Accademia sull'arte del gesto. We worked with the choreographer Virgilio Sieni to define a set of expressive qualities that corresponds to his expressive vocabulary. The dataset constitutes the choreographic language of Virgilio Sieni: some of the most identifiable and isolable gestural figures and movement sequences (his “words”) have been chosen to be mutually compared in different interpretations to investigate movement qualities. For the purpose of the creation this dataset, Virgilio Sieni participated in a number of multimodal recording sessions during the first and second year of DANCE project. We were able to collect a dataset of movement fragments for a number of qualities such as Lightness, Fragility, Suspension, Transmission, and Figure.

The motion capture data can be freely used for research purposes.

Setup Hardware and Data

We recorded data from the following devices:
  • Qualisys motion capture system sampling dancers' movement at 100 Hz,
  • video recording system (1280x720, 50fps) (unavailable for download).
Data was recorded and synchronized using the EyesWeb XMI platform.

Expressive Qualities


Definition: A necessary condition for a Light movement is Fluidity. Further, a fluid movement should include at least one of the following characteristics: (i) to exhibit a low amount of downward vertical acceleration following gravity (in particular on forearms and knees), (ii) each possible downward acceleration must be counterbalanced by an opposite “harmonic” upward movement (simultaneous or consequent); (iii) vertical downward acceleration movements are turned into a finalization on the horizontal plane.


Definition: In order to describe the Fragility, first we will introduce two its components: Upper body crack and Leg release. The Upper body crack is a single synchronized discontinuity of the upper body movement followed by the movement re-planning. Leg release is sudden movement of the hips (and knees) toward the floor due to a sudden synchronized release of knees. Both these components correspond to the abrupt variation of the acceleration of the body movements. While the upper body crack regards upper body, legs release concerns the lower part of the body. Fragility, is defined as a frequent a-rhythmic interruptions and consequent re-planning of movement. Thus, it can be seen as a non-periodic a-rhythmic sequence of Upper body cracks and Leg releases.
Fragility emerges, for example, when moving at the boundary between balance and fall, resulting in a series of short movements with frequent interruptions and restarts. The resulting movements are non-predictable.


Definition: Suspension refers to non-directional holding of energy on one of the body planes. The body or some parts of it may, for example, waving or rippling. The movements of suspension are often highly predictable and repetitive.


Definition: The transmission refers to circulation of body kinetic energy between different body planes. It may include resonances between different body parts, or changes of the body part that is leading movement.


Definition: Articulation of alignments and unisons, consolidation of balance.

More about this work can be found in the paper:

Camurri, A., Volpe, G., Piana, S., Mancini, M., Niewiadomski, R., Ferrari, N., Canepa, C., The Dancer in the Eye: Towards a Multi-Layered Computational Framework of Qualities in Movement, 3rd International Symposium on Movement and Computing, MOCO 2016, 5-6 July 2016, Thessaloniki, Greece, 2016. doi: 10.1145/2948910.2948927.

Full paper can be found here.
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