Hello, I’m Madison Tate Brott, a junior Dance BFA student, and I am part of the Engineering Dance Team amongst other dancers, Psychology students, and Bioengineering students. I found it intriguing that I could be apart of a study that involved three vastly different departments, so I chose to spend my summer in a way which was entirely foreign to me—doing research. What I have learned in these 10 weeks cannot be summed up in this space—I mean, a Dance major learned code—and the experience can only be fully understood by having the experience yourself.
Within the Engineering Dance Team, two groups with different interests were formed and I found myself as part of the Authority Figure group, which measured and analyzed the effect of authoritative figures’ presence on dance performance. To do this, knowledge of Motive (motion capture) and MATLAB (a coding software) were necessary, so the first few weeks of the project were dedicated to learning these platforms for those of us who did not have previous backgrounds in one or both. In these beginning stages, each field represented had information that needed to be related to those in other fields in a way that would later be useful in our projects. The introduction to psychology papers and bioengineering terminology almost could have been a course of its own, but then throw in code, post-processing, and Adobe Illustrator and you’ve got yourself a 5 for 1 subject class. This all would have been impossible to learn without the help from our three, incredible graduate students, whom patiently guided us undergraduates with instructions and advice inside and outside of our projects.
As the summer comes to a close, and our studies as consequence, I am left feeling grateful and accomplished in the leap my team took. Dance research is not nearly as common as research on sports and other athletics, and especially so once you take the attention off of injuries. The goal over the last couple of months was to get involved, bringing attention to dance through research and hopefully inspiring others to do so, as well. Dancers are curious people, too, and it is not always satisfying to only be a participant in a study. When dancers can step up and learn outside of what we know to get answers about what we think we already know, we can diminish the theory that we are only bodies that move with minds that do not.