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This is me walking in two different moods - one happy, the other sad. Can you tell which is which? What are the differences between the two gaits that enable you to decide? Here's the biomechanical analysis to help you...
The motor manifestation of emotion is a topic which has interested several researchers (see bibliography). Charles Darwin's famous book, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals was perhaps the first systematic study. Later, the famous ballet choreographer, Rudolf Laban, devised a system of notation (Labanotation - still used in dance today) in which he tried to represent not only the basic mechanics of a movement, but also what he called the effort-shape. By this he meant the "style" or psychological purpose behind the movement.
Using three of these dimensions, Laban defined 8 types of effort-shape,
with the fourth, Control, making it either controlled (bound) or
Each dimension can also be stressed, giving rise to further subtlety:
|Exertion||Space||Time||Effort-shape (and with exertion, space or time stressed)|
|Light||Direct||Sustained||Gliding (smoothing, smearing, smudging)|
|Quick||Dabbing (patting, tapping, shaking)|
|Flexible||Sustained||Floating (strewing, stirring, stroking)|
|Quick||Flicking (flipping, flapping, jerking)|
|Strong||Direct||Sustained||Pressing (crushing, cutting, squeezing)|
|Quick||Punching (thrusting, poking, pressing)|
|Flexible||Sustained||Wringing (pulling, plucking, stretching)|
|Quick||Slashing (beating, throwing, whipping)|
These principles were used during the 2nd World War in the Laban-Lawrence Industrial Rhythm, which was applied to selection, training, and investigation of work processes in order to maximise efficiency in British factories. Some attempt was even made to experimentally validate them against EMG (Bernstein, 1972), and its an interesting exercise to try to assign a kinematic or kinetic variable to each dimension: e.g. Time is clearly related to velocity; Space to displacement; Exertion to force.
The relationship of these quantities to emotion was noticed by Laban,
and later applied to child development (Kestenberg, 1967), and dance
therapy for psychiatric disorders (Bernstein, 1984). If you try performing
them, you will probably notice that you feel a different emotion with each
effort-shape, and of course this the very basis of dance as a communicative
art-form. Indeed, a person's gait tells us something about their character
and mood (Cutting, 1978).
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