Biomechanics is the science of movement and provides rich detail into how forces control the way our bodies move. Biomechanics has been used for the analysis of sports for decades and has been mostly employed in activities where technique is the primary factor. Dance is one of the sports that has leaned heavily on biomechanics to understand the science of movement.

Traditionally, biomechanics has been used for inform dance and performance for the following reasons:

The identification of optimal techniques for enhancing dance performance
The analysis of body loading to determine the safest method for performing a dance movement
The assessment of muscular recruitment and joint loading
The analysis of dance and exercise equipment e.g. shoes, surfaces, and costumes

Supriya Nair, a sophomore student at Stanford Online High School, has now brought the concept of biomechanics to her dance form of Mohiniyattam. Mohiniyattam is a classical dance form that originated in Kerala, India and is often characterized by graceful, swaying movements, soft footwork, important hand gestures, and subtle facial expressions.

For National Biomechanics Day, we invited Supriya to share her experiences of combining biomechanics with Mohiniyattam for what she has termed as “Neuroyattam”.

“Neuroyattam brings neuroscience and Mohiniyattam together to study the various activations of the key muscles in the core and extremities while performing the defined movements of the dance.

Biomechanics provides information not only for analysis of motion, but for understanding muscle use, forces acting on the body, issues of motor control, and the interaction between any one body party and the body as a whole.”

EMG is an experimental technique that allows a unique insight into muscle co-ordination, motor control, and muscle effort.

“By adding EMG to our analysis, we can assess the control of movement patterns and compare these between novice and expert level dancers. For instance, a trained dancer for various motor patterns will have better core muscle activations compared to extremity muscle activations.

Incorporating other sensing metrics, such as IMU data and heart rate, I can start to build a more thorough and comprehensive overview of dancing. In particular, using the accelerometer and gyroscope components of the IMU allows me to have a proportional understanding of the dancer’s grace by seeing how smooth their technique is in terms of linear and angular movements.”

National Biomechanics Day has always been about increasing the visibility of emerging fields for the application of biomechanical principles.

“What I would love to see in the future of biomechanics is that these scientific principles, and what we have learnt from the other dance forms, can be translated to underrepresented areas, and dance forms, such as Mohiniyattam.”

For more information on expanding the possibilities of biomechanics, read more from our news and blogs.