Статья 'Технология «Motion Capture» как феномен сохранения кипрского танцевального фольклора' - журнал 'PHILHARMONICA. International Music Journal' - NotaBene.ru
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PHILHARMONICA. International Music Journal

Motion Capture Technology as a Way to Preserve Cyprian Folk Dance

Irkhen Irina

Doctor of Cultural Studies

Professor at the Department of General Pedagogics of Vaganova Ballet Academy

191023, Russia, g. Saint Petersburg, ul. Zodchego Rossi, 2

Other publications by this author

Ursolenko Elena

Postgraduate at the Department of Choreography of Vaganova Ballet Academy

191023, Russia, g. Saint Petersburg, ul. Zodchego Rossi, 2

Other publications by this author










Abstract: This article studies the issue of preserving Cyprus' choreographic culture as a crucial factor in reviving national pride. UNESCO's involvement in cultural, educational, and scientific initiatives has played a pivotal role in preserving and developing the island’s intangible cultural heritage. The authors of the study highlight the government’s financial support of folk music groups and dance projects. Special attention is given to motion capture technology and its various forms. The variety of marker technologies is presented as a system in which the groups differ in dance movement delivery. Based on the field research materials over many years, the authors emphasize the possibility of combining digital technologies with folk tradition. This research is the first in the Russian language to cover the results of the work the University of Cyprus' virtual reality laboratory has done over eight years, which is described by the head of the laboratory during an interview. The 3D video game designed at the University of Cyprus is a mediator for studying and practicing Cyprian folk dances and developing an individual performance manner using the feedback from the program. The authors conclude that motion capture technology holds significant potential in capturing choreographic sequences, digitizing traditional folk dances, and popularizing them among diverse Cypriot age groups.  


motion capture technology, digital dance database, folk dancing, dancing culture, digital technology, Cyprus, cultural heritage, digitization, choreographic text, choreographic lexicon

In modern scientific discourse, globalization appears as a contradictory, planetary process aimed at gaining humanity's unity; it is contested by glocalization – the preservation of ethnocultural identity. In this context, the desire to preserve the identity of national culture for future generations (its language, rituals, customs, costumes, music, dances – called intangible cultural heritage) becomes the leading trend of our time. The UNESCO documents (the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage, etc.) are decisive for scientific views and the developed strategic guidelines and concepts. It is advisable to understand the preservation of cultural heritage as a process designed to preserve the most valuable things in a particular culture, time, and place.

Having joined UNESCO in 1961, the island of Cyprus and the guardianship of all authentic sources of information related to the development of national culture has been designated as one of its strategic priorities. Museum artifacts, native Cypriot crafts, and dance traditions are subject to state control due to the threat of their disappearance.

Cypriot dance folklore is an integral part of national culture, formed in the face of the island's endless conquests by Greece and Turkey. Paradoxically, Cypriot choreographic vocabulary has been passed down from foot to foot for many centuries, at family celebrations, fairs, and market days. However, in the last two decades, the situation has changed. Monitoring of cultural practices shows the effectiveness of government initiatives. This can be seen through the introduction of compulsory folk dance training in primary and secondary schools, the holding of annual folklore school holidays, the functioning of student ethnographic clubs at large schools that act as an intermediary for organizing exhibitions of traditional Cypriot crafts, excursions to places where a particular folk tradition exists, and children's participation in master classes. In addition, the island of Cyprus' folklore associations (Limassol Folklore Association, Dionysos Cultural Association, Aradippos Association of Culture) hold open dance master classes, where anyone has the opportunity to touch the life-giving springs of national culture through acquaintance with traditional costume, musical instruments, and the dance repertoires of Greek Cypriots.

According to the researchers (A. Polyniki, M. Stavrides, etc.), participation in UNESCO’s cultural, educational, and scientific programs was a turning point in the preservation and development of the intangible cultural heritage of the island: the Cyprus National Commission for UNESCO was established (1962) and the Convention on the Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage (2006) was ratified [1, p.137]. Oral folklore tradition, crafts, musical and choreographic heritage were at the epicenter of discussions of the scientific community and the political elite.

Analysis of the Ministry of Education and Culture of Cyprus' 2008–2018 reports reveal financial support for folklore groups that participated in significant events on the island and beyond and special funding for the organizers of music and dance projects. The translation of dance folklore to younger generations takes place through the media: dance teachers and the elderly, who have preserved the dance style of their grandmothers in their memory. At the same time, the dance forms of the first half of the twentieth century, which were not subject to fixation, were preserved exclusively in oral form. Individual descriptions of choreographic vocabulary can be found in travel notes and archival videos.

It is known that, traditionally, notation or video recording is used to fix choreographic vocabulary. In the digital age, archiving of choreographic heritage becomes possible at a higher technological level. According to the researchers of this problem, the "Motion Capture" system provides a more complete analysis of the dancer's body position than Labanotation [2, p.43]. In addition, the resource potential of the system allows you to create 3D video games based on authentic material and stimulate the repetition of dance movements in the learning process, thereby maintaining a steady interest in folklore.

Of course, the fixation of choreographic vocabulary by means of "numbers" is a fundamentally new phenomenon that allows you to synchronously recreate a person's movements in a 3D environment, followed by the control of a three-dimensional model of a virtual figure. Specialists in this field use special suits with sensors, body sensors, cameras, and appropriate software.

"Motion Capture" technology is currently widely used in the following varieties [3, p. 42–49]: First, marker technology, which uses a special suit with sensors to capture data on the cameras. The information is collected and transmitted to a computer program that reproduces the performer's movements (dancer, teacher, actor), transforming them in real-time into the animation of a virtual figure. Secondly, technology without the use of markers (sensors and suits) is based on a high-tech process of recognizing ready-made images. Its advantages can be described as follows: the exclusion of special equipment, additional preparation time, as well as the wear and tear of fragile markers and sensors.

The existing variety of marker technologies makes it possible to combine them into certain groups according to the method of motion transmission [4, p.7–26]. Optical passive marker systems use a special suit with marker sensors that only reflect the light directed at them. Optical active marker systems use LEDs with individual identifiers, equipped with built-in processors and radio synchronization. The advantage of an optically active system can be considered the ability to recognize markers individually. The basis of magnetic systems is magnets and camera receivers. Mechanical systems are based on fixing the movements of the performer's joints by putting on a mechanical "mosar-skeleton" that repeats his movements. Finally, gyroscopic systems use mini-gyroscopes and inertial sensors on the performer's body. With the existing shortcomings of marker technologies, the reconstruction of the original genre basis of a particular dance, its digitization, and subsequent archiving is a fairly reliable way to store information that enriches the idea of the era's choreographic culture.

In modern European practice, a number of media projects are being implemented to digitize choreographic heritage, including "Wholodance" and "Terpsichore." According to the creators, the Wholodance platform aims to preserve cultural heritage, promote innovative dance training methods, and create a unified digital choreographic base using Motion Capture technology. [5] The project "Terpsichore" focuses on the study, analysis, development, digitization, archiving of any content related to the dance folklore of the peoples of the world [6], its maximum accessibility to performers, professionals, teachers, creative associations, and the general public.

Thus, the target range of implemented projects is quite wide: from the preservation and popularization of choreographic heritage to the formation of its unified digital base for the development of cross-cultural dialogue.

Of course, it is quite difficult to involve younger generations raised in the conditions of technological, gadget-based communication in the development of intangible cultural heritage. It seems that one of the steps in this direction may be the connection of digital technologies with folklore tradition. Based on the music and movements of Cypriot folklore, the 3D video game simultaneously educates and entertains children and adults. This project is being developed by the Virtual Reality Laboratory of the University of Cyprus (VR Lab of the University of Cyprus) together with the Art Workshop Ayion Omoloyiton (Cultural Workshop Ayion Omoloyiton) to record, digitize, and archive dance folklore. Any movement of an expert dancer is recorded three-dimensionally in real-time. Subsequently, the movement can be saved in digital format, reproduced, analyzed, and processed.

Based on the ideologeme of considering cultural heritage as information potential of a nation captured in certain phenomena and events, when archiving dance, not only the choreographic vocabulary is taken into account but also the musical accompaniment, the interaction of dancers with each other, and the historical and cultural context of the existence of the dance. All this is subject to additional description because digitization primarily provides fixation, reproduction, analysis of dance movements [7]. In the absence of systematic videos of Cypriot dance folklore, the University of Cyprus' project aims to fill the existing gap by creating a full-fledged digital database of traditional culture. This encourages the actualization of Cyprus' intangible cultural heritage and its inclusion in modern culture.

The created digital school of folk dance training allows you to train at a convenient time, receiving feedback regarding the accuracy of performing movements. Users of the system can reproduce the virtual avatar's movements, which are accompanied by a constant text or visual response [8; 9]. Note that high-tech motion capture systems remain inaccessible to ordinary users, the vast majority of whom resort to less accurate game motion sensors, such as Microsoft Kinect. The University of Cyprus project provides an opportunity for users of a specially developed video game based on the Microsoft Kinect sensor to join the Cypriot dance culture in the home environment.

Analysis of the interview materials of the curator and mastermind of this project, Andreas Aristidou, allow us to clarify the main idea, specify the genre spectrum of dances, the composition of performers, etc.

First, as expected, Aristidou was initially interested in "Motion Capture" technology. The primary experience of digitizing choreographic vocabulary was limited to recording the movements of Latin American dance and contemporary dance performers. Cooperation with the Cyprus Folklore Association (Limassol Folklore Association) has opened access to twentieth-century archival videos of national folklore.

Secondly, the fragmentary nature of the photos and videos that recorded the unique dance style of the older generation and the lack of an official video archive of traditional folk dances initiated the study of Cypriot choreographic culture. In addition, the motivation of Aristidou's activity was the desire to pass the unique identity of Greek Cypriot folk dances on to his own children and younger generations.

Third, the project of digitizing Cypriot folk dances is non-commercial in nature. It is primarily a public initiative (E. Stavrakis, M. Savva, J. Chrysanthou, University of Cyprus; S. L. Himona Frederik University, R. Cyprus). To participate in it, dancers and teachers are invited to do so on a complimentary basis: F. Alexander, V. Aristide, A. Charalambus, S. Theodor, etc. Each of them performed only five dances in an individually unique performance manner, which enriched the project's resource base with 70 versions of the most famous folk dances, including Antikristos (Karsilamas) – pair dance, Zeibekiko – solo dance, Hasapiko and Tsamikos – mass dance.

Fourth, obtaining state financial support for the project allowed the researchers to expand the performing staff through the involvement of professionals from the island of Cyprus (M. Lanitis, K. Zitis, M. Panayiotou), thereby achieving a qualitatively new level of folk dance performance and their fixation with the help of "Motion Capture" technology.

The project's goal was to improve the quality of the created video game as an intermediary for learning, practicing the movements of Cypriot folk dances, and developing an individual manner of performance using the feedback mechanism from the program.

The currently available computer version of the video game includes recording the dance movements of the user through the computer camera, analyzing and statistically reporting the similarity of the 3D model's movements and the participant. The results stored in the computer's memory allow you to track the dynamics of mastering folk dances, support the element of competition of participants, and stimulate the improvement of dance skills.

This project's effectiveness can be reduced to the following positions: enriching the "Motion Capture" digital database with ten folklore dances in a professional performance; detailing a holistic approach to motion capture technology within a cultural and semantic context; visual recreation of the geolocation, geographical, and chronological development of dance.

In the presence of certain disadvantages in the form of some image artificiality of the virtual model's movements, the fragility and high cost of markers, LEDs, gyroscopes, and inertial sensors, the phenomenon of "Motion Capture" has undeniable advantages over traditional methods of preserving cultural memes due to reliability and long-term storage.


1. Cypriot dance folklore, formed under the influence of the numerous names of the island, is a determining factor in preserving national unity and ethnocultural identity.

2. UNESCO cultural and educational projects initiate the inclusion of folk dances; Greek Cypriots in modern culture.

3. The phenomenon of "Motion Capture" is a powerful resource potential in fixing the choreographic text, digitizing folk dances, and popularizing them in different age groups of Greek Cypriots.

4. Developed with the help of "Motion Capture" technology, the 3D video game serves as an intermediary for young Greek Cypriots in introducing them to folk dances.

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