Susan Laflin's Projects.

Project Number 5. Visualisation of English Folk-Dances.

Some previous experience of folk dancing is desirable and anyone doing this project will need to attend some dances during the project period to get practical experience of the topic to be simulated. Because of the short time period allowed for M.Sc projects, it would be unwise to choose this topic if you have no experience of either English Folk Dancing, Scottish Dancing or American Square Dancing.

An important component of English Folk-dancing is the patterns produced by the inter-related movements of the members of the set. This is best seen when standing on a balcony and looking down on the dance hall. The project would study methods of displaying such patterns.

The easiest view would be a plan view (from vertically above the set) and again using colour to indicate the different couples, with the option of "inky feet" leaving a trail to indicate the path traversed by each individual. This would not need to generate images of the dancers, but could use symbols (possibly a red circle for the first man and a red square for the first woman, with other colours for the other couples). The symbols would need to be moved to indicate the path travelled by each dancer. Since English, Scottish and American dances all have their own distinctive styles and figures, there is scope for several projects without moving to the rarer examples such as Morris or sword dancing.

The dances are made up of figures, such as "right and left hand star", "ladies chain","circle left and right" and so on. For a general system, you would need to write software to simulate each figure and then use a database of dances to display each of the dances. About six or seven of the most common figures would be sufficient to include and display a large number of dances. Such a system would be necessary for the basic project and would qualify for a pass mark or better depending on how well it was implemented. To have a chance of a first class mark would require additional facilities.

The most obvious extension would be to add the music and get the speed of movement of the symbols to fit the music. This will probably require adjusting the number of iterations to generate the path in order to take the required time and will be a mixture of calculation and experiment.

A more demanding project would take the view looking down on the set from an angle of 45o (isometric projective view) and showing the movement through the figures with each couple, still identified by a distinctive colour, but represented by actual animated figures. This would still require images of the dancers to move along the correct paths, but involve animation of the figures as well as their movement along the correct paths.