Kennesaw State and Georgia Tech researchers are teaming up to marry dance and science

Kennesaw, Ga. | December 2, 2022

Dressed in a black, stretchy, full-body suit with underwire, Kennesaw State University senior Jordan Carter smiled.


“I feel like a spy,” the dance major said as she donned an animation suit, matching gloves and a floppy crown on her head.

Nearby, Andrea Knowlton, assistant professor of dance at KSU, watched two tree-shaped avatars on a laptop screen. Carter and junior Tyler Hayes admired their combination and made adjustments before going through a series of predetermined moves.

The exercise was part of a research project that Knowlton and her students are working on with a team of Georgia Tech researchers led by Georgia Tech Digital Media Professor Brian Magerko as they apply for external funding for Kennesaw State’s Department of Dance.

Knowlton and Magerko received a grant from the National Science Foundation for the project, and Knowlton and his students are working to explore the use of dance to teach movement to artificial intelligence through improvisational dance. Their joint research collects data from dancers to better understand collective creativity. They are using this knowledge to develop artificial intelligence agents that can actively participate in physical interactions with dancers. When the grant ends in September 2024, the work will culminate in a live dance performance by AI with students and faculty from KSU’s Department of Dance.

“Friendship is really a win. Brian and his team needed access to students committed to dance majors, studio space, and the research process. I have these things, and I’m a bit of a techie, so it was really exciting for me to collaborate on this research,” said Knowlton, who wrote his master’s thesis on interactive wearable software and sensing. to experience the environment through dance.

According to Knowlton, working with the Georgia Tech researchers took her work in a new direction and further opened up the interaction between the disciplines of science and dance.

“It’s amazing how much we don’t understand about each other’s expertise,” Knowlton said. “We’re always complementing each other. It’s really raising the bar for research.”

With the scholarship, Knowlton formed his own research team, bringing in senior dance major Alexis Young as a research assistant. Young plans a career in physical therapy, using her dance experience as a model for movement, supported by the technology she collaborated on in this study.


“As a dancer, using artificial intelligence to look at movement patterns and the quality of patterns gives us new insights into the physiology and biomechanics of our bodies,” Young said. “The combination of dance and science offers limitless discoveries, and with today’s advanced technology, this combination can be explored in depth.”

Recently, Georgia Tech researchers traveled to Kennesaw State to electronically capture the movements of Knowlton’s improvisational dance class.

As the dancers lit up a small computer screen, the researchers measured and recorded each movement. At times, the dancers depicted themselves as trees, happily responding to their movements as they boiled down to colorful avatars.

“It’s research,” Hayes said. “It’s amazing to be a part of it.”

According to a Georgia Tech press release, the three-year project is expected to lay the groundwork for the development of other applications that could benefit from such improvisational capabilities, such as physical therapy, design brainstorming or future experiences with robots. home

– Dave Shelles
Photos by Darnell Wilburn

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the Georgia State University System with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global connections and entrepreneurial spirit attract students from across the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie Distinguished Doctoral Research Institution (R2), placing it in an elite group of only 7 percent of US colleges and universities with R1 or R2 status. Please visit for more information

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