Whole-body kinematics and coordination in a complex dance sequence: Differences across skill levels

Michael Chang, Nicholas O'Dwyer, Roger Adams, Stephen Cobley, Kwee Yum Lee, Mark Halaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


This study examined differences across skill levels in the kinematics of a complex, whole-body, asymmetrical, cyclical dance sequence, the ‘Alternate Basic’ in Cha-Cha-Cha, to determine whether observed differences were consistent with Bernstein's (1967) model of development of coordination. Bernstein proposed that with novel motor skills, beginners move their bodies rigidly and spastically, freezing kinematic degrees of freedom (DOF) to constrain the motor system. As the skill becomes practised, the DOF unfreeze and movements become more dynamic, allowing the integration of reactional elements (passive forces, moments, etc.) and organisation of more complex coordinative structures. Twenty-nine dancers - beginners (n = 10), intermediates (n = 10), experts (n = 9) - performed 12 cycles of the dance sequence (total duration ~60 s). Three-dimensional kinematic data from 36 joint angles were collected using a 14-camera infrared motion capture system. Most joints displayed increased amplitude and speed of movement, especially early in skill progression (beginner-intermediate stage), with no evidence of any decreases, showing that unfreezing occurred around the general movement pattern early. Speed of movement continued to increase later (intermediate-expert stage), as well as further unfreezing of the upper limbs. Changes to intra-limb couplings were limited, comprising some early reductions in coupling strength. Principal component analyses (PCA) showed that the structure of movement became more organised with increased skill. There was an early reduction in the number of coordinative structures, while later, movement was integrated more into the first coordinative structure. As predicted by Bernstein's coordination development model, therefore, the kinematic DOF unfroze as skill level progressed, leading to increased organisation of coordinative structures. The results of this study support the importance of a whole-body perspective in studies of coordination, with incorporation of kinetic variables in future research in order to examine the role that reactional elements play in motor skill development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102564
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Movement Science
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


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