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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Dux Motus

Dux Motus

Dux Motus, latin/ Movement Guide

“what would happen if you were able to visualize and interact with a three-dimensional dance score within an immersive environment?”

Dux Motus? is a movement exploration tool for VR provoking non-habitual actions in users from a wide range of backgrounds through an immersive and interactive dance score. Within the virtual environment, users interact with 3D objects that act as stimuli, prompting and encouraging them to utilise their intuition and interpretation to generate performative movement.


The tool’s framework is constructed using the principles of dance scores, dance notation, and structured improvisation, building on theories of Rudolf von Laban, Motif Writing, and William Forsythe to create a novel 3D notation system that is interactive and easy to grasp.

Example of a Labanotation Score. It uses abstract symbols on a vertical stave that identifies parts of the body, allowing the dancer to recreate the movement notated.

Motif Writing Alphabet consists of symbols that suggest movement concepts

An example of a Motif Writing score



Presented with a structured sequence of interactive objects, the experience provides users with improvisational parameters in which they can visualise and interpret somatic cues in real-time, as opposed to performing a previously learnt sequence of movement. The system is comprised of ‘notational’ objects that provide movement, behavioral, and qualitative information in order to connect one’s physicality with integral performance components – feeling, emotion, intention, sensation – in addition to affective feedback from the VR environment.

Interacting with an object in the virtual environment


Dux Motus aims to create opportunity for discovery and afford new ways of thinking in movement to people, regardless of previous experience of dance training. In providing an immersive space for sensory-kinetic and somatic exploration, it fosters an environment in which individuals can freely express movement that is authentic to them.

Interacting with object “Fuzzy Arc”

Interacting with object “Bubbles”

Interacting with object “Fog”





















Immersive environments provide the opportunity for dancers to see and physically engage with a score that guides their improvisation. Virtual reality allows dancers to respond without anticipation to prescriptive scores by generating real-time interaction with virtual objects. Visuals created in VR have the capability to connect with the mind while providing an intrinsically somatic experience for the user. The notion of imagery guiding improvisation, previously exclusive to the mind of the dancer, being visible within an immersive environment led my design process.


The design of the VR environment is rooted deeply in research and theory. While its design will continue to develop, certain fundamental aspects will remain. By creating a simple and clean VR environment, the users can focus on the notational objects as their primary source of movement information. However, the environment is designed to add additional feedback by transforming physical elements and providing affective information via changes in atmospheric conditions. Additionally, the VR environment will be designed with reference points to orient the dancer within the virtual space and ground them while moving.

The Arena – A simple but thought-out VR environment is critical for this tool


Both the VR environment and the user’s physical environment have great impact on their movement. Sensory information is taken from both environments, transforming the outcome and giving each user a unique experience. This tool draws upon both architecture and dance as critical components in its design, for spaces we inhabit alter our experiences. It is worth noting William Forsythe’s improvisation technique, Room Writing, where the dancer is asked to draw upon architectural and physical elements of a room and translate them into movement. By creating a tool where both the environment and score are unique and unpredictable, the performative outcome will always differ.

This tool uses the Oculus Quest VR headset and hand-tracking to provide a guide for improvisation. The user enters the VR space and is prompted by a notational object. Objects vary in shape and behaviour, but all provide both movement and qualitative information. Two types of objects guide the user through the score: Incoming objects, which approach the user, and Gravitating objects, which beckon the user. The objects can respond to a user’s interactions, thus providing more movement feedback. The score is designed so that the user is only interacting with one object at a time, allowing for flow of movement, while encouraging intuitive non-habitual movement responses. The notation objects also provide affective information through sound. There is no “correct” way to interact with an object, and completely up to the user to explore all options.

Project developed in Unity





View within VR headset of visible hand-tracking

What’s Next?

The design of this project is still in progress. This iteration stands as a foundation for my future design of both the environment and the notation objects. This project will continue to be developed in Unity, and will be tested on various users to enhance its value as an improvisational tool and experience.


Katan-Schmid, E. (2017). Dancing Metaphors; Creative Thinking within Bodily Movements. Proceedings of the European Society for Aesthetics, [online] 9, pp.275–290. Available at:

Katan-Schmid, E. (2019). Improvisieren Playing with Virtual Realities. A Practice based- Research Experiment in Dancing with Technology. Experimentieren, [online] pp.93–106. Available at:

Katan-Schmid, E. (2020). Playing with Virtual Realities: Navigating Immersion within Diverse Environments (Artist-Led Perspective). Body, Space & Technology, 19(1), p.224.

Kleida, D. (2018). On the Technological Conditions of the Representation of Movement: Dance Notation Systems & Annotation Practices as Gestures. [Research Master Thesis] pp.1–77. Available at:

Millard, O. (2016). What’s the score? Using scores in dance improvisation. [online] Ausdance. Available at:

Watts, V. (2010). Dancing the Score: Dance Notation and Différance. Dance Research, 28(1), pp.7–18.

Watts, V. (2014). The Perpetual “Present” of Dance Notation. Ekphrasis, [online] 12(2), pp.180–199. Available at: