The Study of Folk Dance Traditions

The study of folk dance traditions: connecting ethnography and computational analysis.

Example picture from field recordings in Crete, Greece. The picture shows a folk dance group (Aetoyannis) performing at a music festivity

This project investigates what melodic, rhythmic and formal structures are characteristic for traditional dance tunes, and what functions do these structures serve in the interaction between musicians and dancers. We incorporate computational analysis of the acoustic object - the dance tune, and of the visual object - the movements of dancers and musicians while performing. Considered in isolation from the context in which folk dance is performed, one may ask what the characteristic traits of tunes and movements are. For instance, which melodic phrases occur, which are the tempo ranges, which are the modes and scales, which are the steps of the dance, in how far do they vary between the performers, and how do musicians and dancers coordinate their movements.

However, such pure sound and movement analysis leaves out the creative and interpretative factors that are brought in by the musicians, the dancers, and the audiences. It ignores the ways in which the features of a society reveal themselves in the organized sound of the tunes and the organized movements of the dance. These aspects can only understood by observing performers, by interviewing them, by participating in performances, and by connecting these insights with the computational analysis of movement and sound.

We focus our research on the folk dance traditions of Sweden and of the island of Crete in Greece. Until now, a dissertation was produced that focused on the sound aspects of Cretan dance tunes. We conducted first motion capture studies in the context of Swedish folk dance, to extend this analysis to human movement. The next step is the combined application of sound and movement analysis of both Swedish and Cretan folk dance, with the goal to reveal commonalities and differences between the two folk dance traditions. In order to interpret these observations, we will use ethnographic and artistic research approaches, with the final goal to answer the question: Why do we dance differently?



KTH MID Faculty Funding

Duration of the project: 2016 - 2020

Related Projects


A. Holzapfel, "A case study of ethnography and computational analysis as complementary tools for analyzing dance tunes," i International Conference on Analytical Approaches to World Music (AAWM)2018, 2018.
O. Misgeld, A. Holzapfel och S. Ahlbäck, "Dancing Dots - Investigating the Link between Dancer and Musician in Swedish Folk Dance," i Sound & Music Computing Conference, 2019.
A. Holzapfel, "Die ersten Schritte: Interviews mit kretischen Tanzlehrern," i Music on Crete : Traditions of a Mediterranean island, Michael Hagleitner and Andre Holzapfel red., Vienna : Institut fuer Musikwissenschaft, Universität Wien, 2017, s. 303-330.
"Music on Crete : Traditions of a Mediterranean Island," Vienna, Institut fuer Musikwissenschaft, Universität Wien, Vienna Series in Ethnomusicology, 5, 2017.
A. Holzapfel, "Rhythmic and melodic aspects of Cretan Leaping dances," i Music on Crete : Traditions of a Mediterranean island, Michael Hagleitner and Andre Holzapfel red., Vienna : Institut fuer Musikwissenschaft, Universität Wien, 2017, s. 281-302.
O. Misgeld och A. Holzapfel, "Towards the study of embodied meter in Swedish folk dance," i Folk Music Analysis Workshop, 2018.