The goal of dance as a performing art is to elicit an aesthetic experience within an audience. Therefore, what is perceived as beautiful movement is an important question for dance practitioners. This thesis examines Latin dance skill. To this end, four original research investigations were conducted.
First, a systematic review was performed. The purpose of this review was to explore literature concerning dance perception and its relation to the biomechanics of motion. The results suggested that audiences may be sensitive to skilful movements and neuromuscular coordination.
Two studies investigating skill level differences in a complex dance sequence, the ‘Alternate Basic’ in Cha-Cha-Cha, were then conducted. The first of these studies examined kinematics, while the second study examined kinetics. The combined results demonstrated that within a complex dance sequence groups with increased skill levels exhibited unfreezing of the kinematic degrees of freedom, accompanied by enhanced coordination and reactional elements. The results suggest that improvements to movement economy occurred early within skill acquisition, while at later stages, increased angular momentum was utilised, which may increase aesthetic value and/or have mechanical advantages. Overall, these findings provide support for Bernstein’s (1967) model of skill development.
The last study examined relations between a naïve audience’s judgements and dancers’ biomechanical and coordination variables in the same ‘Alternate Basic’ dance sequence. The results demonstrated that perceptual judgements could be reduced to one aesthetic value and that increased aesthetic value in Latin dance is linked to more skilful dancers exhibiting more motion in a manner that is coordinated and economical. Consistent with an evolutionary perspective, the findings suggested that a dancer’s aesthetic value is reflective of their skill, vigour, and neuromuscular function.