Parsing jumping jacks

What could be common between Computational Linguistics and Aerobics? Quite a lot, as it turns out to be.

Dance descriptions, while not really in English do have a regular structure and can be thought of as a sub-language with full set of syntactic, semantic and pragmatic levels.

There are basic words of the language (move names), correct ways of putting them in a sentence (a routine) and all the way up to good flowing text (classes that do not hurt the participants).

I was thinking about relationship between dance instructions and computational linguistics in context of Scottish Country Dancing for at least a year. My imagined benefits were that codified dance instructions would allow for automatic dance animations, superior teacher aids and other applications that currently require a lot of sweat and toil. Dance evening programmes that are currently put together manually for each event, could be assisted with automated evaluation pointing out awkward sequences of dances.

Unfortunately, my attempts at explaining the connection made no sense to the people around me. So, I was ecstatic to discover that such a link was already discovered by others before me.

Adam Bull, more than 10 years ago, has tried to apply principles of computational linguistics to Aerobics for his MPhil degree in the paper entitled The formal description of aerobic dance exercise – a corpus-based computational linguistics approach. While, the report is not complete, it puts down many of the same arguments I have tried myself.

Unfortunately, the electronic copy of the document was not available. After some effort, I got in touch with Adam and he send me the copy of the report with the permission to distribute. I have put a copy of it on my own server.

I hope his research will get rediscovered and improved upon. That way when I get some time to apply my own PhD skills to Scottish Country Dancing, there will be more than one person on whose shoulders I would be able to stand.