What can Hand Movements Tell us about Audience Engagement?


Conventional seated audiences have relatively restricted opportunities for response. Perhaps the most salient is applause but they use their hands to make other visible movements: to fix hair, adjust glasses, scratch ears. The question we address here is whether these apparently incidental movements may provide systematic clues about an audience’s level of engagement with a performance. We investigate this in the context of contemporary dance performances by analysing audience hand movements in four performances at the London Contemporary Dance School. Hand movements were tracked using a reflective wristband worn by each audience member. A blob detection algorithm applied to the video recording examined whether changes in hand movement are associated with audience arousal levels to the performance. The results show that hands move least during the most preferred and most during the least preferred dance pieces. We conclude that still hands are a signal of higher levels of engagement.

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