Roxey Ballet to Participate In Rutgers Autism Study

The study is being led by Professor Elizabeth B. Torres, PhD, Director of the Sensory Motor Integration Lab at Rutgers.

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Roxey Ballet is participating in an Autism research study with Rutgers University and the NJ Autism Center of Excellence, contributing data via movement and motion for their upcoming international conference, 'Rethinking Autism for the 21st Century'. The study is being led by Professor Elizabeth B. Torres, PhD, Director of the Sensory Motor Integration Lab at Rutgers and features a creative partnership with Mark Roxey, Artistic Director of Roxey Ballet, and his artists, with the purpose of learning more about the Autism spectrum from a multidisciplinary perspective, through the fields Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Seeking to create a connection between movement, motion, and a positive pathway for people living with Autism, the collaboration with Roxey Ballet involves placing sensors on the bodies of Roxey Ballet company dancers, allowing for their avatars to appear on the computer screen and display their movements in real time. New methods to infer the internal states of the dancers will be created as the readouts from their bodies in motion, heart rate variability, and bodily kinematics are displayed from across a grid of sensors that are distributed from head to toe. Analysis of the collected data will be made from the emotions felt as the dancers move together as a duet or singularly. As part of the collaborative process, the dancers will be wearing custom-made unitards to embed the sensors and streamline the setup and calibration process before rehearsals, allowing for a choice of sensors and avatars to be projected during the seminar. The ultimate goal of the study is to gain non-verbal data which will translate to personalized treatment for autistic individuals.

A core piece of Roxey Ballet's mission is to welcome and educate artists with disabilities, cultural diversity, and of varying genders, and promote equality for their greater fulfillment and experience. Says Mark Roxey, "I believe that the best way to learn how to serve all people is to be in action around what people need and how to best create extraordinary experiences through dance. Having this information and knowledge will allow us to propel our work forward and grow our footprint in serving all people. We are so very excited to discover what is unknown about our work."

The convergence of art and science in this study has formed new relationships in more ways than one. "Working with the Roxey Ballet has been a mind-blowing experience," says Dr. Torres. "The beauty and creativity of their choreographies surpass any expectations from our team. We envision working together to create a new form of digital gestural language for ballet, where the complex motion patterns of dancing partners and groups can be spelled out as symbols and combinations to express emotional and social constructs. Mark and the dancers will teach us their moves and we will turn them into continuous streams of digital data and information exchange to help us build a communication system. This non-verbal (gestural) communication system will then be used to lend a voice to neurodivergent people who also speak through the rhythms of their bodies in constant motion."

The NJACE conference, 'Rethinking Autism for the 21st Century', will be held on April 16 from 9-6 at Rutgers University, 70 College Ave, New Brunswick, NJ 08901. There will be a live-streamed performance by Roxey Ballet during the conference. To learn more register to attend visit

To learn more about the ongoing research project, obtain additional photos, or to conduct interviews, contact Roxey Ballet at, 6 7th Street, Frenchtown, NJ 08825, 609-397-7616. For tickets and info on Roxey Ballet's extensive Spring lineup, visit


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