Artistic dance differs from culture to culture with regards to the formal movement repertoire used for expression and depiction. Thus far, the perception of such different dance forms has rarely been investigated. We experimentally analysed the hand movement of participants, which they executed during verbal description of their thoughts and feelings resulting from watching dance, to have insights into their dance appreciation.

Each of 30 German and Korean participants described their impression from two dance forms, each one of the ballet Giselle and Korean dance Sung-Mu, which differ in costume and dance movement. The videos of describing participants were coded by use of the well-proven NEUROGES® system, a reliable behavioural analysis tool for body movements.

The ANOVA analysis revealed that the participants executed significantly more conceptual hand movements, such as repetitive and phasic gestures, for Sung-Mu than for Giselle. Concerning the function of the gesture, the participants performed significantly more pointing (deictic), pantomime, and spatial relation presenting gestures for Sung-Mu compared to Giselle. We assume that the participants deployed more gestures to express their appreciation of Sung-Mu compared to Giselle because they might have difficulties articulating their impression of Sung-Mu adequately. With regards to the empirical methodology, we conclude that the analysis of hand movements, including gestures, can provide valuable insights into the cognitive process of dance that is a spatial topic.