We present a physics-based approach to synthesizing motion of a virtual character in a dynamically varying environment. Our approach views the motion of a responsive virtual character as a sequence of solutions to the constrained optimization problem formulated at every time step. This framework allows the programmer to specify active control strategies using intuitive kinematic goals, significantly reducing the engineering effort entailed in active body control. Our optimization framework can incorporate changes in the character’s surroundings through a synthetic visual sensory system and create significantly different motions in response to varying environmental stimuli. Our results show that our approach is general enough to encompass a wide variety of highly interactive motions.