Thursday, December 13, 2007

(Recently Unearthed) Great Quote about Notation

Here's a quote you haven't seen on the Dance Notation Bureau website. It's an excerpt from the last will and testament of Antony Tudor. It's in legalese and thus is not the most colorful quote in my little Great Quotes series, but what it says -- stipulating DNB involvement in stagings -- now that's a Great Quote with oomph!

". . . I request my Trustee, in order to insure the integrity of my ballets in performance, to require as a condition of any agreement entered into or permission given for performance of any of my ballets that the performance be based on the best available record of the ballet and, specifically, if the ballet has been notated by the DNB or by the Institute of Choreology, that the Bureau or the Institute be consulted and the performance based upon its notation."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Great Quotes about Notation, Part 5

It feels like time to trot out another testimonial. Here's Antony Tudor on the Dance Notation Bureau:

Sorry, Folks!

Apologies for temporarily posting a mangled message. It's fixed now, but those of you reading this via RSS readers probably have a posting that makes no sense. There was a four-car accident right outside my window, and at the moment of impact I accidentally clicked "Publish Post." Oops!

New Theory Bulletin Board Posting

A new posting has been added to the DNB Theory Bulletin Board. To read the newest posting, which discusses inclusion bows, thumb facings, cartwheel signs, and touching leg gestures, follow the link above and click “Minutes for the Open Theory Meetings Thread” or follow this link.

As always, feel free to add to the discussions or to initiate a new topic. Instructions for submitting postings can be found on the Bulletin Board.

Great News for Dance Companies: Dunham Dances Available for Staging!

Barrelhouse Blues and Choros I, choreographed by Katherine Dunham, are now available to be staged from Labanotation score. Cleo Parker Robinson will serve as the mandated artistic coach for all productions of these American modern dance masterworks. The scores, created by notator Sandra Aberkalns, are now available for educational and research use. For more information about staging please contact nancyallison [at]

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Heretofore Rare Occurrence: Advanced Labanotation in NYC!

Start Thinking About Summer Now!

The DNB is currently formalizing plans for a three-week course in Advanced Labanotation from July 28 through August 15, 2008 in New York City. The course, taught by two Certified Labanotators will focus specifically on developing writing skills and is a pre-requisite for Certified Notator Training. Classes will be held at the DNB offices and in a nearby dance studio — with field trips to dance classes and rehearsals throughout the city. Registration is limited. For more information, or if you would like to reserve a place in this rarely offered course, please contact nancyallison [at]

Thursday, December 6, 2007

"The Dance Notation Bureau began life in an abandoned elevator shaft"

Did you know that the Dance Notation Bureau's first office was an abandoned elevator shaft?! That the Dance Notation Bureau was the idea of legendary New York Times dance critic John Martin?!?! That Ann Hutchinson Guest directed the DNB without pay for 20 years?!?!?!

Yep. True. True. True. It's all in the new DNBulletin, which has a cover story about Ann Hutchinson Guest and her jaw-dropping accomplishments.

Click here for the PDF of the new DNBulletin. (Of course, if you're a DNB member, you'll get one in the mail too!)

(And for more DNB history, visit the About the DNB page and click "DNB History.")

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Yet Another Holiday Idea: Seven Statements of Survival

Dance and Movement Press recently published Seven Statements of Survival: Conversations with Dance Professionals, edited and with an introduction by Renata Celichowska. The hardcover is very reasonable at $24.95, and the paperback is a great deal at $12.95. The book consists of seven interviews with dance professionals, including dance writer Deborah Jowitt, dancers/choreographers Carolyn Carlson and Garth Fagan, dance administrator Andrea Snyder, dance anthropologist JoAnn Keali'inohomoku, dance educator Bill Evans, and dance librarian Madeleine Nichols.

(Personal aside: A former dance librarian myself, I'm delighted to learn that the book features a dance librarian. I remember my first meeting with my advisor in library school: I said I wanted to be a dance librarian, and she looked at me like I was delusional. Once I became a dance librarian, I always wanted to go back and say, "I told you so!")

Below is some praise for Seven Statements of Survival:

"This is a fascinating collection of life lessons that will inspire anyone contemplating a career in dance. The passion and wisdom of these seven outstanding individuals exert a strong cumulative effect on the reader."

-- Norton Owen
Director of Preservation, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival

"Seven Statements of Survival is unique and inspiring in its honesty and real-life specificity. It spans the large universe of dance and pinpoints the many unforeseen places where passion and practicality overlap. I recommend it to anyone contemplating a future in dance or those already immersed in the field."

-- Sharon Gersten Luckman
Executive Director, Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation

"Seven Statements of Survival successfully challenges the stereotype of the ‘one-size-fits-all’ path to career success in dance. In this outstanding book, seven very different but equally legendary professionals share with us the ways in which they created and continue to shape a dance life worth living. This book will inspire students, professionals and those in the audience alike."

-- Anne L. Wennerstrand, MS, DTR, LCSW
Author of Advice for Grown Up Dancers

Seven Statements of Survival (and all other Dance and Movement Press books) can be bought at As mentioned a few days ago, Dance and Movement Press's mother company, Rosen Publishing, will donate to the Dance Notation Bureau 10% of the price of all purchases made through the above link. (This offer extends into 2008.)

Another Holiday Idea: Note-8-Cards

Bet you didn't know there's a way to sneak dance notation into your holiday greetings. But there is! The DNB sells Note-8-Cards, note cards with clever notation-themed designs. There are 17 all-purpose Note-8-Cards and 12 holiday Note-8-Cards, and you can buy them in any combination you like. See for details.

Personally, my favorite holiday cards are Deck the Staff, Tree of Laban, and Snowtation Man (thumbnails below):

And my favorite all-purpose cards are Pablova (Pablo Picasso + Anna Pavlova + notation), Cow Jumped (check out her spots!), and Connect the Dots (OK, I admit it, I like that one because I made it...):

But that's just me. Find your favorites at

Monday, December 3, 2007

Call for Papers: Mapping the Body: Methodologies for Reconstructing Lost and Disappearing Dance

A enticing call for papers for the Theater Library Association Plenary at the 2008 American Society for Theater Research conference:

Call for Papers

Mapping the Body:
Methodologies for Reconstructing Lost and Disappearing Dance
Deadline: March 15, 2008

America, founder of modern dance, is beginning to lose its senior generation of choreographers and practitioners. While a number of leading companies have built impressive archives and now videotape performances in order to preserve them, dances are still passed along as they have been for thousands of years: generation to generation, body to body.

Labanotation was developed as a standardized system to “map” physical movements and the path of the body in space. Videotape, a vulnerable format, has successfully captured dance performances for over three decades - in a two-dimensional medium. Print documents are still critical: reviews, photographs, choreographer’s notes. Others insist that the most effective way is to have the original choreographer - or a trusted company member - set the dance on a new company.

Clearly, a successful reconstruction must be a composite of all these necessary elements. Has the development of sophisticated digital technologies provided new procedures - and perhaps pitfalls - for the documentation of live motion? How do research libraries and archives support this process - and how might they frustrate it? We’re interested in a fresh assessment of contemporary best practices and challenges facing this tenuous field of dance reconstruction.

Further, we welcome testimony of international efforts to document and preserve the movement heritage of vulnerable and vanishing cultures: First Peoples, Cambodian traditional dance decimated by the Khymer Rouge, societies threatened by genocide or ethnic cleansing.

Please submit proposals to:

Susan Brady, Chair
TLA Plenary Committee
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Yale University
P.O. Box 208240
New Haven
Connecticut 06520-8240
203/432-9033 (FAX)
susan.brady [at]

Sunday, December 2, 2007

José Limón and the Post Office

Here's a great idea from the José Limón Dance Foundation: let's convince the U.S. Postal Service to issue a José Limón commemorative stamp. There have been stamps for George Balanchine, Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, Agnes de Mille (and perhaps others?) . . . and José Limón belongs among them! Now's definitely the time to petition the U.S.P.S., as January 12, 2008 would be Limón's 100th birthday (he died in 1972).

If you too would like to see a Limón stamp, send a note to the U.S.P.S. encouraging it to create a commemorative stamp in honor of Limón's 100th birthday. Here's a sample letter provided by the José Limón Dance Foundation:

Jacqueline Padron
United States Postal Service
475 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Rm. 3821
Washington, DC 20260-3821

Dear Ms. Padron:

On January 12, 2008 José Limón, one of the American founders of modern dance, turns 100 years old. The Limón Dance Company, is the living legacy of the movement technique and philosophy of theater developed by José and his mentors, Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman, whose innovative works have been recognized as great masterworks of American dance.

In recognition of his achievements, I request that the United States Postal Service issue a commemorative stamp in José's honor.

Thank you for considering my request.

[Your name and address here.]

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Holiday Gift Idea for Dancers

Here's a great way to do some holiday shopping and support the Dance Notation Bureau! Shop for books from Dance & Movement Press, a small imprint that publishes materials for dancers, students of dance, and interested lay readers.

...and here's how it helps the Dance Notation Bureau:

D & M Press's distributor, Rosen Publishing, will donate to the DNB 10% of the price of ALL purchases made through this link:!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Fascinating Interview with Notator Ray Cook

DNB Board Member Oona Haaranen recently interviewed Ray Cook about his career in notation. The transcript of the interview is on the DNB site, but I thought I'd highlight two notable bits.

Asked how he got interested in notation, Ray replied:

In 1958 when an Australian dancer, Meg Abby on returning from studying notation in NYC, gave a lecture at Victoria's Ballet Guild where I was taking ballet classes. When asked if she could notate something she obliged by notating the position of a man sitting crossed legged and smoking. Immediately I was hooked and started classes the next day.
(I know many people who were totally fascinated and energized by their first glimpse of notation, but nobody else who started studying it the very next day!)

And asked about his process, Ray said (in part):
I notate supports first with a few easy to capture movements, then the floor plans with dancer's counts. I notate small phrases not knowing exactly how they are going to fit to the music. Except for a few notes I seldom worry about exact timing during rehearsals. I have found that with experience you know what not put in the score.
(I don't know as much about notation as I'd like to, and I wonder: do notators tend to notate the same kinds of things first? Or is the first thing recorded very individual?)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Great Quotes about Notation, Part 4

As some of you may have realized, the quotes in the "Great Quotes about Notation" series I'm running are also on the DNB's website. But they appear there randomly, and it's probably safe to assume that only the biggest DNB devotees among you have seen them all. And so I'm posting them here too. So, part 4, from Anna Sokolow:

Friday, November 9, 2007

Speaking of Languages...

If you can read French, you should check out Notation du Mouvement, a fantastic French site about dance notation that gives equal time (sort of like TV networks and presidential candidates!) to Labanotation and Benesh Notation.

Lire, écrire, analyser et penser le mouvement!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Stagings This November

Later this month, several stagings will be performed. If you're in Atlanta or Paris, go!

  • November 15, 2007 - Paris, France: Noëlle Simonet is staging six dances for her Compagnie Labkine, which will perform at The Centre National de la Danse, in Paris, France. The dances are Charles Weidman’s Traditions, Valerie Bettis’ The Desperate Heart and three solos from Helen Tamiris’ Negro Spirituals.

  • November 15, 2007 - Paris, France: The Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris is performing Charles Weidman’s Lynchtown from Atavisms. The stager is Jean-Marc Piquemal.

  • November 30, 2007 - Atlanta, GA: Agnes Scott College is performing Helen Tamiris’ Negro Spirituals in Atlanta, GA. Bridget Roosa is the stager for this production.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Dance, Dance Notation, and Language

The recent obituary of Igor Moiseyev in the New York Times included something he once said about classical ballet: that it's “the grammar of movement.” I'm sure a lot of smart and thoughtful people have a lot to say about whether or not ballet is the grammar of movement...but me, I didn't spend much time thinking about that particular issue. Rather, I started thinking about one of the most fascinating threads on the DNB's Theory Bulletin Board: Labanotation as a Language.

The thread is a little old (2001), but it's in no way dated. In it, well over a dozen people mull over questions such as: Is Labanotation a language? Or is it just a script, with dance being the language? Is Labanotation more like a programming language or a human language? Should it satisfy a university's foreign language requirement? Or is "foreign" indeed a crucial part of such language requirements?

I can't remember the fine points. I'm going to go read it again now.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Great Quotes about Notation, Part 3

Another choreographer, another great quote. Here's Bill T. Jones on the Dance Notation Bureau:

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How "Dance for Walt Whitman" Got Notated

Recently we were given the score of "Dance for Walt Whitman" by Helen Tamiris. Here is the story. While sorting through boxes that were donated to the University of Utah library; Linda Smith, Artistic Director, Repertory Dance Theater (RDT), Salt Lake City discovered a deteriorating reel-to-reel film of Dance for Walt Whitman, which was staged by Helen Tamiris in 1961. Smith decided to recreate the dance for RDT at Brigham Young University. Daniel Nagrin, who assisted Tamiris when she created the work, provided additional coaching and historical perspective. K. Wright Dunkley was brought in to document the work in Labanotation.

The choreography is eighteen minutes long and uses fourteen female and nine male dancers. A narrator reads excerpts from Walt Whitman's poem "Leaves of Grass" in different sections of the piece. The words used in the poem are comparable to the dance itself -- they both truly speak to and reflect the American spirit. The connection between the dance and the poem was so profound that the Utah Desert News reported, "In fact as the dancing flowed fluidly across the stage tears streamed down some faces in the audience."

We contacted K. Dunkley and found him retired and well in Hooper, Utah living near his family. He was one of our first notators, hired by the DNB in the early 70's. During the time of his employment he happened to attend a Charles Weidman rehearsal to watch a friend, Janet Towner. When he was introduced as a notator, Mr. Weidman said, "Why aren't you notating my dances???" K. reported this to Muriel (Mickey) Topaz, then director of the DNB, who immediately assigned him to the task, and as a result we have, Traditions (1935), Flickers (1942), Dance of the Streets (1960), Christmas Oratorio: Quartet and Finale (1961), and Brahms Waltzes (1967).

Subsequently K. spent 20 years teaching at the New York State University at Potsdam where, as Chair of the Department of Dance, he developed a unique major with Labanotation as the core of the curriculum.

More recently he has notated other works: Hanya Holm's "Homage to Mahler," Phyllis Haskell's "In Passing," and the Tamiris work.

As he recounts in the introduction to "Dance for Walt Whitman," Allan Miles' DNB class of apprentice notators (Judith Bissell, Odette Blum, Diana Rosenberg, and Barbara Walden) helped coordinate the timing of the music and the movement. The class had recorded the Opening Section, three phrases from the Boys' Dance and themes from the work while it was being taught at the High School of Performing Arts in New York City in 1964. K. says he used their timing of the movement in relation to the music to confirm what was unclear in the synchronization between sound and picture in the Tamiris record film they were using for the revival.

There are many scores like "Dance for Walt Whitman," that are not produced by the DNB. We are pleased to see that dance companies and organizations are taking the initiative to record historical and significant works in Labanotation. These scores, however, are inaccessible and unknown to the general public. Please send us information of any such scores so that we can try to acquire a copy for the DNB Library.

Score of "Dance for Walt Whitman"
Choreographed by Helen Tamiris (1958)
Notated by K. Wright Dunkley (1992)
Music by David Diamond, Round for Strings
Donated by Repertory Dance Theatre, UT (2005)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Speaking of the Theory Bulletin Board...

A new posting has been added to the DNB Theory Bulletin Board. See the “Minutes for the Open Theory Meetings Thread” to read the newest posting (about XML and sizes of paths) and to catch up on past open theory meetings (which covered all sorts of interesting things, including Graham contractions, African dance, stepping signs, altitudes, and more).

To search for other postings, use the Site Search & Site Map, located in the bottom of the left side menu bar.

Feel free to add to the discussions or to initiate a new topic. Instructions for submitting postings can be found on the Bulletin Board.

Did You Know About...The Theory Bulletin Board

Did you know that there's a dynamic discussion taking place on the Dance Notation Bureau's website? The Theory Bulletin Board is a forum for exchanging ideas about Labanotation (both Structured Description and Motif Description -- see for information about both). Everyone interested in Labanotation is welcome to participate. Discussions on the Bulletin Board can contain symbols as well as written commentary. You are welcome to respond to a topic that has already been posted or to submit ideas on a new topic.

Visit the Theory Bulletin board at


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Great Quotes about Notation, Part 2

Here's another glowing line about notation, this time from Paul Taylor:

Great Quotes about Notation, Part 1

Many choreographers find Labanotation and the Dance Notation Bureau to be immensely valuable resources. Here's a great line from George Balanchine on the topic!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Martha Graham's Works in the DNB Library

In 2002 a court decision was made in regard to the choreographic works of Martha Graham. The Martha Graham Center received the rights to 45 Graham choreographic works, former artistic director Ron Protas received the rights to Seraphic Dialogue (1955) and 10 works are now listed in public domain.

The DNB Library houses scores of eight Graham works (Steps in the Street and Diversion of Angels are complete scores, the rest are works in progress):

  • *Steps in the Street (1936) taught by Joyce Herring (2003) based on a revival by Yuriko [Kikuchi] and Graham in 1987, notated by Ray Cook, 2006.
  • American Document (1938) notated by Helen Priest Rogers, 1940's.
  • El Penitente (1940) notated by Muriel Topaz, 1973.
  • *Appalachian Spring (1944) revived by Carol Freed, notated by Christine Clark, 1972.
  • Dark Meadow (1946) revived by Helen McGehee, notated by Susie Watts Margolin, 1964.
  • Diversion of Angels (1948) notated by Muriel Topaz, 1967-1971.
  • Diversion of Angels (1948) revived by Nathan Montoya and Takako Asakawa, notated by Leslie Rotman, 1996.
  • Seraphic Dialogue (1955) as taught by Ethel Winter, notated by Julie French, 1965.
* Dances in public domain

Read more in Library News from the Dance Notation Bureau...

Brenda Farnell and the Laban Script in Anthropology Studies

When people think of Labanotation, it is commonly in relation to preserving/recording dance movements and choreography. It is interesting to note that a group of anthropologists are using Labanotation for other kinds of movement such as rituals, ceremonial action and sign languages. They call this the Laban script to emphasize Labanotation’s formal properties as a true writing system that is comparable to any “alphabetic” script. In one case, Brenda Farnell has adapted the system to notate non-vocal (action) signs in the storytelling performances of Nakota people, an indigenous nation of North America.

Read the rest of this article in Library News from the Dance Notation Bureau...

New Catalog: Notated Theatrical Dances 2008

The 2008 Edition of Notated Theatrical Dances is now available! Newly acquired scores since 2005 have been added. New features are the listing of the permission status of scores for educational, research and performance use, and the royalty and licensing fees if a work is to be staged. The catalog is now available for searching or downloading on the DNB website, or you may order a printed copy for $15 plus postage and handling by phone (212/564-0985) or email (library [at]