Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Four More Martha Graham Works Will Be Notated! (Yes!!!)

Exciting news from the Dance Notation Bureau:

NEA Grant to Preserve Martha Graham's Signature Works Awarded to Dance Notation Bureau

The Dance Notation Bureau (DNB) has been awarded a 2007 Save America's Treasures grant by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to record and preserve four of Martha Graham's signature works. The $94,993 award will be used over the next two years towards notating works including Appalachian Spring and Primitive Mysteries, in Labanotation, a symbol for recording dance.

"For years, it has been our goal to preserve the works of one of the greatest choreographers of all time," said Lynne Weber, Executive Director. "With the NEA grant we will now be able to ensure that four of Martha Graham's greatest works will be preserved forever with all the details and nuances of her artistry." Ms. Weber also noted that this award completes the funding goal for the project, which was initiated with an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant.

The DNB was one of 31 grantees selected from 340 eligible applicant organizations nationwide in the competitive Save America's Treasures Grant Program. Dana Gioia, Chairman of the NEA said, "The NEA is pleased to join our partner agencies in congratulating these awardees whose work helps preserve our national's artistic and cultural heritage. Save America's Treasures grants not only protect the irreplaceable, but also allow us to build our future by preserving our past."

Save America's Treasures guidelines state, "Grants are available for preservation and/or conservation work on nationally significant intellectual and cultural artifacts and historic structures and sites." The Save American's Treasures award announcement can be found at

Contact: Nancy Allison, Director of Programs, 212/564-0985, email

How to Study Labanotation -- and Why

Did you know that the Dance Notation Bureau offers correspondence courses in elementary and intermediate Labanotation?

It does.

And did you know that many college students arrange to take the DNB correspondence courses for college credit?

They do.

And did you know that many of those students don't intend to become notators but nevertheless believe that the ability to read Labanotation is a valuable skill?

It's true.

Learning Labanotation can open a world of dance repertory, history, and research. The ability to stage historic dance repertory from Labanotation score can give dancers an edge over other applicants in the tough dance job market. Furthermore, many universities allow Labanotation to satisfy the foreign language requirement!

Click here to learn more.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"Deception" (another really fine hour of radio from Radiolab)

As I've mentioned before, I am a passionate fan of WNYC's Radiolab. I once recommended the "Where Am I?" episode, which included a segment about a man who lost the ability to sense the location of his body parts.

May I now recommend "Deception," another episode that might interest those interested in dance notation. The "Catching Liars" segment of "Deception" includes an interview with Paul Ekman, a psychologist (a very influential one, to boot) who devised the Facial Action Coding System (FACS), a "muscular scoring system" for describing facial behaviors and expressions.

A bit more, from the FACS website:

A FACS coder "dissects" an observed expression, decomposing it into the specific AUs that produced the movement. The scores for a facial expression consist of the list of AUs that produced it. Duration, intensity, and asymmetry can also be recorded.
Not entirely unlike a notator's work!

Anyway, Radiolab presents all of this in a really fascinating way. The rest of the episode's segments have nothing to do with notation, but if you have a few free minutes they too are well worth listening to.

(If you prefer reading to listening, here's a summary of a New Yorker article about Paul Ekman's work.)

Stagings Past and Future

Here are some stagings from past months, as well as two stagings for future months. Even though most of these performances are over, I think it's worthwhile to list them all, to see which choreographers and choreographies people are interested in:

  • February 18: Repertory Dance Theatre of Salt Lake City, UT performed "Chair Pillow Dance" and "Couples" from Yvonne Rainer's Continuous Project - Altered Daily. The performance was staged by Lisa Moran.

  • Also on February 18, 2008: Repertory Dance Theatre of Salt Lake City danced Negro Spirituals, choreographed by Helen Tamiris.

  • March 5-9: the University of Oklahoma School of Dance danced Jean Erdman's Daughters of the Lonesome Isle. Read a bit more about the production, which was coached by DNB Director of Programs Nancy Allison.

  • March 6-9: Utah Valley State College performed Helen Tamiris' Dance for Walt Whitman, which was staged by Linda C. Smith. (More about the performance here.)

  • March 7-9: the University of New Mexico performed Hanya Holm's Rota. Donald Redlich served as artistic coach. Here's an article about it.

  • March 8: ARKE (a dance company in Turin, Italy) performed Doris Humphrey's Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor. Leslie Mains was the stager.

  • March 22: the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at ABT performed Antony Tudor's Little Improvisations, staged by Amanda McKerrow (a little bit about her here).

  • April 3: In Bern, Switzerland, Hermesdance will perform Anna Sokolow's Steps of Silence. The piece will be staged by Karin Hermes.

  • May 8: The Dance Center of Columbia College will present Doris Humphrey's The Shakers, staged by Gail Corbin.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Great Quotes about Notation, Part 7

So many posts in my head, so little time to post them!

Soon, I hope to write bits about open source dance, notation for facial expressions, and more. Until then, a great quote about notation to tide you over. This time, it's from Laura Dean:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Profile of Billie Mahoney

The Kansas City newspaper Pitch recently ran an in-depth profile of dancer and notator Billie Mahoney:

The article is long, but I read every last word, and I bet you'll want to as well. Lots of colorful stories from long ago and not-so-long ago. Also, the article includes numerous photos of Billie -- click them to see larger versions.

The article made me wonder if there any videos of Billie on YouTube. And indeed there are! Here's one that overlays two performances of the same phrase to show how precise her tapping is:

Monday, March 3, 2008

Grace in Gridlock?

This isn't about notation, but it is about quality of movement, and it's too good not to post:

Romanian traffic police are receiving ballet instruction. The hope is that ballet lessons will help them direct traffic with greater grace and clarity -- which might in turn delight drivers and prevent road rage.

Here's an article from the Guardian.

Here's a video from the BBC.

And here's some CNN video of a dancing traffic cop from Providence, RI. (I'm not sure if his moves are always unambiguous, but they are very entertaining.)

Who would've thunk?!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Another Way to Subscribe to DNBlog

If you want to subscribe to the DNBlog by email instead of through an RSS reader, you now can! In the right-hand column on, there's a "Subscribe to DNBlog by Email" link. Or subscribe by email right now using this link.

(FeedBurner, you're my new love.)

Museum Exhibition: plane

Do you live in or near Chicago? If so, here's something you might want to go see. (And if not, you can delight with me from a distance that Labanotation is being featured in a museum!)

Until April 27, the Loyola University Museum of Art is displaying an exhibition called "…point…to line…to plane: Labanotation and Antony Tudor’s The Leaves are Fading." From the museum's description of the exhibition:

Dance notation as a type of schematic drawing is the subject of this exhibition. Using Airi Hynninen’s notation of the dance work The Leaves Are Fading by celebrated choreographer Antony Tudor (1908-1987), the system of Labanotation records a choreographer’s work for posterity. Segments from The Leaves Are Fading, Gelsey’s Song, and an ensemble piece illustrate how a fleeting performance can be captured. Tudor’s piece premiered in 1975 and was created in conjunction with the music of Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904).
For more information about this and other exhibitions at Loyola, see:

Back in Print: Labanotation for Beginners

Back from out-of-print obscurity: Labanotation for Beginners by Ann Kipling Brown.

Originally part of a larger book that is now out of print, Labanotation for Beginners has been revived and is being published on its own. It presents Labanotation "in a sequence of clear, graded lessons, illustrated with numerous examples and supplemented with practical exercises in reading and writing, with each section of the text presenting logical progressions of exploring and recording movement."

Sounds like a good companion to Elementary Labanotation: A Study Guide, the textbook for the DNB's elementary Labanotation course. The price of Labanotation for Beginners is £10, which as of today equals $19.86. (The ever-falling dollar, sigh.)

Here's more info: