>DNB NEWS ARCHIVES
Reconstructing Soiree Musicale from Labanotation Score
In March 2010, New York Theatre Ballet began a project with the Dance Notation Bureau in which Antony Tudor's Soiree Musicale was reconstructed from Labanotation. This 8 minute documentary highlights the experiences of the dancers and discusses the reconstruction process.
We are pleased to announce that our archive at the Dance Notation Bureau is featured in Time Out New York, Dance section, written by Jessica Leigh Hester on August 7, 2012.
We recently hit a new record of 800 notation scores accessible online in our Notated Theatrical Dances Collection Twentieth century works by leading choreographers include Doris Humphrey, George Balanchine, Antony Tudor, Mark Morris, William Forsythe and others, as well as Broadway show excerpts, ballets, and contemporary works. Many of the scores are available for educational and performance purposes.
You can also follow the latest news about the Dance Notation Bureau on our FaceBook page. Be sure to “Like” and “Share” our information with your friends.
certainly be missed, but his choreography is his gift to us.
Mounting Steps, a Second Perspective - Interview with Eran Hanlon
by Jessica Lindberg Coxe
How/why did you become involved in this project?
Anna Sokolow's Steps of Silence was offered as one Repertory audition choice at the beginning of the 2007-2008 academic year within the Department of Dance at the Ohio State University. This prompted me to do some preliminary research into Sokolow, which inevitably supported my decision to pursue this opportunity (her dark, bound, and dramatic modernism was a match for my aesthetic interests, albeit more in postmodern dance). As a prior member of the Dartmouth Dance Ensemble, I had the opportunity to be a performing dancer in the reconstruction of Laura Dean's Skylight, led by our rehearsal director via video. This reparatory experience also informed my interest in Sokolow's piece, with specific curiosity to the time period that it was originally created - in 1968 - and the process of reconstruction from Labanotation.
What was the most fascinating or exciting part of the working process?
Building multiple layers while stripping away the peel was a fascinating dichotomy that existed throughout the rehearsal process of this piece. Once each dancer reached a sense of understanding and mastery, our rehearsal director - Valarie Mockabee - would deconstruct even more and solidify the fine details within the nuances. Her keen eye and integrated sensibilities of this piece were pervasive and permeated the studio. The combination of video, notation, longevity of rehearsal time, and consultation with Lorry May of the Anna Sokolow foundation reinforced the level of investment from the cast members. The process was a win-win situation in which the more the cast invested, the more Val invested in us both as dancers in the studio and personally outside the studio.
What were some of your personal challenges? (Did you have any difficulty understanding the movements?)
The movement of Steps of Silence is precise without forgiveness. It is impossible to get away with even the slightest discrepancy. At the same time, it offers great breadth of individual choice. As such, the piece frames an environment that demands self-discipline and complete attention to the moment. I found the first two months of rehearsing this piece to be physically painful. As I understood the movement and my intention more clearly, the conditioning process took hold and allowed me to fully embody the score and my role within the piece.
As the youngest sibling in my family, I was often protected and lead by my two older brothers. This family dynamic enabled me for many years to function within a disempowering paradigm, specific to taking risks and standing up for what I believe. As I understood it, my role within Steps of Silence was one mostly of bravery, protector, leader, and spiritual agent - taking the bullet for others. This has affected my personal growth outside the studio and awakened a new aspect of self-discovery.
Were you asked to read and or work with the Labanotation score and what was that process like?
I did not have any experience with Laban Notation during the time period in which we were working from score. That being said, Val directed me utilizing her expertise in this area. She also reached out to undergraduate and graduate students in the cast who had taken Laban Notation and asked for them to provide interpretation and clarification.
Now that I am finishing my second Quarter of Laban Notation, I can look back at the score and understand the process at a deeper level. I come to understand such notation to be a pivotal competency of any dancer, as it deepens body theory in a way that can be applied across boundaries of other disciplines and cultures.
Did you notice any differences between the staging of this work and any other dance works you have been in previously?
The staging process was unlike any other. At first it reminded a bit of what it was like to perform as part of a Wind Ensemble, in which each person plays a specific instrument and works from a designated pre-composed score. As time went it on, it became clear that this experience was unique both in subject matter and approach to artistry.
Would you be involved in a work set from notation again in the future?
Absolutely - a Limon piece would be great!
Has this project made you any more interested or curious about notation?
Absolutely - I may even take third Quarter of notation. If not, I am thinking of one aspect of my MFA Final Project having to do with Laban Notation.
Last, do you have any other interesting stories about your experience that you would like to share?
Val Mockabee rocks! She always had a funny story to tell whenever we were being asked to do something beyond the edge of life and felt discouraged. Her humanness made it possible to remain vulnerable for such a long period of time.
Also, Lorry May is a happy, (good) crazy, and wonderfully inspirational source of the Sokolow Foundation and to the dance profession as a whole. She took Steps of Silence to a deep personal level that transformed its relevance from 1968 to the present.
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."
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 here.
Great News for Dance Companies!
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 Nancy Allison
Interview with Notator Ray Cook
by Oona Haaranen
1. What was your first notation experience?
When I joined Australia's Borovanska Ballet I stood in the wings to write a scene from The Sleeping Beauty being rehearsed. After spending two hours trying unsuccessfully to remember a section, the ballet-master, Algi, saw what I was doing and admonished me to commit it to my memory. Fool that he was.
2. How did you get interested in notation?
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 corresponded with the DNB and was told that if I could get to NYC somebody would give me a scholarship. (Thanks Ann) I knew that it was something that I had to do. I wanted to be an artist and geometry was my best subject at Grammar school. Through Labnotation and dance everything came together.
3. What is your favorite part of notating a work?
I love the rehearsals. I like to see how the choreography works. What I never liked was not being able to film rehearsals. At home we were totally on our own. There were always holes in my scores that had to be filled in at a later date. Now I won't start unless given permission to video, which, unlike the old days, is always forth coming.
4.What is your approach to notating a work?
How I proceed? 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. Too much detail resulting from a choreographer concentrating on a movement that a dancer is having trouble with can end with so much information that the reader cannot see the movement. The other part of notating is nailing it down for the final score. Until I find what I call the key to the piece, I have to start the final score two or three times because I must put myself into the choreographers mind set, otherwise you are just notating what you might see in a film.
5. What are the most memorable pieces you have notated?
There is more than one. I always liked notating Anna Sokolow's work because I knew her work as a dancer and I believed in what she was saying. Ballet pieces have just been jobs. Then there was the challenge of retrieving what were once considered lost Humphrey works, then notating and staging the final result. That was extremely satisfying. Though not last, the most memorable piece took several years to notate and took me to four countries. In Hong Kong I saw Crossing the Black Waters a section of Lin Hwai Min's full evening work Legacy which premiered in Taiwan on his company Cloudgate. At intermission I asked, where is the choreographer? I told him that I would notate that for nothing if he allowed me the right to stage the work. Two months later, a ticket to fly to Taiwan arrived. When I saw the whole piece I said that we have to get funding to notate the whole work. In 2001, at a dance event in Philadelphia I was having coffee with Tom Brown from Hong Kong, Carol Walker from Purchase, and Nanette Hassel from Perth, Western Australia. They suggested that it would be interesting if their colleges, together with Taipei, each did one quarter of the work and then came together to perform the entire work in each of the four countries. With money raised I spend three months in Taipei notating followed by teaching sections to the four dance companies. The entire work was performed in Düsseldorf. Unfortunately there was only this one performance. An interesting byproduct was a rehearsal of the Perth Company with Mr. Lin in a real time via satellite.
6. What have been the most interesting moments in your work?
I notated, from a silent film, Humphrey's Fantasy and Fugue another lost work. At the end of the first movement there were still four measures of music left. Strangely, what I had related perfectly to musical cues. I searched several music publications and they were all the same. I looked at the film a hundred times. One day I must have not blinked because at the very beginning of the dance where previously there had been only grey blank film, one image, in one frame, of one dancer in the air flicked past. There were the four silent missing measures. I choreographed the four missing measures. The dancers performed the entire first movement on new music and until this day I do not know how or why, but the new phrasing of the entire first movement, resting on different movement cues, again seemed right. Perhaps it was because the music was by Mozart.
7. What has been the biggest challenge in your work?
Every dance has the same challenge, the responsibility of getting it right. What I write down is going to be part of our dance history.
8. What is a notation project that you would be very interested in doing?
My dreams do not relate directly to notating, but if I had enough money I would pay dance scholars to translate books into English, books, which include references to choreography and notation. I would like to get someone to help me finish the dance history book I am currently writing. It is a history of choreography based on prime sources including dance scores that go back to the fifteenth century. Lastly, and most importantly, I would like the DNB to reach its full potential and became an active research center for historians and students passing through its doors every day. Regrets? I wish that motif writing had been developed early enough to leave a record of what was choreographed during the Judson Church years.
Changes on Licensing Doris Humphrey's Works
(posted on 10/3/2006)
The Dance Notation Bureau has reached an agreement with Charles Woodford that the DNB will license and contract for restaging ten works by Doris Humphrey, on behalf of Charles Woodford, with the rest of Humphrey's repertory being licensed and contracted directly by Mr Woodford.
The ten works that will be handled as before by the DNB are:
Brandenburg Concerto #4 (with Ruth Currier)
Day on Earth
New Dance: Variations and Conclusion
Passacaglia and Fugue
Song of the West: Desert Gods
With My Red Fires
Clients interested in the remaining works are invited to get in touch with Charles Woodford directly:
614 Route 130, Hightstown, NJ 08520
If they wish to work from score on works contracted by Charles Woodford, clients will be able to join the DNB and rent the scores, video and audiotapes as available and all supporting material for the usual rental fees.
The DNB will supply restagers as needed for the ten works it continues to contract.
Charles Woodford will make these arrangements for the works he contracts.
Phase One of the Jean Erdman Dance Notation Project Culminates in Performances at Hofstra University November 16 - 19, 2006
The Jean Erdman Dance Notation Project is nearing the completion of its halfway point with the culmination at Hofstra University's Fall Dance Concert. Nancy Allison, the leading interpreter of Jean Erdman's solo dance repertory, staged three works choreographed by Erdman, the trio Daughters of the Lonesome Isle (1945) and the solos Hamadryad (1948) and Creature on a Journey (1943) which will all be performed with live musical accompaniment, by two casts of students in the dance department at Hofstra. Performances are November 16, 17, 18 at 8PM and November 18 and 19 at 2PM in the John Cranford Adams Playhouse, Hempstead, New York. Tickets are $10 & $8 for Senior Citizens. For information and reservations call (516) 463-6644 or visit www.hofstra.edu
The Jean Erdman Dance Notation Project is a two-fold venture to ensure Erdman's work is preserved through Labanotation. While Allison was staging the work at Hofstra University, notators Mira Kim and Jennifer Garda worked with senior notator Judy Coopersmith to record the movement, coaching details, and technical tips of the three pieces. The completed scores for these three dances will join the collection of Notated Theatrical Dances housed at the DNB as early as the spring of 2007. In order to complete the second half of the Erdman project, the DNB is currently seeking for applications from schools or companies interested in mounting these Erdman works. This will allow for checking productions of the Labanotated scores. Interested hosts should contact Lynne Weber, Acting Director of Programs at the DNB at (212) 564-0985 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org (Please put Lynne Weber in the subject heading to help direct your e-mail.)
About the Dances
Daughters of the Lonesome Isle (1945) (10 min: 07 sec)
This trio explores the feminine principle with three identically dressed dancers representing the three aspects of the female psyche: the mother, the youthful virgin, and the woman of experience. The movement themes are an amalgam of world cultures from Hawaiian hula to Brazilian samba, and are developed musically, intertwining like a Bach fugue. The commissioned score by John Cage utilizes his groundbreaking "prepared piano," which changes a solo piano into an exotic-sounding orchestra. The costumes, designed by Ms. Erdman and executed by Elizabeth H. Parsons, highlight the hourglass form of the female figure.
Hamadryad (1948) (3 min: 47 sec)
Named for the Greek word meaning "the spirit belonging to a particular tree," this solo celebrates the pure joy of movement. Set to Debussy's classic flute solo, Syrinx this dance is a marvelous example of Erdman's acclaimed approach to the relationship of music and dance in which dance is a spatial counterpoint, rather than an accompaniment to the music. The costume by Roxanne Marden suggests a rustic Greek tunic.
Creature on a Journey (1943) (2 minutes: 43 seconds)
Inspired by the people and dance forms of Bali, this solo is a comic embodiment of the human condition. The delicately rowdy percussion score is by Lou Harrison, and the brightly colored costume by Elizabeth H. Parsons conjures up a mythological bird-like creature.
About Jean Erdman
Jean Erdman occupies a unique position in twentieth century dance. Born and raised in Hawaii in the first part of the 20th century, her early dance training included sacred Hula, tap and Isadora Duncan technique. She performed as a member of Martha Graham's company form 1938 to 1943, before she made her own choreographic debut in a shared concert with Merce Cunningham at the Chicago Arts Club.
While Erdman created more than 40 dances for her own company, which toured nationally from 1943 to 1972, she remained an active teacher throughout her career. In the 1940s she was co-director of the Ethnic Dance Division at the New Dance Group Studio. She was director of the dance program at Bard College from 1954 - 57 and founding director of the Dance Program at New York University School of the Arts in the 1960s. In 1972 she and her late husband, the mythologist, Joseph Campbell founded the Theater of The Open Eye where she created and/or presented over one hundred distinctive works of traditional and contemporary dance and theater.
Tributes to Those Who Loved Notation And Are No Longer With Us
(posted on 10/12/2006)
Nadia Chilkovsky Nahumck (1908-2006) was a writer, teacher, dance scholar and Labanotator. She studied notation with Ann Hutchinson Guest in 1945 and served as editor for the Dance Notation Record from 1956 to 1958. Her original goal was to notate her own work, but only one score, Suite of Youth (1952), was ever completed as she constantly revised her choreography.
She founded the Philadelphia Dance Academy (now the University of the Arts School of Dance) in 1944, and inspired children to learn notation as they learn to dance. She was the first person to write notation workbooks for children, such as My First Dance Book and Three R's for Dancing, books 1, 2, & 3. She also notated some of the popular dances seen on TV in American Bandstand Dances in Labanotation. She recorded African-American movements for the book Jazz Dance by Marshall & Jean Stearns.
Her dance scholarship and Labanotation skills resulted in the first book ever to fully document Isadora Duncan's choreography, Isadora Duncan: The Dances, published by the National Museum of Women in the Arts in 1994. Ann Hutchinson Guest remembers of Chilkovsky, "In many ways Nadia was a brilliant, energetic, and focused person, very much a pioneer in the use of notation." In 1980 the American Dance Guild published her Dance Curriculum-Resource Guide, a Comprehensive Dance Education for Secondary Schools which included notation as a tool and which grew out of an invitation in 1965 by the US Office of Education to develop such a curriculum.
Chilvosky's memorial will be hosted by The University of the Arts on October 14, 2006. For more information, please email email@example.com.
Rosalind Pierson (1941-2005) Associate Professor in OSU Department of Dance from 1975 2005 died suddenly in the fall of 2005 following a heart attack. Pierson taught classical ballet, modern dance, performance technique, improvisation and choreography. She also served as the director of the University Dance Company from 1983-1999 and was coordinator and dance instructor for OSU's Summer Institute for Gifted and Talented High School Students in the Arts for many years.
Pierson understood the value of studying repertory and of preserving choreography. She also spent a great deal of time developing her videography skills to better record performances. She allowed students to experiment with recording her signature work The Return (1959), a solo, and A Gift of Wings (1969), a trio, which was retaught this spring by a graduate student in the directing course and presented in her memory in a studio showing. It is a lovely lyrical ballet trio that has been performed by Ballet Met of Columbus and restaged from score by the Linda Parker Dance Company and at the University of Akron.
Pierson's last work, Lachrymae (2003), a large group work, most recently performed in 2005, was in process of being notated by Kim Jensen, an OSU alum, at the time of her death. It will be completed soon.
Selma Jeanne Cohen (1920-2005), an Honorary Board Member of the DNB, made her first contact with notation via Eugene Loring's system. Frustrated with that, and hearing of the DNB, she came to study Labanotation with Ann Hutchinson Guest. Although she did not go on to notate herself, she was always a strong supporter of the DNB, and she assisted Guest in organizing the first edition of Labanotation and served as its editor. For many years she personally contributed to the DNB.
Cohen was a critic for the New York Times, The Saturday Review and Dance Observer. Her books include Dance as a Theater Art, The Modern Dance: Seven Statements of Belief, Doris Humphrey: an Artist First, and Next Week, Swan Lake. She produced the standard-setting series of monographs on world dance called Dance Perspectives from 1959 to 1976, and then turned its foundation to encouraging writers through an annual prize to a book that exemplifies scholarly excellence and advances the field of dance studies. She was editor of the 15 volume Oxford Encyclopedia of Dance. The DNB is proud to have had her as a longtime friend.
Ai-Lian Dai (1916-2005) learned notation at the Jooss-Leeder school with Lisa Ullmann, and was a classmate of Ann Hutchinson Guest. She was the first person to introduce Labanotation to China, and founded the China Labanotation Society in 1983, which organized classes in elementary and intermediate notation and brought in guest teachers Ann Hutchinson Guest, Carl Wolz, Muriel Topaz, Ilene Fox, Judy Van Zile and Billie Mahoney from time to time. One of Mme. Dai's focuses in the China Labanotation Society was to preserve Chinese ethnic dance, which resulted in the Labanotation scores of Eight Tibetan Folk Dances (1999) and Eight Yi Folk Dances (2001). Mme. Dai was also the founder of the Beijing Dance Academy and the National Ballet, and was designated a National Treasure by the government of China.
Mme. Dai was born in Trinidad, studied in England, and went to China in the 1940s to find her roots. Chinese dance helped her to understand that heritage. After China opened its doors in the late 70's, she was finally able to attend her first International Council of Kinetography Laban (ICKL) Conference in Chantilly, France in 1979 and participated in many thereafter. She was pivotal in disseminating new theory concepts to her colleagues in China, and arranged for the first ICKL conference in Beijing in 2004. At that time she had published the third of her booklets on ethnic dance. We will always remember how robustly she led Chinese ethnic dance workshops!
Labanotation a la Russe
Ann Hutchinson Guest reporting (5/25/2006)
It was in 1979 that a small group in Moscow headed by Valeria Uralskaya, editor of The Russian Ballet Magazine, arranged the first Russian seminar on dance notation, attended by teachers and repetiteurs from the Soviet Republics. The members considered the Benesh system first, but deemed it not scientific enough. Then in 1985 they met Maria Szentpál, and traveled three times to Budapest to study Labanotation with her on grants from the Institute for the Improvement of Professional Skills and the Theatre Society of the Soviet Union. They undertook to translate Albrecht Knusts book on the Laban system, but the manuscript was destroyed when the Theatre Society building burned down.
When I was in Moscow in 1989 for the Nijinsky centennial celebrations I had two sessions with this Labanotation group. At the beginning the members started to record classical steps, and later notated some of the variations from current classical ballets. The group itself did not develop further, but Nadya Vikhreva, who now teaches LN at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, continued to use the system. She and Mme. Uralskaya attended two ICKL conferences, most recently in Paris.
Mme. Vikhreva teaches notation and classical dance at the University Natalia Nekrasova as well as at the Academy. She believes that through reading ballet steps carefully analysed in notation, students get a much better understanding of the movement. In 1995 she began to write a Labanotation textbook in Russian. For this she needed computer software: lacking information on Calaban or LabanWriter, she turned to a computer science friend, Dmitry Bogatenko, who created every notation symbol by hand - a remarkable achievement, but one inevitably open to error. She spent a week in London conferring with me on notation examples for the textbook, accompanied by her daughter Natalia Kurgina, who dances in the Bolshoi Ballets second company, and André Krakov, whose excellent English made detailed discussion possible. Corrections involved notation spelling and the Russian wording for the analysis of various movements. For these Natashas demonstrations were welcome.
For us it is exciting and rewarding to know this use of Labanotation is being made in Moscow. St. Petersburg, what are you waiting for?
"How Much Does It Cost to Notate a Piece?"
(posted on 4/5/2006)
This is one of the first questions a Notator gets. It happens to be a little hard to answer quickly, since it does not actually just depend on how long a dance is or how large its cast and production effects, but on elements which are even more key.
The DNB has been examining in detail the real cost of all its activities, as part of our response to the ongoing financial challenge. When we ask for your help, we need to be able to tell you how money gets used, and how far your contribution will go. As one part of this effort, we have consulted four experienced Notators and one potential buyer of a notation project, and came up with interesting new information.
The most important factor, say the Notators, is the quality of the rehearsal process. Notation is best done when a work is taught to a new cast. This ensures that dancers will ask all the relevant questions in the Notator's presence, and the Notator will hear the artist's answers, which all go into the score as word notes. It is vital that the Notator attend all rehearsals from the very beginning, and also sit in on meetings the restager might have with costumers and musicians as well. If the Notator arrives to find the dancers have already been rehearsing, or (worse) learning their roles from video, or misses conferences about artistic information that belongs in the score, the time it will take to produce a final score can be greatly extended. Teaching the choreography from video is especially problematic, because it leaves out the choreographer's detailed explanation of movement and how and why to do it. The Notator needs, and preserves in the score, all the knowledge shared with the dancers and intrinsic to the values of the work.
The second most influential pricing element involves the score: complexity of the music, if used; whether the Notator can get a written score of the arrangement the choreographer used; and how the dance is counted or the cues are established. Notators do careful research into the artist and composer for a project, and their training includes the process, necessary at times, of tracking down the correct sheet music where there may be numerous versions of the same music. Evaluating a recent project, Notators Leslie Rotman and Sandra Aberkalns asked Nancy Allison, who is working to commission notation of three works by Jean Erdman, "Do you have music scores for the works? Do you teach the choreography to sound cues in the scores, or to musical or dancers' counts? Is it relatively easy to find the sound cues? Is it challenging to define the timing for the dancers? Do you use a metronome at all?" Allison's informative answers were a great help in creating estimates of how much post-rehearsal score work the Erdman dances may need. It is this "paper time" that is the unpredictable factor.
The length of the work, the size of the cast, the amount of unison movement used, the length of the rehearsal period and the movement complexity also, of course, influence the cost. Bureau Notators ask for a videotape when they begin creating an estimate for a client. What they produce is an educated opinion on how much time it is likely to take in the post-rehearsal period to turn the rough notes made in rehearsal into a final score. This could be anywhere from two months to a year; as with composing music or handling a legal case, it is subject to unexpected changes. Some Notators work by hand on the final autography, and others use LabanWriter, a software program developed for the Macintosh computer by a team at the Dance Notation Bureau Extension for Education and Research at The Ohio State University.
The DNB process of planning notation has been opened up, again as part of a new approach to its structure and staff roles. Senta Driver enlisted Certified Notators Sandra Aberkalns, Leslie Rotman, Patty Harrington Delaney and Ray Cook in an informal advisory group to recommend notation projects, help estimate their cost, and suggest which Notator might take the assignment.
So the bottom lines vary a good deal. A recent simple but subtle ten-minute duet for ballet dancers, involving a score with sheet music and good background material easily available, costed out at about $8000 after four months of post-rehearsal work on paper. In contrast, a ballet trio that had been taught from video before the Notator was brought into rehearsals, with her only reference a silent film, took over two years to complete, at a real cost in staff time of over $20,000.
As Nancy Allison has demonstrated, sophisticated information from the artists improves the accuracy of estimates. It makes it easier to raise support to accomplish notation's valuable, but complex, service to the artist's concept and to history.
Artists Rally Behind the DNB
(posted on 4/5/2006)
To whom it may concern,
I should like to add my name to the long, long list of dancers, choreographers and dance historians around the world who are totally supportive of, and thankful for, the contribution of the Dance Notation Bureau to the dance field at large.
This organization is key to the continuation of the legacy of dance, all forms of dance. Not to have the DNB would be akin to having only a video recording of an orchestra playing a symphony, but the players do not have the printed notes in order to learn their parts.
The fact that the bureau notates, preserves, archives and assists in recreation of the works of thousands of choreographers is reason enough for their continuation. Not to have this organization in existence is simply unacceptable and unfathomable, and I am sure that the collective "we" in the dance world will offer whatever support necessary to insure their healthy continuation.
Joan J. Woodbury
Founder, Artistic Co-Director
Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company
Salt City, Utah
Counting the House on the Web
(posted on 3/15/2006)
If the founders of the DNB had ever suspected that during a single week 736 people would seek out, or just come across, information about Labanotation at a single address, it is probably fair to say they would have been startled. Or (all four of them) dumbfounded. If they had been advised that in 66 years 41% of these persons would be contacting a U.S. notation address that week from the United Kingdom, and another 7% would be reading its material in Croatia, a certain degree of amazed hope might have set in for their proposal to advance dance through documentation. Such prospects were not dreamed of in the world of mail solicitation, wartime censorship of possible enemy code disguised as a forward high sign, and laborious telephone connections circa 1940.
One of those determined founders, Ann Hutchinson Guest, sees it all now for herself. The DNB's website has proven a flexible tool for spreading news and information about Labanotation and the Bureau. Designed by Marion Bastien in 2001 and often tweaked by her from Paris, and maintained by Notation and Library Associate Mei-Chen Lu, the site can now count the house by itself, as well. Lu collected statistics from the beginning of January 2006 that give an interesting glimpse of the community that is happening upon dance notation, mounting a search that leads to the DNB, or simply returning to a resource they use all the time.
An average of 2390 people a month visited the DNB on line so far this year. Traffic is encouraged by regular messages given to those who telephone the DNB or make e-mail enquiries, and by reminders sent out over LabanTalk, the notation listserv, whenever new material is posted. The site attracts visitors from the US, the United Kingdom (which sometimes produces even more visitors than the States), Australia, Russia, Taiwan, Western Europe, Canada, Estonia, and Turkey. Half are short-stay travellers, spending up to five minutes with us; but a fifth linger for up to an hour, obviously absorbed in some aspect of the content.
Lu was surprised to learn that after the home page, the page most visited is Labanotation Basics. People seem interested in the actual look and structure of notation, and want an introduction. They spend a fair amount of time following it. To the 116 friends who dropped by on Sunday 12 March, along with the 137 from Tuesday 7 March: welcome. How can we help you?
DVD featuring Loïe Fuller's Fire Dance
Loïe Fuller, a legendary dancer at the turn of the twentieth century, left us glimpses of her dance in critical reviews, paintings, drawings, lithographs, photographs, motion picture footage and sculptures. None of her dances were fully recorded or passed down to the future generations. Jessica Lindberg, now on the dance faculty at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, dedicated her graduate studies at The Ohio State University to bringing Loïe Fuller's Fire Dance back to life. She won the Edward F. Hayes Graduate Research Forum for her MFA thesis "Reconstructing, Labanotating and Performing Loïe Fuller's Fire Dance" in 2003. Lindberg conducted research in Paris, New York and San Francisco and reconstructed both choreography and Fuller's unique lighting effects, which were produced in part by her costumes. A DVD produced to accompany the thesis contains a live performance and four studio performances by Lindberg of Fire Dance, one incorporating her Labanotation score. It also includes films of Fuller and her imitators, along with Lindberg's findings about Fuller's life and art.
The DVD can be purchased through the Dance Film Archive at The Ohio State University.
Dancing Nijinsky's Faune in Two Hemispheres
The growing notation and dance community in Taiwan saw Asia's first restaging of Vaslav Nijinsky's Apres-Midi d'un Faune in December 2005. If you'd like to see the ballet, you have another chance: February 24-26, 2006 on Princeton University students in Princeton, New Jersey.
Both companies' productions were personally coached by the Notator, Ann Hutchinson Guest. Guest set the gold standard for notation from the beginning, by taking pains to learn every movement notation system she uncovered, in addition to playing her seminal role in the development of Labanotation. This enabled her to understand Nijinsky's intentions in his revolutionary ballet as she deciphered the choreographer's personal notation system. She later translated the material into Labanotation, and published the dual scores in 1991 as Nijinsky's Faune Revisited.
Yunyu Wang of the Taipei National University of the Arts was the moving force behind bringing the choreographer's work to Asia for the first time. She has long played this role in seeding all aspects of notation in the East. Wang spends half of her year in Colorado Springs as a faculty member at Colorado College, and the other half teaching at the Taipei institution, also working with, among others, Mme. Liu, Feng-shueh, a leading notator and choreographer who directs the Neo Classic Dance Company in Taipei.
The original plan was to stage Faune on the Neo-Classic Company. When plans changed there, Wang reports that the choreographer's granddaughter Tamara Nijinsky contacted her, "asking me why I did not want to do the Faune? I was honored to be asked, so I came back to TNUA to make it happen." She made fine work of it: the restaging was ranked first among twelve projects at the University involved in a Ministry of Education grant called "Teaching Excellent". A strong press response featured both Nijinsky and Labanotation in its reviews. The Freedom Newspaper ran a whole page on the value to students of dancing Nijinsky's great work.
Wang staged the piece from the published Labanotation score: the LMA course material she teaches helped the students better comprehend the differences in time, space and energy called for by the dance. When Guest arrived to coach, she found what she called "committed dancers, working by themselves, helping each other, quietly finding the place in the music to work again and again on the timing." She asked for an opportunity to fit into the rehearsal schedule three sessions on Language of Dance, which she said were met with great interest.
Guest has now moved a little way west of that venue, to work with Tina Curran on another staging of Faune at Princeton. Curran mounted the work, again from the published score, and Guest will shortly be in rehearsal polishing the performances for opening night February 24 at the McCarter Theater Center. Princeton's increasingly active dance program has risen to a professional challenge with this production, which will use the Leon Bakst set and costumes, as did Taiwan, and will add an exhibition on Mir Iskusstva: Russia's Age of Elegance at the Princeton University Art Museum.
Nijinsky would be astounded, but surely also gratified, at the world-wide reach of his masterpiece made possible by notation and dedicated experts.
Notating Jean Erdman Dances
Choreographer and dancer Nancy Allison has announced a project to mount, and have the DNB notate, three of Jean Erdmans historic dances. To do this, she is seeking a host company of professional or student dancers, and invites interested people to get in touch with her.
The DNB has no scores of Erdman work in its collection. Notation Associate Mei-Chen Lu said, this would be a valuable addition for us. Erdman was an original in her generation; she is also a pioneer in the use of world cultural influences in her work, in a way that so many artists do today.
The works are a trio, Daughters of the Lonesome Isle (1945) and two solos: Hamadryad (1948) and Creature on a Journey (1943). All are for women. The trio uses music commissioned from John Cage for prepared piano, which Allison describes as changing the solo piano sound into that of an exotic orchestra. Hamadryad is set to Debussys Syrinx in a spatial counterpoint rather than accompaniment to the music. Creature on a Journey is inspired by the dance forms and people of Bali, in what Allison terms a comic embodiment of the human condition set to a delicately rowdy score by Lou Harrison.
The notation process begins right with the first meeting among restagers and any artistic collaborators, designers or musicians who may be involved, including the Notator, who will go on to research the choreographers and composers work. The Notator attends every rehearsal and records in rough notes what the restager is showing and asking of the dancers. Coaching and technical tips are all taken down for incorporation into the final score, which can take a number of months to complete depending on the complexity of the work. The ideal situation for scoring a work is when the cast is new to the material, because the dancers will ask all the questions it is important for the Notator to hear, with the answers. The Erdman project will afford such an opportunity.
Jean Erdman danced with Martha Graham from 1938-1943; her most notable role was One Who Speaks in Grahams ground-breaking ode to Emily Dickinson, Letter to the World. She went on to a distinguished career as a choreographer who drew on influences from world dance cultures, the connection between the psychological and the spiritual, the thinking sparked by her husband, the late Joseph Campbell, and the artists with whom she collaborated: Louis Horst, John Cage, Lou Harrison and Merce Cunningham.
Allison danced with Erdman from 1976-1985. She has produced a three-volume video archive called Dance & Myth: the World of Jean Erdman. Since 1986 she has performed Erdmans solo repertory across the United States and set it on both student and professional dancers.
Further information is available from firstname.lastname@example.org
The Bureau will remain open to serve the dance field, as it has for
fully 65 years. The Library and Archive of more than 700 priceless scores
covering the history of dance will continue to be active and accessible.
Special projects operating under targeted Federal and private grants
will go on as usual. A number of volunteers have generously offered
Board chair Lynne Weber, a Certified Notator and Teacher with an MBA
has volunteered to oversee the Dance Notation Bureau. Board Secretary
and retired choreographer Senta Driver will join her as a volunteer
management team to carry the organisation forward on a daily basis.
Board Treasurer Hillary Gal, a Certified Notator and senior information
technology manager, spoke for the entire Board: "It is unthinkable
that the Dance Notation Bureau should be lost, and we will not let that
happen. This will only be a period of restructuring, to become leaner
and more effective at our mission."
Weber said, "We are restructuring to make sure we complete both
the projects now underway and the exciting plans we have for the future,
when our funding stabilises. We're not going anywhere: we're 65 years
old, close to a record in the dance field. That doesn't mean we intend
to retire. We'll be here to capture and preserve dance's history for
its treasured artists and its audiences as we have ever been, since
our founding by Ann Hutchinson Guest and her three visionary colleagues
Full Report (pdf file, 64K)
Rallying Round the DNB; Need Still Urgent
A stream of donations and offers of volunteer help and expertise has flowed into the DNB since the story of staff layoffs appeared in the New York Times on November 7. Contributions have arrived both from regular donors and from new friends telling us how deeply they value the work done here. Some are from our own, the Notators and former staff and teachers who are part of the Laban community.
Many former members have sent in renewals, often including a contribution as well. Since we see members as our most central supporters, because of their proven interest and involvement in the mission, this is particularly encouraging to the staff and Board who are carrying on the DNB services and projects and planning the restructuring that will bring us back to full operations. Board members and many outside volunteers are in the office every day maintaining operations.
Buying Note-8 cards is proving a good way to add your support, get something you can use, and publicizing the DNBs activity along the way.
All the people of the Dance Notation Bureau are buoyed up by the commitment and generosity of this response. Thank you for sharing our long dedication to the dances we love and preserve. Were still here for you.