Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Photos of Jean Kirsten's Exhibition "To Laban"

Submitted by Charlotte Wile - January 21, 2015

Following are photos of Jean Kirsten's exhibition "For Laban" at Ohio State University (January 13, 2015 to February 6, 2015).

To see larger images go here.

Friday, January 9, 2015

African Dance Movements Are Misunderstood

Submitted by Doris Green - January 9, 2015 

© 2015, Doris Green

When I realized that I was going to be the first person to teach African music and dance in Brooklyn College upon graduation, I knew that a culminating factor would be my going to Africa. After all I had been corresponding with Africans for years. After countries of African earned their independence there was an increase in African students who came to New York to study and shared their culture with us. This afforded me an insight into the music and dance of a number of different African cultures. I had formed a list of questions that I wanted to ask Africans on the continent for a definition of African dance, as well as the reasons why Africans dance was so commonplace throughout the continent.  I also needed a response to why African dances contained “contractions” or isolations, for lack of better terminology. This movement appeared to be in a number of dances.

Armed with my list of questions, I went to Africa in search of answers to these questions. I began my journey in East Africa. There I would see contractions in dances of this region. I was advised to go to West Africa because rhythm in West African music and dance was developed to the nth degree whereas the melodics of music received more attention than the rhythm in East Africa.  It would take me several trips to Africa consulting with cultural informants on a trams-continental basis before I was satisfied with a plausible response to the reason behind the contractions. It was obvious to me that the answer was not to be found among youthful cultural informants. Their response was ‘contractions’ existed for sexual flavor.  I rejected this answer, as I could not see any reason for contractions to be in all types of dances. I turned to the older cultural informants. When I asked Professor Opoku of Ghana, he told me that “sex: was not something they danced about in Ghana, sex was an act that they did. Further investigation revealed that in the traditional dances, the costumes worn contained secondary rattles that had to be moved in conjunction with the primary rattles of the musical ensemble.  The placement of these secondary rattles could be worn on the ‘waist’, the shoulders, the ankles, neck or arms. Wherever these secondary rattles were worn, would be the focus of the actions. Throughout Africa I have seen the movement, when the secondary rattles were worn on the waist, that we mistakenly call contractions’ done on one hip and also on a alternating basis of the hips.

Unfortunately research did not reveal a photo of traditional dancers outfitted in full regalia, together with a recording of the music of the specific dances so the primary and secondary rattles could be studied.  As dance became more popular and were taken out of their original setting, we see less of the traditional costumes. When Africans were enslaved and sent to foreign soil, these movements were transported with them, but they were without costume and the movement referenced everyday activities of work and play.

If you recall my explanation of ‘contraction’ to the attendees of the Theory Board meetings, I had them stand up and pretend to sit using their rear end, and at the last minute changing their mind and return to a standing position. I also told them that there was no forward thrust to this movement. But westerners have a tendency to misinterpret the movement and perform it in a licentious manner.

When I look at this video, I see all the greatness that the ancestors have been taking to the grave with them because African music and dance lacked written documentation.  I particularly enjoyed the bicycle wine.

My research reveals that African movements are taken out of context and misunderstood. In order to understand the movements, you must have knowledge of the music and its relationship to the dance.  I sincerely hope that my future publications, particularly my textbook Manuscripts of African Music and Dance will dispel these facile notions.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Dance Notation Bureau Teachers' Bulletin

Submitted by Charlotte Wile - January 7, 2015

The Dance Notation Bureau Teachers' Bulletin was published from 1977 to 1982, 1988.

The purpose of the Teachers' Bulletin was to "provide a forum for the exchange of ideas, methods of teaching, and other relevancies; to provide an outlet for new developments in the field of notation research."

A link to a facsimile of issue No. 1 is given below.

Further issues will be posted in the future.

Issue No. 1 (February, 1977)

Topics: "Professional Dance Repertory and the College Dancer," by K. Wright Dunkley, assisted by Barbara Katz;  Report of the 1976 Labananalysis Workshop, Part II, July 5-July 9, 1976; Concerning Revised Editions; Clarification for Folding-Unfolding; Cancellations of Twists and Rotations in the Torso; Clarification of the Convention Applied When Writing Stepping Out of a Position on Two Feet;  Teacher Certification Course; Correction (Elementary Study Guide); Summer Courses at Ohio State University.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

DanceForms Software Now Available Free

Submitted by Charlotte Wile, December 9, 2014

[Rhonda Ryman e-mailed the following to LabanTalk on December 5, 2014]

"Please announce to your membership, students and colleagues that DanceForms choreography software plus Ballet Moves animations are now available for free download:

The iPad version of a DanceForms player is currently available at no cost from the iTunes Store. Credo plans to have an iPad version with editing features available in the near future.

If you have any questions about the software or available ballet animations, feel free to contact me directly.

Rhonda Ryman"

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Jean Kirsten: For Laban

Submitted by Charlotte Wile - December 4, 2014

The artist Jean Kirsten's fothcoming exhibit at Ohio State University will be of special interest to the Laban Community:

"Jean Kirsten: For Laban," Urban Arts Space, (January 13, 2015 to February 6, 2015).
"Inspired by Laban’s theories of dynamics of movement and the Laban Movement Analysis by dancer and Laban specialist Sabine Fichter, Kirsten began examining and sketching for his own work. The dancestudies series works shown at Urban Arts Space are from his time in London when he attended Fichter’s lectures in Laban Movement Analysis at Metropolitan University. There he took over 400 photographs of the dancers and used the photos as sketches for his screen prints. Kirsten’s paper series incorporate Labanotation space signs. At first glance these works look like abstract paintings, but familiarity with Labanotation reveals information about spatial orientation in the works."

African Musical Retentions In The Diaspora

Submitted by Doris Green - December 4, 2014

As you may know my musical training began in elementary school. During that time there was little to no representation of Black music heard routinely on the radio. But on the weekend Friday to Sunday, a local radio station played Caribbean music. In this manner I was able to learn the songs and rhythms of Calypsonians such as the Mighty Sparrow and to hear Steel Pan music.

When I was conducting research in Africa I came across a xylophone of the Chopi people that used graduated tin cans as resonators instead of gourds. The Bass xylophone player used four or five 55 gallon oil vats with different strips of wood to achieve the bass tones. These xylophones were the instruments used in the mines of South Africa by the musicians to entertain themselves. The musical phrasing is similar to the music played by the steel band men in Trinidad.

I wrote the booklet Steel Bands of New York in which I interviewed various steel band personalities. The articles are being reprinted by Panonthenet:



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Single or Multiple? Looking at Location in Movement Notation

Submitted by Charlotte Wile - October 28, 2014
Written by Tara Munjee, Jeffrey Longstaff, and Charlotte Wile

[Following is a thread originally posted on the CMAlist.] 

From Tara Munjee - August 5, 2014

Hello all,

I wanted to share my article from July 24, 2014 featured in Research in Dance Education with community members.  Entitled "Single or multiple? Looking at location in movement notation," the article explores ways to think about and address notating movement through multiple locations--a common framework for contemporary site-specific dance practice.

Below is the link that will allow a limited number of free views.  If you are so fortunate to be affiliated with an institution that subscribes to RSDE, perhaps you could access the issue through your library database.

Best regards,
Tara Munjee

From Jeffrey Longstaff – August 31, 2014

Dear Tara

Thanks for sharing your article on notation and contemporary dance practice.  I read the pdf article and found it to be quite interesting, especially in regards to the practical approaches from Lawrence and Anna Halprin.  I remember some student-led movement explorations in college which were very full of motion, rather than striving to attain any particular fixed form or shape.  They were very liberating in that way.

I wanted to reply to your article just to mention another "Laban-based" notation which can be primarily found in Laban's 1926 German work "Choreographie".  Here, in the early 1920s, before Kinetography Laban or Labanotation had been initially formalized, it can be seen that Laban (as a practicing artist himself) also originally based his concepts of space as being in constant motion.  His early notation signs were different than those used in Labanotation today, and as he didn't give these early signs any particular name, I usually call them "vector signs" since they refer to lines of motion, without any regard to locations or positions.

Valerie Preston-Dunlop (in her biography of Laban) recounts that when Laban's co-workers led the development of Labanotation into the position-based signs which we use today, that Laban felt a “painful compromise” since the motion-based system he was developing would not be included in the formal notation system.  Later, in his book Choreutics, he refers back to the motion-notation as "an old dream" (and offers up a variation on the original signs - basically consisting of two forces: 1 dimension and 1 diagonal which interact in a constant interchange to create a continuously deflecting spatial motion.)
I do not know anything about Halprin's method, but from reading your article, maybe this is true - It seems that Halprin uses the constantly changing environment as the motion, and perhaps this can be contrasted (or perhaps it relates somehow) to Laban's continuous motions coming from the constant changing of the body's orientations such that human body movement is always deviating and changing directions.  Laban formalized this in the theory of "deflections" (or, more properly, "deflecting inclinations" since motions are considered to be constantly in flux, constantly changing direction at least somewhat).

Perhaps the "vector" signs in this earlier Laban-based notation can add another layer to your discussions, and not only artistic, but also with a sound basis in motor-control theory (as described by Bernstein as "oscillating like a cobweb in the wind" - later being developed into the theory of "coordinative structures" which has remarkable similarity to some of Bartenieff's methods!

Best wishes!
Jeffrey Longstaff

From Charlotte Wile -  August 31, 2014

Hi Everyone:

I too thank Tara for her excellent article and found Jeffrey's comments quite interesting.

I wonder if the concepts and indications used in Labanotation and Motif Notation for "motion" vs. "destination" might be of interest for this discussion.

For instance, see Ann Hutchinson Guest, “Bullet-In-Stead,” Issue No. 4, June 1995:

Motif Notation of the “B" Scale using both motion (progression) and destination symbols can be found here:

Also, a thought provoking comparison of the vector symbols and Labanotation direction signs is included in Jeffrey's "Translating 'Vector Symbols' From Laban's (1926 Choreographie."

Charlotte Wile

From Tara Munjee – September 1, 2014

Hello Jeffrey,

In writing this article, I was interested in initiating conversation on how (and why) one would incorporate moving through multiple spaces/environments as part of a notation score.  Your discussion of  Laban's "Choreographie" aligns well with this idea. 

Laban's "old dream" notation highlighting dynamic, ever-changing bodily engagement with space combined with a notation for an ever-shifting spatial canvas offers possibilities for some very exciting scores!

Thank you for sharing your ideas and knowledge!

Best regards,
Tara Munjee