Friday, January 29, 2016

Action! Recording!

Submitted by Mei-Chen Lu and Charlotte Wile - January 29, 2016

Action! Recording! was published by the Language of Dance Center (LODC) and later by Labanotation Institute at the University of Surrey (1976-2003).

The links below are the facsimiles of issues published between 1976 -1978.  Further issues will be posted in the future.

There are some missing issues.  If you have the missing issue, please send us a hard copy or digital file in PDF or JPEG.

Partially digitized from the Dance Notation Bureau Collection at The Ohio State University’s Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute by support from the Dance Preservation Fund. 

Issue 1, January 1976
Topics: "Shakers" from Welsh Dance Theatre; Labanotation Specialist at Laban Art of Movement Centre; Notation Used to Reserve Chinese Opera; New Systems Ahoy!; Labanotation Course for School Teachers; Effort/Shape; Anstey Research Project ends First Year; November Meeting of LODA; Report on ICKL Conference 1975; Labanotation Card Catalogues; Book Service; Work in Progress; The Dance Library; Systems of Dance (Movement) Notation; Dance Materials in Labanotation; Report on Lectures and Special Sessions at the 1975 ICKL Conference.

Issue 2 (missing)
Note: If you have the missing issue, please send us a hard copy or digital file in PDF or JPEG.

Issue 3, July 1976
Topics: Editorial; Mobile by Siguard Leeder; Quiz Book by Ray Cook; Labanotation for Ballet Dancers; Yugoslav Folkdance Publication Applies Kinetography Laban; Momentum; Activities at Chelsea College; Choreographic Research; Fundamentals of Movement; Labanotation at London College; Choreographic Reconstructions; Editor's Comment; Dance History, Notation, Music and Mine at LAMC; Notes from the Historical Dance Field; News of Balkan Notation Systems; Bournonville Project; Obituary - Christl Zimmer; Linda Cummings on Leave; Harriet Isaacs Joining Editorial Staff of Action! Recording!

Issue 4, October 1976
Topics: Pas de Six from "La Vivandiere" - Reconstruction; Dolin's Pas de Quatre Notated; Regent Street Group Completes First Year; Braille - Labanotation for the Blind; Recording of Cecchtti Method; Choreographers Agree to Classroom Study of Their Notated Works; Report from A "Working American"; Raymonda Project Progresses; LOD Reading Examinations; Student of Dance or Dance Student?; Veen-Hooper Memorial Library; Gail Grant Dictionary of Classical Ballet in Labanotation; New Acquisition; Fourth Year at Gold Smith College; The College of the RAD; England Captures Another Labanotator; Lisa Lawer in London for Work Study Term; General.

Issue 5, February 1977
Topics: Publication of Leeder Technique Planned; London ICKL Meetings; Massine's "Song of the Reed"; Notation in the Teaching of Dance by Ann Kipling Brown; Knust's 80th Birthday; Historical Dance News; Staff Labanotator at the R.A.D.; Norwegian Teachers' Conference; Needed Materials found in LODC Library; College News; Course at London College; Books – African Dances & Games by Odette Blum; Subjects for College Theses; Brief Facts on the Language of Dance Centre; Facts on Action! Recording!

Issue 6, June 1977
Topics: Cecchetti Seminar; Ray Cook in Australia; How did the Egyptians Dance? Paul Clarke Memorial Scholarship Fund; London Workshop with Warren Lamb and Pamela Ramadan; Notes from Paris – Report; Teaching Labanotation to the Deaf; Ohio State University Notation Library Card File; Massine on Choreography; Dance Studies, Vol. I; Kineliterate??? Kinelectrice???; Needed Materials Found in LODC Library; Mats Isaksson; Stephanie Jordan; How Many Notation Systems?Sigurd Leeder School of Dance; Brief Facts on the Language of Dance Centre.

Issue 7, September 1977
Topics: The Computer as a Tool for Labanotation; Captivating Computer; Bubble Men; Tenth Biennial ICKL Conference; Honorary Doctorate Given for Pioneer Work in Dance Notation; Egyptian Dance? Read Lexova; Vadstena Castle Performances; Bi-Linguist at RAD; OSU 1977 Dance & Notation Workshop; Laban Summer Course at Dartford; Laban Centre Summer School; Textbook Reprinted (Error Free?); Movement & Dance for Those Concerned with Handicapped Children.

Issue 8, January 1978
Topics: Choreographers and Notation; 10th Biennial ICKL Conference; Labanotation Computer Project; Report on Notation Research Project; Thefeur's Gavotte De Vestris; Icelandic Folk Dances; Analysis of Walking; Revision of the Constitution; Elections and Future Plans; American Dance Machine; Vivanndiere Pas de Six; Paul Taylor's "Aureole" Score; The Peripatetic Ray Cook; Rondi Sureno; "Bourree Fantasque" Acquired; Universal Dance Notation; Miszlitz Notation System; Cigarette Cards – On Dance; "A Handbook for the Dance Director"; Notation Featured at NATFHE Conference; Conversation with Liza; Yugoslav Folk Dances Studied and Performed; Descendant of the Bubble Man; Health in Retirement – Exercises; Abbreviations Used; Egypt Again.

Issue 9, April 1978
Topics: Albrecht Knust (1896-1978); Graphic Notations; Folk Cultures Filmed for Comparative Research; Dance for Senior Citizens; Reviews; The Chinese Connection – Tai Ai Lien [Dai Ai-Lien]; Bluebird Pas de Deux Prepared for Publication; PCPA School of Dance; Crewe & Alsager; Fred Locke; Jean Christophe Bocle; Lisa Lawer at RAD; Dance History Notation Projects; Bartenieff Fundamentals; Gems of the Classical Heritage; Comparative Study of Versions of the Fairy Variation; "Footsteps in the Snow"; Tap Dance Projects; News from Here and There.

Issue 10, July 1978
Topics: Editorial: Stage Two is Yet to Come; Danse Macabre; Norwegian Notation "System"; How to Recall a Step with the Help of the Drawing; Notators for Broadway; Masque Dance Theatre; Merging of Sight, Sound & Movement; The Anonymous Toilers at LODC; Folk Dance Publications; Cinetographie Laban/Cinetografia Laban; Advanced Coaching at LODC; Folkdance Seminars; Summer '78.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Motif Notation - How Did It Start

Submitted by Mei-Chen Lu and Charlotte Wile – January 14, 2016

Mei and Charlotte are very intrigued by Ann Hutchinson Guest's article "Early Development and Publications in Kinetography Laban/Labanotation," which was published in the DNB Library News Volume 10 Number 1.  We approached Ann again and also Valerie Preston-Dunlop, two pioneers in Motif Notation, regarding how Motif Notation started.  Each provided insightful information. 


By Ann Hutchinson Guest

Motif Notation, originally called Motif Writing, is a system for graphically recording movement concepts using symbols derived from Labanotation.  The need to allow freedom in the performance of a movement concept, for instance the choice of any direction, any part of the body, any kind of transference of weight, etc. led to establishing additional symbols not found in Labanotation.

My personal need for such freedom arose after I had published two children’s books using the structured, three-line Labanotation staff.  Having spent two winters in Europe observing the teaching of dance to children in different countries, I produced Primer for Dance, Book One which was followed by Book Two.  In 1959 I tried out Book One while teaching a group of five year-old children at the 92nd Street YMHA.  Each child had a book to take home which delighted the parents, especially the fathers who reportedly commented “Now I can see that dance is not all airy-fairy; it has form, structure!”  During the first two sessions I did not refer to the book, but put basic signs on the board, the children trying out the movements indicated.  Thus they were familiar with the signs when they came to using the book.

It was when I started drafting ideas for Book Three in this series that I suddenly realized - this was all wrong!  Children want to move, to try out their own movement ideas.  At age five they do not have the physical coordination or experience to “step forward on the right foot on count one, step to the side on the left foot on count two” and so on.  While children pick up the elements of Labanotation easily enough, before long the structured movement patterns become too much.  Laban had been strongly against children being taught notation because he saw it as inhibiting their creativity.  In contrast, I believed that they should encounter notation early on, it was a matter of how it is presented to them.  Had Laban developed Motif Notation and seen the results, I am sure he would have had a very different attitude.

At the International Council ofKinetography Laban (ICKL) conference in 1961, I spoke to my colleagues about my need to use the symbols ‘out of context’, as I called it.  They could not imagine what I was talking about, and, meeting that attitude, I found it difficult to explain.  However, within the next few years Valerie Preston-Dunlop began using the individual symbols during her courses on Laban’s Modern Educational Dance for physical education teachers.  It was one of these teachers who suggested the name Motif Writing.  In 1967 Valerie published Readers in Kinetography, Series B, Motif Writing for Dance.   In 1971 I was invited by Keith Lester to provide a course on movement exploration and analysis for the Teacher Training College at the Royal Academy of Dancing.  For this course I used the Motif symbols and found an increasing need to develop them further.  I had previously been in touch occasionally with Valerie in discussing symbols, but by then she had become much involved with other things and was no longer interested.  As there was no appropriate textbook available, each week I produced sheets for the RAD students.  By the end of the second year I had the makings of a book.  Thinking to give it the catchy title Your Move, to interest the students, it was published in 1983 as Your Move – A New Approach to the Study of Movement and Dance.  Use of this book as a textbook for our Language of Dance® (LOD) training courses made us aware of where it needed revision.  The revised edition, for which Tina Curran was co-author, came out in 2008.  It is currently being translated into Spanish and Japanese.

Everyone welcomed the advent of Motif Notation because use of the symbols seemed so simple and self-evident.  It was commonly thought that no rules were required -  you performed the movement stated and then went on to the next.  With different people using Motif symbols in different contexts, this openness soon became a problem.  In addition to the organization established in the Your Move book, a very comprehensive book on the subject by Charlotte Wile, working closely with Ray Cook and with me, is nearing completion*.

Motif Notation is used as a prescriptive tool, the movement indications being open to being realized physically according to the reader’s choice.  Motif is also used as a descriptive tool in observing and identifying the main features in movement sequences.

Because it stems from root actions, that is, the basic building blocks of which all movement is made, Motif Notation is applicable to all styles of dance, indeed, to all forms of movement from swimming to acrobatics to ice skating, etc.  It is used productively by participants of all age levels and skills.  Used in conjunction with a first exploration of movement, the visual symbols provide a valuable introduction to dance/movement literacy.  In LOD Motif usage also incorporates terminology that is clear, logical and as universally-based as possible.

*Note from Mei: Charlotte Wile's Motif Notation book Moving About was already published in 2010.  


By Valerie Preston-Dunlop

The idea came to me for a new version of Laban’s notation the year that he died 1958, a version that allowed for structured improvisation since that was one method of choreography that was increasingly prevalent. I consulted him and he replied, as he often did, “You do it”.  

I had experience of using the notation in new ways from 1947/8 when Warren Lamb and I were sent into Pilkington’s tile factory to assist Laban in his analysis of the workers’ movement patterns on the power press machines. My task was to write the women’s movement in notation and that was not at all straightforward.  The prime question was “where was centre”? from which all directions might be judged. Centre was not in any of  the places centre normally is for a dancer. For the worker it was the centre of her work area about a foot or so in front of her waist with her press, her handle, her pedal, her conveyor belt, her pile of sand and her stick situated in relation to that centre. From there she judged all directions. Was I writing exactly what her body parts did or how she conceived of what she was doing?  So for me the distinction between intention and action raised an issue for a movement notation as early as 1948.

Using this distinction became a norm for my writing since much of my dance work was creative of the structured improvisation type.  I recall using intention in writing the Transversal 7-rings card for Laban’s 70th birthday celebrations, 1949, he having just ‘found’ these 7 ring families and wanted the Laban diaspora  to know what they were.  I recall a letter of utter confusion coming over the pond from Ann Hutchinson since clearly what I had written could not be danced. No, but it could be intended and the dancer’s technique and understanding of how to embody directional instructions ‘for the body as a whole’ would enable him to find the phrase. That is what Laban wanted and that is what I wrote. I understood Ann’s frustration completely.

Glancing through old letters I found one from Laban dated 1953 that related to my helping him with his book Principles of Dance and Movement Notation. His mind was on quite other topics at the time particularly movement observation of behaviour and personality so he leant fairly heavily on my assistance. The action stroke appears in that book indicating that a flow of movement is occurring. Ann’s first edition of Labanotation came out at mich the same time and I have her gift to me of a signed copy in my study.

In 1958 the question I put to Laban was not out of the blue but simply one step further in developing a method of writing that accommodated basic creative activity. The idea for Motif Writing was already born but not yet formulated or named.

1962 is the next evidence (in the Laban Guild magazine) I have of how my thinking was developing where I taught a class that uses the basic ideas of Motif Writing without having yet come up with a name ie a simple vertical staff for the whole body into which or onto which symbols for movement intentions or motivations can be written. In 1963 my Handbook for Modern Educational Dance was published although I recall writing the first draft in 1959. As is common knowledge it sold widely not only in the UK. The text is packed with descriptions of structured improvisation. The connection between the 1962 class and this book is obvious. I was introducing people to the idea that notation could serve their purpose as teachers of creative Modern Educational Dance.

By 1963 Paddy Macmaster started to work for me as I opened Beechmont Movement Study Centre. Together we worked on what was to become Motif Writing, a name suggested by Paddy.  I published a booklet An Introduction to Kinetography Laban in 1963 introducing the ideas of Motif Writing and the 2nd edition, tidied up and better produced by Macdonald and Evans, came out in 1966. Classwork documents exist of the courses we both led, and a correspondence course we started for overseas students, dated 1966/7.  Readers In Kinetography Series A, writing short dances using the full notation, came out in 1966 and Series B, writing dances in Motif Writing, came out in 1967.   One of our criteria was that we should only introduce new signs if absolutely essential. For example it was essential to formulate the new sign to jump, and to distinguish twisting a body part and rotating the whole body.

Dance was at that time in the Physical Education departments of schools and colleges with Laban’s ideas being integrated into not only dance but other PE activities.  I was asked to produce a Reader on the popular Educational Gymnastics, creativity on apparatus, that had started at I.M.Marsh College in the UK and spread to colleges in the USA, Canada and Australia.  Paddy and I started to write it and it soon became apparent that new signs and symbols would have to be created. I decided against it and the preparatory materials sit in my archive uncompleted.  By now ICKL had started and I was in the unenviable position of arbitrating between two warring Titans, Ann Hutchinson and Albrecht Knust both of whom I knew well.  As the systems developed the ideas that had come up in Motif, such as whether a sign indicates motion or destination, found their way into developments of the full notation.

About the same time I was approached by Cambridge University, who had somehow heard of Motif Writing, to help with a test on ambidextrousness for pilots, it being judged that decidedly right or left handed pilots were safer in a crisis than those who had a second or two to chose which hand to use. Although not really my scene I collaborated and wrote all manner of daily activities, threading a needle, a golf swing, cutting paper with scissors… It taught me a great deal about movement and what our notation systems can and can’t, do and don’t write. Shortly after I was asked by London County Council to use notation to plan the work schedule for school cleaners, emptying waste paper baskets, cleaning black boards, sweeping corridors et al.   The idea of Motif Writing was getting out of hand and I declined. The next request was from a drama school where emotional and narrative intentions were to be included. I declined again for new signs would have to be invented and I was not going in that direction. 

So for me Motif Writing serves its purpose as the creative sister system to Laban’s notation essentially structural in nature and open to interpretation. Of course Ann Hutchinson has taken it in a further direction in her Language of Dance literature where I decided not to go, but that is her choice. At Trinity Laban our postgraduate Choreological Studies dancers use Motif Writing’s principles primarily to help them clarify what is structurally significant in their created materials. They do not learn it as a system. We call that part of their writing simply ‘symbology’.  It is taught by Melanie Clarke, a first rate notator and director from the score, so any student who wants to can learn more from her.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Minutes for the DNB Theory Meeting, October 13, 2015

Submitted by Charlotte Wile - December 29, 2015

Attendees: Ray Cook, Joyce Greenberg, Ann Hutchinson Guest, Mei-Chen Lu, Lynne Weber, Charlotte Wile.

The following documents a DNB theory meeting held on October 13, 2015 at Lynne Weber's apartment in New York City.


TOPICS: The agenda; The process of writing LN.
  • Minute 1:15. Suggestions for the agenda were listed.
  1. Inner focus. (This topic was not discussed at this meeting).
  2. Swinging.
  3. The derivation of relationship bows.
  4. Where is the mover in a floor plan pin? (This topic was not discussed at this meeting.)
  5. Initiation bows.
  6. What process do people use to write notation? How should Labanotation reading and writing be taught?
  • Minute 9:50. Each person at the meeting talked about his/her own process in writing LN.

NOTE: To watch Video 1 on a larger YouTube screen, go here.


TOPICS: More about the process of writing LN; How should LN be taught?
  • Minute 00:00.  More about the process of writing LN.
  • Minute 11:20.  How should LN reading and writing be taught?

NOTE: To watch Video 2 on a larger YouTube screen, go here.


TOPICS: More about teaching LN; The derivation of relationship bows; The evolution Labanotation; The logic of LN.
  • Minute 00:00.  More about teaching LN .
  • Minute 1:40.  The derivation of  relationship bows.
  • Minute 14:00.  The logic of LN (e.g., "root" symbols.) 
  • Minute 16:44.  Symbols based on "root" symbols vs. symbols that are not related to the system as a whole.
  • Minute 19:40.  More about the derivation of relationship bows.


NOTE: To watch Video 3 on a larger YouTube screen, go here.


TOPICS: Symbols that have more than one meaning; Swinging.
  • Minute 00:00.  Symbols that have more than one meaning. For instance, a dotted (broken) line is used for "resultant movement" and a dotted (broken) curve is used for "near." 
  • Minute 9:00.  "Swinging" - Definitions and indications.


NOTE: To watch Video 4 on a larger YouTube screen, go here.


TOPIC:  More on swinging.
  • Minute 00:00. More on swinging  What are the characteristics of swinging? Various ideas were discussed, such as impetus, a change in energy, giving in to gravity, relaxation, Free Flow Effort.
  • Minute 10:57. "General swinging" and "true swinging."


NOTE: To watch Video 5 on a larger YouTube screen, go here.


TOPICS: More on swinging; "Giving into gravity," "Initiation," "led by."
  • Minute 00:14. More on the how the proposed symbols could be interpreted. Also, how might the symbols be modified to indicate other aspects of swinging (e.g., its direction and body portion involvement)?
  • Minute 7:52. More on what we mean by "swinging." Which of the following should be included in how it is depicted: initiation, arc like, a change in energy, relation to gravity?
  • Minute 10:25. The difference between the concept of "giving in to gravity" (i.e., "Heavy") and "initiation" (i.e., the impetus of a movement or where in the body the movement begins).
  • Minute 13: 37. "Initiation" vs. "led by."


NOTE: To watch Video 6 on a larger YouTube screen, go here.


TOPIC: More on initiation.
  • Minute 00:14. Should initiation bows be drawn short or long? For instance, always drawing them short may help support the idea that initiation occurs at the beginning of a movement. On the other hand, maybe the bow should be as long as length of the movement(s) it modifies. That would make it possible to show the initiation of a phrase of movements.
  • Minute 10:05. Other ideas for drawing the initiation bow. For instance, the curved part of the bow could be dotted. Or the beginning of the bow could be solid and the end could be dotted.
  • Minute 13:45. Using an indication such as a dotted initiation bow to show the "point of interest."


NOTE: To watch Video 7 on a larger YouTube screen, go here.

Addendum from Charlotte Wile. For other discussions about initiation, go here:

3) "What is Spatial Tension?" (Discussion #37 at the end of the posting.)