Thursday, January 28, 2010

Minutes for the Motif Theory Meeting, June 8, 2008

Minutes for the Motif Theory Meeting, June 8, 2008
Submitted by Susan Gingrasso - July 17, 2008

[Following is a summary of a Motif Notation theory meeting at the Dance Notation Bureau, June 8, 2008. The summary was written by Susan Gingrasso]

Present: Tina Curran, Ilene Fox, Susan Gingrasso, Ann Hutchinson Guest, Lynne Weber, Charlotte Wile


Tina began the meeting with a short discussion on the ICKL Motif Fellows proposal included in its draft form in Appendix A: ICKL Motif Fellows Proposal, August 8, 2008, ICKL, Mexico City. The discussion centered around:

1) issues surrounding what criteria would be used to identify Motif Fellows (see those proposed under the application process in Appendix A); and

2) how the differences in the way Motif has been defined and used will be dealt with as the LOD and LMA communities have different definitions of Motif.

A few years ago Jimmyle Listenbee, Ilene Fox and Tina Curran organized a series of meetings in which the issues of similarities and differences were examined by various members of the Laban community. Tina proposed that the question of, “What is Motif”, will start to emerge out of these and other conversations. The Motif Fellows is an opportunity to recognize the work and bring thoughtful conversation to the table.


Of the 18 topics proposed, those in blue below were discussed (not in numerical order). Ann began with a discussion of Unit Timing as presented by Janos Fugedi in his paper, “Unit Timing of Touching Gestures” at ICKL 2008 in Mexico City.

Unit timing: Ann presented the example shown below. She emphasized that on this type of “spring point,” the actual landing occurs a moment before the count and the touch occurs on the count. Janos did not discuss this issue in his paper. In addition, one important premise in his paper is that passing touches are not possible. This group disagreed with that idea. They felt there can be passing touches. Ann said they have to come at an angle so they can go off at an angle. [Janos's response to this topic will be posted soon on the Theory Bulletin Board].

1. Discussion of the theme symbols: inner/outer, mobility/stability, etc. NOT DISCUSSED

2. Modification of the “phrasing bow” (Charlotte Wile)

Discussion: Charlotte noted that this issue is that the phrasing bow we use now can be confusing because plain bows have other meanings. She inquired about how to differentiate a linking bow from a phrasing bow. However, the discussion revealed that the real issue revolved around the use of the linking bow, which gradually got resolved so that the linking bow would continue in its “standard usage” so it would not be confused with the “phrasing bow”.

Ann did present the phrasing bow she proposed in Example 2a and noted that she had thought about this problem long ago.

At the end of the discussion, Charlotte asked if the phrasing bow were to be modified, which one of the several she had proposed would better signify that idea. Those of us present preferred Example 2b, the one with the “dot” at the top. 

3. Indication of the “same” and “different” (Charlotte Wile)

Discussion: Refer to Appendix B: Proposal for Indicating “Same” and “Different”. Charlotte explained that the issue arises when using generic indications for distinguishing “the same,” “different,” or “either the same or different” for 1) body parts; 2) sequence of repeating actions; i.e. two or more, and 3) qualities or dynamics.

Summary: Should the idea of same and different have its own symbology or should we adapt existing symbology such as the caret? The general consensus was that the larger concept of “same and different” needs its own symbolic representation. Motif already uses an equals sign to mean “the same'” and an equals sign with a slash through it to mean “not the same”. Examples 3a-e demonstrate this concept.

Examples 3a and 3b show the “same” and “not the same” with regard to aspects of space.

Examples 3c and 3d show the “same” and “not the same” with regard to aspects of the body.

Example 3e was proposed to indicate using the “equals” sign to indicate that the second rotation should be the as the first.

As the caret is already used in four different ways, it should not be modified to mean “not the same” as was suggested by Charlotte in her paper in Appendix B. The symbology needs to address the concepts of “the same” and “not the same” or either for 1) body parts; 2) sequence of repeating actions; i.e. two or more and 3) qualities or dynamics.

In current practice, the caret (see below) has four different usages: 1) same body part; 2) shift of weight 3) continue this/these movement(s) on the next staff; 4) open and closed positions. 

Examples 3f (open and closed positions), 3g (shift of center of gravity) were provided on the board to show two of the uses.

Example 3h shows how the “not equals” sign in parentheses (the “equals” and “not equals” signs enclosed in parentheses were proposed by Charlotte) could be used in an addition bracket to indicate that each of the three directional actions used a different body part. 

4. What is the difference between the hand moving on a path and an arm moving on a path, (e.g., does the hand movement always involve movement in the wrist)?

Summary: In many cases, context influences our choices. The more specific we need to be in the movement, the more structured the notation needs to be.

5. Indication for “top of the head.” If the top of the head is a surface, shouldn't it be indicated like the other surface of the head signs, i.e., with an area sign, as well as a head sign and pin?

Summary: The head is a limb. The symbols in 5a and 5b are used to indicate the top of the head.

6. Indicating a “swing-like” movement (Charlotte Wile) NOT DISCUSSED.

7. Diagonal pathways (Charlotte Wile). Clarification provided by Ann Guest.

Summary: The diagonal pathway symbols, as shown in 7a and 7b, relate to the adjacent diagonal direction symbols.

Example 7a indicates circling forward over the right-forward and left-backward diagonals. The symbol is based on the right forward diagonal direction sign.

Example 7b indicates circling backward over the right-forward and left-backward diagonals. The symbol is based on the left backward diagonal direction sign.

Example 7c indicates circling either forward or backward over the right-forward and left-backward diagonals.

8. A sign for “any circular path” (Charlotte Wile). This concept relates to Ann's paper on gestural paths. It would be useful when one wants to indicate a path using axis pins without stating that the path is a deflection of a particular path such as vertical, horizontal, etc.


We agreed that there is a need for an “any circular” path symbol. Could Example 8a become the symbol for any circular path? If so, would it provide the opportunity to write various paths as in Example 8b without having to say that these are deflections from particular path signs?” In contrast, Example 8c denotes deflection from a specific path.

Note from Susan Gingrasso. I took the liberty of using Example 8d to teach the concept of “any circular gestural” pathway to my ten composition students in the UW Madison Summer Intensive last week. They grasped the concept/symbol of any circular gestural pathway quite well and easily made the transference to the concepts/symbols for the specific gestural pathways. They related them to “any rotation” and the specific rotation symbols and the concept/symbol for “any pathway” and the specific pathway symbols. 

9. Indication of distance; e.g. “far, near, “neither near nor far.” (Charlotte Wile) Charlotte had a new idea (not discussed at the Open Theory Meetings) based on a sign she had found in “Advanced Labanotation.” NOT DISCUSSED.

10. Symbols for flexion and extension signs that contain all three forms as the present signs don't contain spreading and closing, and adding a generic indication for “flexing or extending” to the family of signs. (Charlotte Wile) NOT DISCUSSED.

11. Indicating scattering or gathering related to the above idea of generic sign for flexing or extending. (Charlotte Wile) NOT DISCUSSED.

12. Does a “motion toward” indication always mean going toward, without arriving at, the given location, state, etc.? Or can the movement arrive there? See examples in item #13.

13. Related to #11 and #12, see comparisons presented in examples 13a, 13b, and 13c.

Example 13a shows a movement of flexion lasting the amount of time of the duration line.

Example 13b shows an action that achieves flexion because the action is linked to flexion. In motif, when we have an action stroke, it can be replaced by a specific choice (as it is being taught in LOD). Example 13b could but does not have to be a flexing action. The action achieves flexion. The difficulty occurs in differentiating between when the action stroke is used as an action and when it is used as duration line as they are the same symbol.

Example 13c shows an action that moves toward but does not achieve flexion.

Summary: The discussion focused on Examples 13a and 13b.

Example 13a clearly is that the straight line represents duration because it is connected to the flexion symbol. Flexion occurs during entire duration of the symbol.

Example 13b brought up a few varying understandings.

1) Interpretation of the duration of the flexion; i.e. another way to write 13a connected to the logic of Kinetography and Labanotation;
2) In Motif Notation, the straight line representing an action could be replaced by a more specific choice so that flexion in Example 13b is a destination.

In Motif Notation, 13a and 13b can be different in their meaning, unlike in Labanotation and Kinetography. In 13b, Motif Notation uses the line as an “action stroke” rather than a “duration” line. In Example 13c, there was consensus that approaching whatever is inside of the symbol is motion and not destination; i.e. one doesn't actually arrive. Actually arriving would need to stated as in Example 13d. 

14. Using “stillness” before the double bar line as a starting position. (Charlotte Wile)

Summary: We were in consensus that a stillness sign can be used before the double bar line. It supports the DEL [Dance Education Laboratory at the 92nd street Y in New York City] movement sentence that starts and ends in stillness.

15. Can a "central fall" go just downward, or must it always go downward and then another direction (e.g., downward and then end to the right)? NOT DISCUSSED

16. The notation in the Example 16 says to maintain the forward position of the arm during the step. However, does it specify that the arm stops moving? For example, could the arm turn during the step? If so, how could one specify that the arm does not move at all during the step?

Ann clarified this issue. If moving means body change then yes, the arm stops moving. If moving means that the arm is carried with the step, then no. This discussion needs to be continued.

17. Indications for Tempo. (Ilene Fox): Ilene explained that she uses the “time signs” for fast and slow when she wants her students to explore speed/tempo. In her work she discovered that just elongating, for example, a turn sign, does not place the focus on the concept of speed. Ilene wants her students to focus on speed/tempo; i.e. on the idea of fast and slow, and not duration. She presented Examples 17a-e that those present liked.

Example 17a shows a very little amount of speed; i.e. that the tempo is very slow-super slow, i.e. slow motion (markedly slow).

Example 17b shows little amount of speed; i.e. that the tempo is slow, (slightly slow).

Example 17c shows a moderate speed; i.e. that the tempo is medium, andante.

Example 17d shows that the tempo is fast, (slightly fast).

Example 17e shows that the tempo is very fast (markedly fast)

Note the difference between the symbols for speed and duration in Examples 17f Speed/tempo and 71g Duration.

Note from Susan Gingrasso. I refer readers to the following papers.

Hutchinson, Ann. Motif Description-Time Signs. Presented April 1985 at ICKL.
Hutchinson Guest, Ann and Ann Rodiger. Time Signs. Presented 1991 at ICKL.

Appendix B: Proposal for Indicating “Same” and “Different”
By Charlotte Wile - June, 2008

Same or Different Body Portions
1a) Same or different body parts
1b) Same body parts
1c,d) Different body parts

Same or Different Movements
2a) Same or different direction
2b,c) Same direction
2d,e) Different direction

(Note: 2f indicates that the directions are shifts)
Combining Indications
4a,b) Same direction, different body parts
4c) Different drawing, same body parts
4d) Different body shape, different body parts

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