Thursday, January 28, 2010

Minutes for the Open Theory Meeting, April 20, 2008

Minutes for the Open Theory Meeting, April 20, 2008
Submitted by Charlotte Wile - July 6, 2009

[Following are minutes for the Open Theory Meeting held at the Dance Notation Bureau, April 2008. The minutes were written by Charlotte Wile.]

Present: Tina Curran, Ann Hutchinson Guest, Oona Haaranen (via Skype), Kristin Jackson, Mira Kim, Dawn Lille, Mei-Chen Lu, Maryann Peterson, Vickie Watts, Lynne Weber, Charlotte Wile.

For photos of the meeting, click here.

1. Revolving on Straight Path.
2. Unit Timing.
3. Zed Caret with a Dot.
4. Focal Point.


1.2 The group discussed Ann's paper “Revolving on a Straight Path.”

1.3 Sandra felt Ann's proposed sign for a swivelling path (shown here as 1a) is problematic because two foot hooks mean sliding, and there is no sliding in the movement.

1.4 Ann replied that swivelling is a sliding action.

1.5 Sandra said that sliding always involves going from one place to another, whereas in this case the foot is stationary during the turn.

1.6 Others in the group disagreed. They felt the stationary swivelling foot is sliding.

1.7 Sandra said that two foot hooks are not necessary because one foot hook would automatically show the turn has friction. In a turn on 1/8 ball of the foot there will always be friction. Consequently, there should only be one foot hook on the proposed sign.

1.8 Lynne pointed out that if there was only one hook on a 1/8 turn sign, the movement might be read as a blind turn.

1.9 Ann said the two foot hooks tell the reader to focus on the sliding in the swivel. For example, this might be important in jazz movement.

1.10 Charlotte asked if the proposal should include both single and double hooked signs. The single hook sign would state there is swivelling, but the mover would not necessarily be thinking about that aspect of the movement. The double hooked sign would state that the mover should focus on the friction in the turn.

1.11 Ann concurred with this idea. However, she said Charlotte should not have used the term “friction.” There are two kind of friction: non-sliding pressure and sliding pressure. Therefore, it has been decided that the terms “swivelling” and “non-swivelling” should be used instead.

1.12 Kristin said that in one of Laura Dean's dances there is a turn in which swivelling is important. In the turn both feet are connected to the ground, with no relevé. However, in order to produce the correct movement the performer needs to focus on the swivelling action in one of the feet (e.g., the right foot in a turn to the right).

1.13 Ann noted that it is very difficult to swivel on the whole foot. Even if the whole foot is on the floor, usually the weight is either on the front or the back of the foot.

1.14 Sandra returned to the idea of having two hooks in the proposed sign. She felt it would present a timing issue. For example, depending upon how close the hooks are, you would be saying there is a change from thinking about swivelling and not thinking about it.

1.15 Charlotte said she likes Ann's proposal because it provides a way to indicate revolving on a straight path without stating whether or not there is swivelling. This generic statement is not available in the present system.

1.16 Charlotte had one suggestion for the proposed non-swivelling sign. Perhaps, the space signs should be attached to the turn sign [Ex 1b]. Otherwise, especially in Motif Notation, it might look like space signs refer to other indications in columns adjacent to the path sign.
1.17 Tina asked for further clarification on how swivelling and non-swivelling on a straight path are currently indicated.

1.18 Ann said that in Labanotation the current interpretation of 1c [shown below] is that you swivel. In 1d you don't swivel. 
1.19 In Guest and Curran, Your Move (2008) the issue is not discussed.

1.20 Charlotte said she recalled that proposals for generic and specific indications were discussed at ICKL [date?], but apparently none of these ideas took hold.

1.21 The group discussed blind turns in a pirouette.

1.22 Sandra: In ballet technique, a pirouette starting in fourth position would be done with swivelling.

1.23 Ann said that years ago [Joanne Neeland?] took slow motion films of professional ballet dancers that showed that a pirouette begins in the body, with foot remaining where it is. Then the heal releases. There is torsion, and then you let go.

1.24 Sandra: But is this what we want to write?

1.25 Ann: No. But understanding that this is what happens could be useful in teaching the movement.

1.26 Mira asked about turning _ way in a blind turn. Ann said that in such movement the knee would be twisted.

1.27 Tina and Ann gave examples in which a choreographer may want that movement.


2.2 The group discussed Ann's paper “Unit Timing - Further Thoughts.”

2.3 Notation from the paper is shown here in 2a and 2b.
2.4 Charlotte: This is a continuation of the many discussions we have had that grew out of János Fügedi's ICKL paper on unit timing. [See, “Open Theory Meeting Minutes for April 7, 2008”; “A. H. Guest's Comments on the April 7th, 2008 Meeting”; “Minutes for the Motif Theory Meeting, June 8, 2008”; “J. Fugedi's Comments on the June 8, 2008 Meeting”; “Open Theory Meeting Minutes for July 14, 2008”; “The Report on the Second Symposium on Dance Notation in Hungary.”]

2.5 Ann began the discussion of her paper by talking about “spring points.” Even though the landing in such movement usually occurs before the gesturing touch, the timing is so close that the convention is to notate the movement with the touch and the landing happening at the same time, as shown here in example 2a, counts 1-2. In other words, the landing on “u” before count one is assumed. In contrast, the 'u' subdivision before the gallops in 2a must be written.

2.6 Ann said that in the unit timing example 2a, claps are written so they line up with the touch. This makes the notation easier to read. The clap and the touch both occur at the same time on count 1. The stamps occur on counts 3 and 4. The claps also occur on counts 3 and 4, but they do not look on the page like they coincide with the stamps.

2.7 Charlotte said that she thought the established rule is that only the touches should be read with unit timing, whereas the accents (in this case claps and stamps) are always read with exact timing. If this is so, wouldn't one read the claps and stamps in 2a as occurring off the beat?

2.8 Lynne said that 2a could be confusing since one would need to guess how to interpret it. She prefers exact timing because she feels it is clearer and easier to read.

2.9 Tina: It would be useful to have a key that would to state how the unit timing should be read. Without that explanation, the notation in 2a might be misinterpreted. What parts of it should be read with unit timing and what parts should be read with exact timing? For instance, should asterisks be added to the hand claps if they are to be read with exact timing?

2.10 Charlotte: In 2a the claps and touch are written with unit timing, but the stamps are written with exact timing.

2.11 Ann: Knust and early teachers at the Bureau always taught unit timing to beginning students. However, later when students write in more detail, they need to learn about exact timing.

2.12 Ann demonstrated how in an ordinary step the foot strikes the ground before the arms reach their destination. If the step is written exactly as it is performed, the indications for the arms and the supports will be “jagged” on the page.

2.13 As in her paper, Ann discussed the conversation she had with Rhonda Ryman concerning the way ballet teachers perceive timing. Ballet teachers understand unit timing, but have difficulties with specific timing. Perhaps this should be taken into consideration in writing scores. Ann said that she prefers exact timing, but she understands how unit timing is preferable for some readers.

2.14 Tina said she believes that one of Janos's motivations in writing his unit timing ICKL papers was to find ways to make scores of folk dances more accessible to beginning students.

2.15 Charlotte: Both unit timing and exact timing can be useful, depending upon the context and purpose of the notation.

2.16 Tina elaborated on that idea. There is the “theory” and then there is “context.” For instance, what is the genre of the movement? Is it a teaching situation or is it a documentation ethnographic situation?

2.17 Dawn said that both unit timing and exact timing might be useful for a given score. Most of the score might be written with unit timing. However, at some places in the score exact timing might be needed as a clarification.

2.18 Sandra: In Western theatrical dance most of the movement is dictated by the music, so there is no reason not to use unit timing. The music says when to move and when not to move, so you don't need to analyze, for example, that the arms move before the feet. Anatomically the body will do what it needs to do to be on the music. I may analyze the exact timing of the movement, but I don't write it, because it doesn't serve any practical purpose in the end. Making the reader think in exact timing overwhelms the reader with too much detail. It slows the reader down.

2.19 Mei agreed that one intuitively knows what the timing should be when one physically does the movement. The deep analysis we have done to determine exact timing is not appropriate for elementary students.

2.20 Ann: Usually when you look at a score you can tell whether unit timing or specific timing is being used because there are cues in the notation.

2.21 As a related issue Charlotte brought up transient touches, which play a role in Janos's unit timing ideas. Charlotte asked Ann if she thinks transient touches without any sliding are possible. Ann said they are.

2.22 Charlotte said that Janos had challenged the group to make a video tape that contains a transient touch (without sliding). Perhaps we could try to do that at a future meeting.

2.23 Maryann, returning to the issue of exact vs. unit timing, wondered if exact timing shouldn't be used for styles such as Eastern dance, where there is a lot of precise timing in the use of hands, props, etc. Perhaps this precise timing information would be necessary for students not familiar with those styles, and so the dances could be accurately read many years from now. Unit timing for those scores might be confusing, especially if the conventions for their music is not known.

2.24 Ann said that in the work she did with Carl Wolz on the handling of the Japanese fan, she found that the timing had to be very precise.

2.25 Mei felt there can be problems with notation of Eastern dance written with the established LN timing rules. For her graduation project at OSU she reconstructed a Chinese dance from Labanotation. She is very familiar with authentic Chinese dance, having studied it for many years, but she found it very difficult to read the score because there is so much variation in the way timing is indicated for the feet, hands, scarves and other props, etc. Some aspects of the movement were recorded in exact timing (e.g., props), while others (supports) were written with unit timing. Like “mixing apples and oranges.” Also, her Chinese dance teachers used unit timing, so this was what she internalized. Switching to exact timing when she read the Labanotation score was very confusing.

2.26 Sandra said that there should be consistency in the way the movement is written. Columns in the score should either be all written in unit timing or all written in exact timing. There shouldn't be one perception given to the bottom of the body and a different perception given for the top of the body. It's analogous to “movement writing” vs. “position writing.” If you alternate them you can confuse the reader.

2.27 Vicki: Most of a score might use either unit timing or specific timing. However, there may be places in the score, perhaps a measure or two, where it is clearer to switch from what is predominately used.

2.28 Sandra agreed with Vicki. An enlargement could be used when there is a change from the type of timing that is being used for most of the score.

2.29 Ann said keys can be used to show that different types of timing are being used.

2.30 Charlotte wondered if the consistent use of timing type might need to be glossarized because in the established rules (e.g., as in Guest, Labanotation, 4th edition) there is not consistency. E.g., touches are by default written with unit timing, while accents are by default written with exact timing.

2.31 This lead to a discussion of standardization and the need for rules.

2.32 Sandra said that rules are needed, even in Motif Notation.

2.33 Ann said she is for having only the rules that are necessary. The notation should “spell out” the movement. For instance, if you have a clap and you want it to hold, say so. If you have a clap and you want it to release, say so. If it isn't important if the clap holds or releases, don't say anything; leave it open to interpretation. Many of the built-in rules in LN were adopted from Knust. Some are good, but some were a mistake.

2.34 Returning to her paper, Ann briefly discussed the exact timing example (2b). She wondered if it would have been visually better to make the place middle support before the first bar line shorter.

2.35 Ann said she feels it should be up to each notator to decide if unit timing or specific timing would more practical and suitable for the readership.

2.36 Returning to Mei's earlier comments, Dawn was curious to know how our Chinese notation colleagues would respond to the unit vs. specific timing issue.

2.37 Charlotte: Perhaps specific vs. unit timing is related to the issue of whether or not a score should include information about the technique of a dance. For instance, perhaps the notator could assume that the reader knows the technique of a Chinese dance, so it would be unnecessary to give details about its specific timing. On the other hand, if I don't know the technique of a dance could I perform it without that information? If I don't know Graham, could I know how to perform it by reading a score that doesn't indicate the specifics of a Graham contraction?

2.38 Sandra: Such information would go in the introduction to the score.

2.39 Mei: Folk dance may have different needs from modern and ballet. This is why the established methods for showing timing became problematic for Janos.

2.40 Charlotte thought that Janos has the same problem that Mei had when she read the score for Chinese dance: the “apples and oranges” inconsistency in established timing rules.

2.41 Sandra responded to Dawn's question about how Chinese notators might feel about the issue. They notated their dances using the established rules, so they must feel that the present system of writing works OK for that style of movement.

2.42 Tina: We should be careful about making assumptions about what the Chinese notators would say. Perhaps they felt the rules are fine and worked well. Or they might say that they used them, but with great difficulty. We don't know.

2.43 Charlotte: I've always assumed that the LN rules were designed for what works best in notating Western theatrical dance. However, I've often wondered if they work as well for other dance styles or movement.

2.44 Ann said she this is why she favours having a system that does not have so many built-in rules or assumptions. Even though there are differences between the movement of people around the word, there is enough commonality to make it possible to have a universal system. There is no question that in the beginning the system adhered to Western theatrical dance. However, we have done a lot to try to change that. For instance, we used to take it for granted that two place middle level symbols in the support columns means the legs are turned out. Then someone asked, “Why”? What about ballroom or modern dance? So that was changed. Now those indications by themselves say that the feet are together, but the degree of turn-out is not stated.

2.45 Kristen said that in the Philippines dances are taught very differently from the way Western theatrical dances are usually taught. Filipino's do not break their dances down and teach them in sections the way we do. Rather, the students just learn the dances by following their teacher as she performs the whole dance. This works because the Filipinos students start learning the dances when they are young children, and keep studying and practicing them for many years.

2.46 Lynne said the same was true in her son's Qwan Ki Do class. He found it difficult to learn the movement that way, so she notated the movement and broke it down for him.

2.47 Sandra said that is why it is important to have native notators who already know the style of the dance. For instance, you wouldn't send a Filipino dancer into the Paris Opera to notate a ballet. And vice versa.

2.48 Ann described her experience helping Azuka Tuburu incorporate Labanotation of African dances into Azuca's PHD thesis. They would discuss various options for recording a given movement, and then Axuca would tell her which notation best expressed the movement.

2.49 Vickie said Labanotation's descriptive framework is flexible, but it has a point of view which breaks the movement into discrete units. One would need to consider what changes occur if one breaks Qwan Ki Do or the Filipino dance into bits, rather than perceiving them as a whole.

2.50 Sandra: Scores of Qwan Ki Do and the Filipino dance may need to be very different from traditional scores.

2.51 Charlotte: In notating the different perception that Kristen described, perhaps it would be useful to use indications that show larger “chunks” of time than is usual in traditional LN scores. The unit of time that one talks about in the notation influences the way that we think about the movement. Perhaps Labanotation students should be taught from the beginning that the progression of time can be divided into different size units. For instance, the movement of the arm going upward, right, downward, left (four movements) can be written as the larger unit of a cartwheel path. An even larger unit that includes a series of arm movements could be indicated with a thematic bracket.

2.52 Vickie wondered if this might open up pedagogical difficulties that could confuse the beginning student. There is something to be said for letting the students get something solid to begin with, and then opening up complexity later.

2.53 Charlotte: How can we make our notation studies from the beginning be as much as possible about the way we think about the movement, e.g., as is done in Your Move?

2.54 Tina said she feels this relates to discussions at earlier meetings about pedagogy. She described a method of teaching in which students are first given a Motif score of a sequence from set choreography. The Motif score shows the main actions in the movement. This is then layered over with a progression of scores that give more and more detail, leading into the specificity of a LN score.


3.2 At the November 4, 2008 meeting (paragraph 4.45) participants said it would be very useful to list and, where necessary, clarify differences between the 3rd and 4th editions of Labanotation.

3.3 One such difference is the “Zed carets with a dot” on page 401 of Labanotation, 4th edition, shown here in 3a. The dot is not in other editions of Labanotation. What is its history? Has the use of the dot been discussed previously (e.g., at ICKL), or was it just an innovation for the 4th edition?

3.4 Ann said the use of the dot was put forward before the 4th edition, but she couldn't remember when. It is derived from a spot hold sign, which says something is on the same spot [Ex. 3b]. This is divided in half to create the caret with a spot [3c].

3.5 Ann: In 3e the caret with a dot shows that a support releases and then steps on the same spot. (Without the caret the foot may step forward beyond that spot.) The zed caret with a dot is used when a gesture is tied to a support. For instance, in 3f the right gesture releases and the steps on the same spot. 
3.6 Maryann: If 3e and 3f were written without the carets, would one move more forward in the step?

3.7 Ann said that without the carets there is a tendency to go more forward. The dot says to stay on the same spot that you were before.

3.8 Vicki: Last year I was looking for an example for regular zed carets (without the dot, as in 3d) in Labanotation, 4th edition. There aren't any. I wasn't sure if that means the regular zed caret has been replaced with the dotted one, or if they are both are in use.

3.9 Sandra asked what the difference is between a zed caret with a dot [3a] and one without a dot [3d]. Also, what is the difference between a regular caret with a dot [3c] and a zed caret with a dot [3a]? She pointed out that in ICKL (1989) the dot wasn't used. The un-dotted zed caret [3d] was used to indicate any permeation involving a step on the same spot, whether it was support to support, gesture to support, or one support to another support. The plain caret was used for shifting (as in 3g above).

3.10 Ann said that since the 1989 ICKL we have found that there is a need for more specific signs.

3.11 Tina: The new signs may not have been documented at ICKL. How do we document, disseminate, and make accessible these discussions about them so that the community as a whole advances?

3.12 Ann said the DNB Theory Bulletin Board is one place where the discussions can be disseminated and others can join in.

3.13 Oona suggested putting videos of meetings on line.

3.14 Tina said that putting ICKL theory meetings on Skype might be useful.

3.15 Sandra: Mediums such as the LN text and the Theory BB are useful. However, unless there is a unifying body, there will be a free-for-all with everyone using symbols in whatever way and context they want.

3.16 Tina: It is challenging for ICKL to be that body now because some of the key people are unable to attend its conferences. Also, having a meeting that only happens every two years may not be enough anymore.

3.17 Sandra: Returning to the caret conundrum, some notators want to use the zed caret to emphasize that a gesture is being pulled forward into the next support, as in a ballet “step, développé” that is pulled forward and tied into a step, i.e., you gesture in order to go into the step. This use can be clarified in a glossary.

3.18 Dawn: Could a phrasing bow be used for that?

3.19 Sandra: No, because that starts to look like simultaneous actions.

3.20 [Note from Charlotte: At this point Ann wrote another suggestion for the movement Sandra was describing. Unfortunately, I didn't take a photo of Ann's notation and I can't remember what it was, so I won't be able to show it in these minutes.]

3.21 Vicki said that she likes the dot in the signs because it clarifies that the signs are related to a spot hold.


4.2 Charlotte: In Labanotation, 4th edition, page 435 it says: “Focal point orientation was formerly indicated using a turn sign. The meeting line is now used to make this statement”

4.3 The book gives examples, shown here in 4a-4d.
4.4 Charlotte: The wording for that statement is confusing because someone might think that 4a and 4c should never be used. However, on page 95 it shows that they are indeed used, inside the staff. Perhaps the statement on page 435 could be reworded slightly to clarify this, e.g., by adding that the turn sign with the dot is not used outside the staff.

4.5 Ann explained that Knust used the turn sign with the black dot as a Front sign. Front signs should just state orientation; they should not depict movement. However, a turn sign does depict movement. Consequently, it was felt that Knust's sign did not work.

4.6 Vicki said that the statement on page 435 would probably not be a problem because most of the time the information at the back of the book is used in a context, such as, for example, reading a score that contains old symbols. If the material at the back of the book was written for someone trying to study LN out of context, then every footnote in the book would need to be pages long.

4.7 Charlotte agreed that in texts or other material one should not get carried away with writing complex explanations that would cause more confusion. However, whenever possible, we should be as clear as possible. Sometimes that means writing less, sometimes it means writing more. In this case just a bit of editing could make the statement clearer.

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