Thursday, January 28, 2010

Minutes for the Open Theory Meeting, February 4, 2008

Minutes for the Open Theory Meeting, February 4, 2008
Submitted by Charlotte Wile - September 16, 2008

[Following are minutes for the Open Theory Meeting held at the Dance Notation Bureau, February 4, 2008. The minutes were written by Charlotte Wile.]

Present: Jill Cirasella, Ray Cook, Jen Garda, Doris Green, Carla Guggenheim, Mira Kim, Charlotte Wile.

1. Gestures - Circular Patterns
2. African Dance

TOPIC #1 - Gestures - Circular Patterns
Ann Guest sent the following essay for the group to discuss. Notation examples are given at the end of the essay.
By Ann Hutchinson Guest
How can circular gestures be explored? What ideas can lie behind their relation to space, their location, their relation to a part of the body or to another person? This paper presents the ideas already established in Labanotation, but not yet used in the Motif style of movement exploration.

1. Gestural Paths - Definition
A little history! When it was put forward (by guess who!) that the limbs can describe paths in space, Albrecht Knust said, “That is nonsense, you would have to cut off your arm to have it make a path in space!” Heaven forbid! Our idea is based on the path described by the extremity - usually the hand, but it could be the wrist or elbow - as the arm moves in space. In the examples that follow the starting point for the arm is not given, nor the degree to which the arm may need to flex or extend. Body inclusion, body accommodation may be needed, all this is left open, we focus on the main idea.

2. The Basic Forms
Our concern here is not with straight paths described by the extremities, but of circular paths. The three basic forms are the cartwheel path, 2a, the somersault path, 2b and the horizontal, wheeling path, 2c. These and the axis of each are well known. But tilted paths that lie between these may be used, how can these be indicated?

3. Indication of Axis
As explained in the Advanced Labanotation issue on Floorwork, Basic Acrobatics, (p. 121), pins can be used inside the path sign to indicate a different axis. In the following examples, start with the right arm up. Ex. 3a shows the standard axis for a somersault. In 3b a diagonal axis is shown, the circle now veering into the right/forward-back/left diagonal directions.

This same path could be thought of (and hence written) as a cartwheel to the right that veered forward, 3c. The choice rests on what is in the mind of the performer, or what strikes the viewer, these is no rule as to choice. An intermediate displacement can be shown by combining the appropriate pins, thus 3d combines the pins of 3a and 3b. For Motif based performance these subtle intermediate paths will probably not be needed. The notation of 3e would result in a cartwheel to the right.

Once this progression has passed the lateral plane, we are faced with the transparent clock problem. The movement continues the same pattern, but we see it from a different point of view. If this movement progression continues, we end up with 3f, written with the concept of a forward somersault, but having arrived at what would normally be thought of and written as 3g.

Also to be considered are tilted paths. In 3h the lateral axis has been tilted, as a result the path will be at a slant, 'leaning' to the right, illustrated in 3i.

4. Circumference Points
The horizontal path of 4a has been tilted so that it rises in the forward direction and sink in the backward. Pictorially, this would look like 4b. By using small direction symbols, the circumference points can be indicated, as in 4c. This could also be thought of as the diametral points. In 4d the circumference points produce a horizontal circle overhead. Ex. 4e is another way of describing 3j, illustrated in 3k.

5. Amount of Circling
When the amount of circling is important in movement exploration, it can be shown with fractions or numbers, as in 5a, 5b, and 5c.

6. Size of Circle
The diametral points can be closer together, in 6a the center point (place middle) is indicated, thus the arm will circle in front of the body and must flex and extend to produce the circle. In 6b the points are even closer together, the circle being upward, in front of you. In this way some indication of size can be given through such placement. Another device to indicate size is through using the diamond (which represents spatial aspects). Ex. 6c states a small use of space; 6d states very small; 6e shows a large use of space while 6f states very large. These indications are placed in a bracket next to the path sign, as in 6g where the circle should be very small.

Note that where you start on the circle is left open, as is the placement of the limb. For a specific LN description this would be indicated at the start. The freedom allowed in Motif description provides a great range for experimentation.

7. Focal Point
The center point around which a circle should lie, i.e. the axis point, may be stated. This could be a body part of the person moving, e.g. circling around your head, 7a, or around your right knee, 7b. For the latter the knee would need to be lifted to an appropriate position. In 7c the left hand needs to be appropriately placed for the right arm to circle it. While it is the extremity of the right arm, the hand, that is visually doing the circling, note that it should be a movement of the whole arm, the arm will need to be bent to come degree. Ex. 7d states that it is a movement of the right hand, this is a more isolated action, the rest of the right arm will remain comparatively still.

The focal point could be another person or an object. In 7e you are circling B's right elbow. Much experimentation and invention can take place when working with a partner. Any kind of circling could take place, shown in 7f. Here the freedom is important and size, line of the axis, and other features need not be considered.

8. Area Stated
Where around the body a circular pattern lies can easily be indicated. This can be especially useful when small circles are being used. The area of the direction can be stated at the start, 8a, or placed alongside, as in 8b to indicate very small somersault circling in the right side low area. Ex. 8c is also very small circling in the place high area, the circling being as in 3e, i.e. a cartwheeling to the right, but expressed as somersaulting around a forward/backward axis. In 8d the same kind of circling occurs in the side high area.

9. Conclusion
The idea of this paper has been to find different ways of viewing and experiencing gestures using circular paths. The ideas can be tried out without the specific notation, without spelling it out in symbols as I have done here. Each has a different emphasis, a different point of view and thus can pen up and enrich movement experience.


The paper contained ideas that were new and somewhat difficult for some in the group to grasp immediately. Much of the discussion was spent in clarifying these ideas.

Ray brought up the issue of terminology used for the direction of circling in a plane. For example, consider a movement in which the arm begins upward and goes in a “forward” somersault path. If the arm goes in complete circle, in the later part of the path it feels like the arm is going backward rather than forward.

Edits: In section 4 of Ann's essay she refers to Ex. 3j and 3k. Those example numbers are not in the paper; Ann probably meant 3h and 3i. [Addendum from Charlotte: I think 4a also needs to be changed. Shouldn't it contain pins for forward low and backward high (the axis of 4b)?]

In her paper Ann said she is presenting material not yet used in Motif Notation. She said the material is established in Labanotation and is presented in the Advanced Labanotation textbooks. The group wondered if all the indications in the paper are discussed in the Advanced Labanotation texts. [This will be researched for the next meeting].

The overall purpose of the paper was discussed. The paper describes how to indicate “tilted” and “in between” planes. It shows how all circular paths can be perceived and indicated in different ways, e.g., in relation to axes, circumference points, and body parts.

Ray: The paper does not really deal with new ideas (i.e., new planes). All planes can be seen as variations of the three basic planes (2a-2c). The paper describes new ways of looking at the established planes.
Charlotte: On the one hand, the “tilted,” “in between” planes could be seen, as Ray says, as variations on the three basic planes. On the other hand, they could be seen as basic planes themselves. [As an analogy, do we think of the direction of forward high as a variation on upward or forward middle, or is forward high a basic direction by itself? Likewise, is the right forward diagonal direction a variation on the forward or right directions, or is it a basic direction by itself?]

The difference between the meaning of pins (to depict axis) and direction signs (to describe the circumference of the path) was clarified.

Mira demonstrated how concepts in the paper can be understood by putting a pencil (the axis) through the middle of a piece of paper (the plane). The plane is always at a right angle to the axis. Changing the axis changes the pitch or tilt of the plane.

Charlotte said 9a and 9b (see below) depict the same path. How can the difference between 9a and 9b be indicated with the signs in Ann's paper? Charlotte suggested 9c and 9d.

Some in the group said this would not work because, according to their analysis, 9c has a different axis from 9d. They said that the axis for 9c is 9e, and the axis for 9d is 9f. Charlotte (and maybe others in the group as well) thought this is incorrect and that 9c and 9d have the same axis (9f). The group struggled with this and related issues for some time; they were not able to come to an agreement. [Note from Charlotte: This part of the discussion was convoluted and difficult for me to follow, so I won't attempt to describe it here in detail.]

Jen questioned whether there is a need to make a distinction between 9a and 9b. If the axis is middle level (9f), isn't it clearer to describe the movement as in 9b and 9d? She felt that perceiving the path as in 9a is confusing and that 9c is not theoretically logical.
Charlotte said the intent of 9a and 9b is different. In 9a the focus is on directions that are off the vertical line of gravity, whereas in 9b the focus is on lines of direction that are perpendicular to or in line with the vertical line of gravity. Ex. 9a is relatively “mobile,” and Ex. 9b is relatively “stable.”

Jen and Ray felt that the path signs that contain direction signs are confusing because the direction signs look like they refer to the axis of a plane rather than circumference points. Ray said he thought that a long time ago that was the way those signs were interpreted.

Jill said her mathematics background makes it easier for her to visualize the planes as movements around an axis. Also, she pointed out that writing the paths with pins would eliminate the problems the group was having with circumference points.

Charlotte: On the other hand, it might be easier for some people to perceive the planes by visualizing points in space. [Addendum from Charlotte: I wonder if the two symbols types denote different intents. Perhaps thinking about circumference points makes one focus more on space, whereas thinking about the axis makes the movement feel more body oriented.]

Everyone agreed that there is much to think about in Ann's paper. There was not enough time to digest and discuss all the material at this meeting. The group felt that it would useful to continue the discussion at the next meeting.

Topic #2 - African Dance

At the February 4 meeting the group discussed ideas for revising Doris's score for Agbadza. Her revision of the score using ideas from the February discussion is shown below (Ex. 10a). At this (March 3) meeting Ray (who was not at the February meeting and therefore had not seen the movement beforehand) interpreted 10a to test its accuracy and efficacy. 

Ray's performance of 10a led to a discussion of other ways the notation might be improved. Several issues were discussed, including:
1. The pelvis somersault should be changed to an inverted pelvis tilt. In describing the movement, Doris gave the image of “trying to sit on a chair using the backside, then deciding not to sit and come back up.” It was suggested that this image could be included in the score.
2. The hold signs on the palm facing should be eliminated.
3. Whether the sign for wrist means the wrist rotates or the lower arm rotates.
4. Whether the arm movement should be written with the whole arm rotating or just the lower arm rotating.
5. Changing the timing of the steps to show they have an even rhythm, with the pauses given the same amount of time as the steps.
6. How stepping on a flat foot affects the timing of the movement.
7. How unit timing affects the way the notation should be read.
8. The benefit of indicating repeated movement with repeats signs (rather than writing out repeats). That way the reader will not have to keep reading the movement to see when the movement is different. Also, movement that is different will then stand out visually as being different.
Doris said she would revise the score once again, keeping in mind ideas discussed at the meeting.

Doris reminded everyone to take a look at her online exhibit:

After the meeting Doris e-mailed the following:

“….I have gone back to the drawing board on Agbadza. During the course of the years the approach to writing this dance has changed. Lately certain things have been questioned so I went back to basics. As you can see numerous African dances are based in the complex meter. The basic unit of the Agbadza is the dotted quarter note. I have therefore changed the basic unit. I am attaching a copy of Agbadza rewritten in this manner which gives the even flow that you [the group] wish and it matches the music exactly. In this manner I can see what Odette was talking about and also why Ann put in the release signs. This meant that the foot was lifted from the floor just before it was planted down again.

….I really enjoyed working with my pen, pencil, graph paper and c-thru ruler in producing the hand drawn copy. Please let me know if this approach is realistic. For African dances I believe more attention needs to me paid to the complex meter than the standard meter. This is particularly true of the upbeat as it one square short in the beginning, but I was not sure if I wrote it, that it would be understood. This drawing also corrects the oppositional movements that was incorrect in the original.

Perhaps when this is completed, we can approach Rhonda to animate it in DanceForm. I think this would be worthy.

Do not forget to view the exhibit online, it is attractively done.”

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