Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New Caret Rules as of 2001

New Caret Rules as of 2001
Submitted by Sandra Aberkalns and Ilene Fox - April 12, 2002
[Originally posted on Web Library: Resources for Teachers]


At the August 2001 conference of the International Council of Kinetography Laban (ICKL), it was voted to change the rules regarding the need for carets to indicate the same part of the body.

Prior to this conference Labanotators were required to use carets or repeat the presign for subsequent movements of those parts of the body needing a presign. Kinetography Laban had different rules; in some columns carets were needed and in others they were not.

Now, with the new rules, Labanotation and Kinetography Laban are unified.

The new rules follow the thinking of the Kinetography Laban practice. They are based on the idea that some columns have been permanently designated for a specific body part and others have not.

Permanently Designated Columns

The permanently designated columns are for supports on the feet, leg gestures, upper body, and arm gestures.

When these columns are used for other body parts, presigns and carets are necessary. A symbol without a presign or caret will be understood to be for the body part for which the column is permanently designated.


In the above example, count one is understood to be a movement of the whole arm. In count 2, the upper arm is specified by the use of the presign. The caret in count 3 indicates that the movement is still for the upper arm. In count 4, with no presign or caret, the forward middle movement is understood to be for the whole arm, for which the column is designated.

The first column outside the staff on both sides is designated for upper body movements. Historically, upper body indications have been used more extensively by practitioners of Kinetography Laban than by those of Labanotation. In Labanotation, on page 492, Ann Hutchinson Guest says of the upper body: “The term ‘upper body movements’ refers to movements which range from involving only the shoulder section of the spine (the upper dorsal vertebrae) to involving the whole of the moveable spine including the lumbar region.” Upper body movement is the movement that the body would make if the arm were in the direction stated for the upper body with an inclusion. But the upper body movement can be done without that specific arm gesture. For further information, read pages 492 – 494 in Labanotation and in Dictionary of Kinetography Laban by Albrecht Knust, entries 412 – 417.

Any symbol without a presign or caret in the first column outside the staff is understood to be for upper body. In the above example, a presign is needed when the chest is placed in this column. Carets are needed in counts 2 and 3 to indicate the movement is still for the chest. In count 4, there are no presigns or carets, the diagonal movements are therefore understood to be for the upper body. In count 5, the movements are still for the upper body.


In the above example carets are used in count 2 to show that the movement is still for the upper and lower legs. Count 3 shows a movement for the whole leg as it is in the designated column for that body part. In count 4, the presigns have been repeated. A caret for the lower leg would be incorrect as the previous symbol is not for the lower leg. Since the presign was repeated for the lower leg, we found it easier to read if we repeated both presigns. A caret could have been used for the upper leg. Note that the inner subsidiary column (where the upper leg is placed) follows the same practice as the leg gesture column. When tied to the support column for use as an extra support column, it follows the same rule as the support column.

Carets in the Support Column

It was voted that in support columns, one must repeat the presigns; carets are not to be used to mean the same part of the body. This is a change for both Labanotation and Kinetography Laban.


In the above example, using the pre-2001 rules, the use of the caret is unclear. It could be interpreted to mean stay on the knee, or it could be understood as shift onto the foot. With this decision, in order to stay on the knee, it needs to be written as below.

Columns With No Permanent Designation

For columns not designated for a specific part of the body, the use of a presign gives a temporary designation. Carets are not needed for subsequent movements of the same body part in these columns, as a symbol without a presign does not have a pre-established meaning. The temporary designation lasts until a new presign is used. This is for all columns except those for the supports, leg gestures, upper body, and arms gestures.

Carets are needed for the movements of the chest because this column has been permanently designated for the upper body. They are not needed for the pelvis movement, as this column is not permanently designated for any body part. The pelvis symbol gives a temporary designation to the column.


In the example above, the movement for the upper arm has not been written in the arm column. Since it has been written in an undesignated column, the upper arm presign gives temporary designation and no caret is needed for the subsequent movement.

Examples A and B below show the same movement. At the ICKL conference, it was agreed that example B is the preferred way of writing. It is recognized that in a complex score with many dancers, space might be a problem.

In the example above, the thumb facing has been written in an undesignated column. The presign has given a temporary designation to the column, therefore the movement in that column in count 2 is also a thumb facing. In count three, a new presign is shown, giving a new temporary designation to the column. This designation lasts until another presign is shown; therefore the movement in count 4 is also the palm.


The head columns also fall under the category of temporarily designated columns. In the example above, on count 1 the head twists slightly to the right and returns to normal in the next count. In count 3 two actions are happening simultaneously. The eye focus becomes distant as the dancer's gaze moves to forward low. In the next count both of these actions are cancelled. In counts 5-6 the head once again twists to the right returning to normal on the next count. On count 8 the dancer will look forward high. Even with the old rule of using carets the reader would probably need to refer back to the previous measure to check which column this symbol referred to as there are so many things happening in quick succession.

Writing Guideline

If a gap between movements makes it difficult to see in which column a symbol is placed, repeat the presign. Ease of reading should always be the priority.

Even when carets were required a writer had to determine whether to use a caret or to repeat the presign. In the above example the front of the head facing forward high happens after more of a gap than it did in the previous example and the writer chose to rewrite the presign to facilitate the reading process.


In summary, once a presign has been used in a column that has a permanent designation, carets or a repeat of that presign are needed for subsequent movements. A movement without a caret or presign will be understood to refer to the permanently designated body part. In columns that do not have a permanent designation, presigns give a temporary designation and no carets are needed for subsequent movements of that part. It is recommended, however, that the presign be repeated after a significant gap. The temporary designation lasts until another presign is used.

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