Tuesday, January 26, 2010

2001 Motif Symposium Proceedings – "Opening Session: Group Understanding of Motif Identifying Core Element, Distinguishing Divergent Elements"

Submitted by Charlotte Wile – March 14, 2003

[This posting contains a selection from Proceedings of the Inaugural Motif Symposium, Symbols of Our Community…Moving Forward with Motif, August 2-4, 2002, Held at The Department of Dance, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA, Sponsored by Language of Dance Center, USA, Motus Humanus, The Ohio State University Department of Dance, compiled by Tina Curran, Jimmyle Listenbee, and Charlotte Wile, Scribe, Jane Dulieu.]

Opening Session: Group Understanding of Motif
Identifying Core Element, Distinguishing Divergent Elements
Jimmyle Listenbee and Jessica Lindberg
Assisted by Tina Curran and Ilene Fox

Note: Worksheets A and B referenced in the following summary below are included at the end of the summary.

8:20 Introduction: Jimmyle

As professionals in the field of Laban movement studies, we share something which unites us beyond philosophies and practices. That is, a system of written notation which allows us, (and all who learn this language,) to describe and to directly communicate specific movement events (without necessarily passing through the context-laden filters of verbal language.) Since each of us uses Motif description consistently in our work, we are well advanced along the path of literacy. And yet, because we have developed various “dialects” independently, our communication often bogs down through discrepancies in terms and usage.

When we are communicating through words, we have no trouble at all switching from formal complexity to the sparest and simplest present tense if the occasion demands it. When the objective is pure communication, even across language barriers, we will gesture, write, diagram, search our vocabularies for alternative cognates; we will resort to whatever it takes.

--When we encounter a stranger who speaks our native tongue, we’ll just jump right into conversation.

--Algierian and Swiss Francophones meeting in Saigon can communicate despite vast cultural differences.

--When a Spaniard and a Mexican encounter each other in Massachusetts, they rarely negotiate grammatical niceties before falling ecstatically into the heavenly river of their glorious mother tongue.

--We have all experienced the delight of discovery when breaking the code of bicoastal regionalisms such as “coffee, regular.”

--And we have experienced the relief and gratitude of talking with a patiently supportive co-respondent in an unpracticed, rudimentary foreign language.

The purpose of this session is to reinforce the fundamental literacy we share through our common understanding of basic symbols, and to explore the nuanced richness of our several dialects. The emphasis is on receptive listening and looking in order to better comprehend and enjoy our own as well as someone else’s understanding of our common language. Throughout this symposium we hope to invoke a spirit of delight, curiosity and commonality among us diverse “Laban-o-phones.” and so, for this first session, we would like suggest that you focus your awareness on your own style of communication, and to practice seeing through one another’s eyes. And to consciously hold mutual comprehension as your one and only objective.


To frame our explorations, we have devised two 3o-minute exercises for reading, defining, performing, observing and communicating simple perceptions through and about motif symbols. Here is

EXERCISE A (Jimmyle at overhead; Jessica, Tina, Ilene hand out Worksheet A)

CAUTION: Please wait five minutes until step 2 of this exercise to share your responses to these symbols.



a. Very quickly
--Write as many short 1-5-word definitions for each symbol on this sheet that you use on a regular basis.
-- Leave blank any unfamiliar symbols.
-- Save the ones you know but don’t use very much for last.

We’ll stick strictly to a 7-minute time limit, so practice being comfortable with the fact that you need not finish the worksheet in order to complete the task.

(Quick transition)
Look for pleasure in letting it go.

b. Now let’s look at this side of the room:
-- All of you at the same time, if the symbol is familiar, please perform an action indicated by symbol #1.
-- OK. Now this side, altogether, if it’s familiar, perform #2…
-- OK. Now this side, you’ll do all the odd numbers and that side will do all the evens. As we observe, let’s enjoy the unity within the variety and variety within the unity.
-- Alright, please go ahead performing #3…..
-- Etc.

(Quick transition with positive feedback)


-- Find a partner from the other side. Look for one from a different background or training.
-- Discuss your written definitions and your visual & kinesthetic perceptions with your partner.

(Slow transition)

-- Please bring your conversations to a transition point and
-- Begin to hook up with another pair to form a foursome.


-- Please turn your attention to the screen. Here is

EXERCISE B (Jimmyle at overhead; Tina, Jessica and Ilene hand out Worksheet B)

This is a list of symbols & concepts (as you see listed here, down the left column) which we’ve compiled as a starting place for core understanding. We think, only from our own general experience, that these are more or less universal. We realize the list is probably incomplete, and that there is some difference in interpretation even of these. Exercise B is meant to serve as groundwork for addressing these concerns.

These categories you see here, across the heading row of the worksheet, are meant to help all of us as a whole, gain perspective on our own and each others’ assumptions about the literacy status of symbols within our vocabulary.

Do you perceive a given symbol as having

-- A. Universal Agreement such as this sign for “any turn?” Or,

-- E. Do you see the “any” sign here as an Embellishment to the sign for flexion? Or,

-- I. Do you see aspects of the symbol as Inconsistent/ contradictory, such as in this sign for Shape/Carving which might also be logically interpreted as “any shape?” Or, is it a

-- U. (for “Ultimately Different after all) such as this action stroke vs. this “any action” symbol? A U-rating means you see two symbols as similar, related, but with separate meanings.

The objectives of Exercise B are to

-- acknowledge agreements;
-- understand the perceptions of others; and to
-- build ground for continuing discussion.
-- Please work in your foursome;
-- Categorize symbols according to your own individual perceptions;
-- Work with your group to understand “Why?”
-- And – perhaps – add symbols to your list.

Jessica will circulate to collect your new additions.

(Presenter team fan out: Jimmyle & Tina circulate, coach groups, answer questions; Ilene man the overhead; Jessica collect new information.)

9:20 Jessica takes over.

Now, just to get more perspective on individual/group thinking, let’s hear from each foursome.

-- Could you just give us one example of something you all or mostly agreed to place in the A category of literacy status?

Some examples given:
Parts of Body
Levels and Direction
Straight Path

-- And please also give us random samples of perceptions under the other categories.

Some examples given:
Embellished – Stillness as embellished pause
Inconsistent – Direction as Destination vs. Motion;
Gathering/Scattering re dimensionality
Flexion/Extension re pre-sign/action
Action stroke
Sign for Any(redundant usage;
contradictory use in Carving sign
Strength/Relaxed signs (Guest)
Effort signs (in applied observation, not definition)
Original – Body signs(Hackney)
Dynamics signs (Guest)
Ultimately Different – Stillness (Guest)


Closure: Tina takes over

Reflections and commentary on the content of the reported examples. Suggestions for further use of Worksheets with attention directed to stack of blank worksheets in room. Request hand-in of worksheets for posting.

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