Tuesday, January 26, 2010

2001 Motif Symposium Proceedings - Summary of Theory Discussions

Submitted by Charlotte Wile - July 16, 2002

Following is my summary of theory discussions that took place at the symposium “Symbols of Our Community…Moving Forward with Motif,” August 2-5, 2001 at The Ohio State University. The write-up is based on notes taken by Jane Dulieu and videotapes of the theory sessions. It also contains addendum added by participants after the Symposium. These postscripts are shown in orange lettering. Example labels (e.g., Ex. 1a) refer to notation at the bottom of each discussion. 


Odette Blum: The sign for meandering (Ex. 1a) has strong intention and is loaded with meaning (it has quality).

Ray Cook: Path symbols shouldn’t be loaded with motivation and meaning.

Ann Hutchinson Guest: Paths can be fast or slow; “going to” or “departing from.” We should investigate many different meanings and motivations. Ex. 1a indicates “going” --an “unplanned” path. Ex. 1b indicates curving. It is different from Ex. 1c and 1d. We need a new sign for the general statement of traveling (which would be different from the sign for “any path”).

Jackie Hand: Ex. 1a seems to have Effort description in it. Meandering in physics has a specific description and angles and curves.

Janice Meaden: The Laban system has a philosophical understanding of intention. Ex. 1e indicates generic traveling on any path. It reveals moving through the space. Ex. 1f says make a choice: Ex. 1g or Ex. 1h. In Ex. 1a there is an emphasis on an Effort configuration, e.g., Light-Sustained-Indirect. Ex. 1a should be used for any kind of curved pathway. Ex. 1i could mean a curved pathway to the right. The sign Charlotte Wile and Ray Cook have suggested for any number (Ex. 1j) can be placed in the middle of the path sign, as in Ex. 1k.

Charlotte Wile: We are talking about three ideas: 1) Paths, i.e., making gestural or locomotor designs or trace forms; 2) traveling with a certain attitude (e.g., a meandering attitude); 3) just traveling, with the trace form irrelevant (i.e., the opposite of doing movement in place). Ex. 1e is the generic sign for paths. Ex. 1a should be used to show a curved path. Traveling with an attitude could be indicated as in Ex. 1l, or a sign for an attitude (e.g., meandering) could be placed in an intention bow (Ex. 1m). New signs are needed to show traveling (with the path irrelevant). One idea is shown in Ex. 1n, which contains an arrow -- the sign for motion. Alternately, traveling could be shown as in Ex. 1o, and unspecified movement in place could be shown as in Ex 1p.

Odette Blum: (Responding to Charlotte’s comments.) Never thought of a path being gestural.

Ray Cook: The word “any” in “any path” may cause a problem.

Ann Hutchinson Guest: Perhaps the sign for traveling, i.e., “going” vs. making a path, could be Ex. 1q. or Ex. 1r. Ex. 1s shows the “direction of progression” (similar to Ex. 1u). Thus the use of the arrow in Ex. 1q and Ex. 1r. Ex. 1g was the first path sign. The sign for “any path” (Ex. 1e) came later. Maybe Ex. 1e could become “meandering,” and Ex. 1a could become “curving.”

Charlotte Wile: Is “traveling” the same concept as “meandering”?

Ann Hutchinson Guest: (Responding to Charlotte’s question) No!

Charlotte Wile: If Ex. 1e is used for “meandering,” what would be the sign for “any path”? [Postscript from Charlotte Wile: I like the new idea for “meandering” presented in Ann Hutchinson Guest, “Sign for Meandering,” Theory Bulletin Board, Paths thread, June 3, 2002]

Janice Meaden: Perhaps we should talk about weight transference rather than traveling. Weight transference is the bridge between movement in place and pathways. Multiple weight transference produces pathways.

Ray Cook: Maybe the sign for support could be used to show traveling, as in 1u.

Tina Curran: Ex. 1e indicates travel, i.e., general goingness. Ex. 1f indicates travel on any one pathway. Ex. 1a indicates a free form unspecified path.

Jessica Lindberg: Concurs with Tina, but the audience for the notation should be considered.

Jimmyle Listenbee: If one travels over time, one has made a path whether there is intention or not. It doesn’t matter whether intention is conscious or unconscious.

Peggy Hackney: Agrees with Jimmyle. Ex. 1e indicates any kind of traveling. Ex. 1f says choose a path before you move. Ex. 1a indicates a curved path.


Topic: Can an unmodified direction sign, as in Ex. 2a, be interpreted as traveling in a direction, as in Ex. 2b?

Ray Cook: If something has a forward intention, then how do we depict that? It should be shown as in 2a.

Janice Meaden: Ex. 2a indicates a place in the kinesphere. The movement should done by the whole body with weight transference.

Charlotte Wile: Ex. 2a just makes a statement about going in a direction. The direction could be expressed while moving in place or while traveling. Ex. 2b specifies traveling with forward weight transference. A symbol for “movement in place” is needed so we can specify moving in a direction while staying in place.

Peggy Hackney: A sign for direction can include traveling. For example, in a movement choir, right side high could be evoked while traveling.

Sharlene Jenkins: John Giffin says “Symbols can’t scold or say no.” Basic symbols should be as free and creative as possible.

Sheila Marion: The notation should be an open invitation to move. Symbols should lead to creativity and not be prescriptive.

Tina Curran: Ex. 2a should have both possibilities: traveling and staying in place. Other signs can make a distinction. Also, exploring a concept is different from observing and notating a concept. [Postscript by Tina Curran: 2a and 2b are distinct for me in that 2a does not indicate traveling and 2b does represent traveling with the direction of step/travel defined. My comment above is made in consideration of an introductory teaching choice while working with young children. I may, at first, allow 2a to be experienced and interpreted as both axial and traveling through space and then clarify the difference between 2a and 2b when the students learn traveling as its own distinct concept.]

Charlotte: What criteria or applications are we using to standardize the Motif system?

Ann Hutchinson Guest: A direction sign says you may explore another aspect of movement, but this is not a necessity.

Jimmyle Listenbee: Re: The relationship of LOD and Space Harmony. LOD is the clearest grammar we have for teaching. LOD grammar and Space Harmony are inextricably linked.

Ann Hutchinson Guest. Labanotation is not based on Laban’s Space Harmony concepts.

Jimmyle Listenbee: The system should be made useful for teaching in all these area.

Peggy Hackney: Agrees with Jimmyle.

Jackie Hand. The way Motif symbols are being defined by Labanotators do not always fit our needs at LIMS. We need to explore the differences and similarities in the way symbols are being used.

Kevin Frey: Re: Standardization and consistency. The system shouldn’t loose flexibility at the expense of stabilization.

Sheila Marion: We are talking about three levels of notation: 1) An open invitation to move. 2) “Aboutness”--look at what the movement is about, and can you do it in a way that shows we agree? 3) Movement observation and analysis, and the depth of these observations.

Ann Hutchinson Guest: There should be uniformity in the system so it works as a language.


Ray Cook: How do you respond to the stillness gap in Ex. 3a? How much time is needed to experience stillness?

Ann Hutchinson Guest: Stillness needs a pause long enough to feel the quality of stillness. In 3b there is no opportunity for stillness. In 3c there are pauses. In 3d there is a long break, no intention of stillness. What would 3e mean? Maybe holding like a statue? In 3f the hold sign is used to retain the downward movement. A pause is a break in continuity. The stillness sign (Ex. 3g) shows coming to the end of a movement with a “resonance.” It consists of the hold sign (Ex. 3h) and the sign for “outflowing” (Ex. 3i).

Peggy Hackney: Ex. 3g is another layered symbol clustered around Effort qualities. Ex. 3h says “maintain.” In Ex 3j there is stillness. “Outpouring” (see Ann’s comments above) is a Flow statement (e.g., Free or Bound Effort). However, in stillness there could be other Effort qualities, which could be shown with the maintaining sign, as in Ex. 3j and Ex. 3k.

Jackie Hand: Has the same outlook as Peggy.

Jimmyle Listenbee: Ex. 3g indicates “outward flowing stillness.” Ex. 3l could be used for “inward flowing stillness.” Ex. 3l expresses the intensity of stillness in a meditative state. The sign is based on the sign in Ex. 3m developed by Marion North (‘80’s). Ex. 3d is theoretically quite elegant. However, in practice the idea that “nothing happens” is hard to perceive if the gap is clear.

Charlotte Wile: In Ex. 3n the content of the stillness is left open to interpretation, i.e., during the stillness the intent could be “downward,” or Direct Effort, or Light Effort, etc. The intention bow can be used to clarify the intent during the stillness. In Ex. 3o there is a downward intent during the stillness; in Ex. 3p there is a Direct Effort intent. In Ex. 3q there is an upward intent during the downward movement and during the stillness. The use of the theme bow during stillness, as in Ex. 3r, would not work, because the theme bow implies movement.

Ann Hutchinson Guest: The idea for the intention bow came from Jean Cebron. (1950’s), who wanted to have “feelings” indicated with a heart shape symbol, as in Ex. 3s. Ann changed the heart into the intention bow.

Ray Cook: Ex. 3g is a good generic sign. Note that in Ex. 3n the hold sign in the “stillness” sign refers to something held in the past. One can’t hold something that will occur in the future.

Peggy Hackney: Asks Ray if he thinks there is a difference between Ex. 3n and 3t.

Ray Cook: They are different. Ex. 3t just says to maintain place low. The stillness sign in Ex. 3n adds another connotation.

Peggy Hackney: Jimmyle’s idea of “inward” and “outward” flowing is interesting.

Jackie Hand: Inward is usually tied up with Bound Flow, and outward is usually tied up with Free Flow.

Jimmyle Listenbee: The intention bow seems useful. Can one put words in it, as in Ex. 3u? Is a box needed around the words, as in Ex. 3v?

Ann Hutchinson Guest: Words aren’t put in the intention bow. It should contain Effort or dynamic symbols, as in Ex. 3w.

Charlotte Wile: Re: the meaning of the hold sign. A pause should be indicated with a space, as in Ex. 3x. Stillness is indicated with a stillness sign, as in Ex. 3y. The hold sign is used to show physically maintaining something while there is movement, as in Ex. 3z. The hold sign does not say anything about intent. The hold sign should not be given two meanings (“physically maintain something during movement,” and “be still”). Using the hold sign to show retention, as in Ex. 3z, is already established in the system. We need a different sign for stillness, e.g., Ex. 3g. [Postscript by Charlotte Wile: The problem with having the hold sign indicate both retention and stillness is illustrated in Ex. 3aa. The notation becomes open to conflicting interpretations: 1) Keep the arms forward while moving with Light-Free Effort; or 2) After moving the arms forward, be still with Light-Free Effort.]

Sheila Marion: Uses the hold sign (Ex. 3h) rather than a gap for pauses in Motif scores. Many of her students are uncomfortable with the “performer’s outflowing” that the stillness sign suggests.

Janice Meaden: Stillness is a maintained attitude or investment of some sort; its content could be form many areas -- Maybe “outflowing” is not the best word for this idea because it suggests Effort.

Ann Hutchinson Guest: The “V” in the stillness sign is the sign for “succession,” It does not indicate Effort Flow. Perhaps we need another sign instead of the “V.”

Odette Blum: Rather than “stillness” one can say “aliveness” or “ attention.”

Lucy Venable: Asked for a demonstration of the LOD interpretation of “stillness.” (Tina Curran gives a demonstration.)

Peggy Hackney: In Tina’s demonstration there is attention, i.e. Space Effort, in all of her stillnesses. Maybe that is important in the way the term stillness is being used.

Charlotte Wile: The are many reasons for writing a Motif score. Showing what has occurred is only one reason. There could be many other reasons; e.g., the score could show what I want the mover to think about as he moves, not necessarily what actually occurs. The development of the system and creation of symbols should reflect this.

Ann Hutchinson Guest: In “alive” stillness you may actually be feeling the birth of the next movement. What the performer is thinking about doing may be very different form what the observer is seeing.

Tina Curran: Likes the words “aliveness,” “stage presence,” and “awareness” for describing the idea of stillness. She also likes the idea of inward stillness.

John Giffin: Stillness is a subset of non-movement. We need to be careful about using the stillness sign because not all non-movement is stillness as we have defined it here. When stillness is not the quality that one wants to express, then another symbol or no symbol should be used.

Sheila Marion: Has the same concern as John. She uses the hold sign to show a stop, as in 3e.


Ray Cook: Ex. 4a is the established sign for an area. Ex. 4b could indicate a two dimensional shape. Ex. 4c is the established sign for a surface. Ex. 4d could be used as a pre-sign for two-dimensional shapes; e.g., think of a wall, as in the drawing in Ex. 4e.

Ann Hutchinson Guest: From Labanotation came the need to express a movement such as “the hands are in a triangular shape.” The sign for shape is derived from the sign for spatial aspect (Ex. 4f). A line is added to give it form (Ex. 4g). It is unclear if Ex. 4g is two-dimensional. Ex. 4h has been suggested for three-dimensional. The shape sign is followed by a visual representation of the shape (Ex. 4i). Laban established basic shapes for pin (Ex. 4j), wall (Ex. 4k), ball (Ex. 4l), and screw (twisted) (Ex. 4m).

Peggy Hackney: Shape was in the Space category for 25 years, but now there is a need for a fuller and separate palette for Shape. Ex. 4n is the basic sign for Shape; Ex. 4o is the basic sign for Effort. From Warren Lamb’s work come the Shape Qualities, e.g., Ex. 4p indicates a “rising and enclosing.” These are about the “movingness” of the Shape change. There are also signs for the “Modes of Shape Change”: Shape Flow (Ex. 4q), Directional (Ex. 4r), and Carving (Ex. 3s). Ex. 4t indicates Shape Flow support. Leslie Bishko and Pam Schick developed the signs for “pin” (Ex. 4u), “wall” (Ex. 4v), “ball” (Ex. 4w), and “screw” (Ex. 4x). Another form some people are exploring is the “tetrahedron (Ex. 4y). Ex. 4z says begin in a pin; then rise and spread, arriving in a wall; then sink and enclose with Carving, arriving in a screw. Ex. 4aa says begin in a ball; do anything, arriving in a wall. Ex. 4bb says begin in a ball, becoming a wall. Ex. 4cc says do a spiraling movement that arrives in a ball.

Jackie Hand: Agrees with the need for shape forms. The signs that contain the slanted shape sign (Ex. 4v-4y) indicate movement (i.e., being shaped). There is also a need for indications that represent a static form. Perhaps the static forms could be indicated without the slanted shape sign. Also, the pyramid and tetrahedron forms are different. The top half of an octahedron is a pyramid because its base is square. The base of a tetrahedron is a triangle.

Jimmyle Listenbee: Likes both sets of signs (Ex. 4f-4h and 4u-4x). Would like a generic sign for Still Forms. Currently uses Ex. 4dd as the generic sign, i.e., make a shape, make a form, take a position. Re. tetrahedral form. This may not be a new basic form. If it is done with a rounded spine its is a variation on a ball. If it is done with a straight spine it is a variation on a combination of walls. Also, we should not have confusion with mathematics. Maybe there should be a sign for the “forth dimension shape,” which would be a kinetic sculpture.

Charlotte Wile: “Still Forms” may not be the best term for the pin, wall, ball, screw shapes since it seems to exclude the idea of moving. Perhaps they could be called “Shape Forms” or “Body Forms.” Also, the generic Shape sign (Ex. 4n) indicates any aspect of Shape (Modes of Shape Change, Still Forms, Shape Qualities, etc.). We need signs for “any Still Form” and “any Mode of Shape Change.” Ex. 4ee is the generic sign for “any body shape.” A body shape sign by itself (i.e., without an ad lib. sign) cannot be used as the generic sign, because then the meaning of a subsequent symbol would be ambiguous. For instance, in Ex. 4ff one would not know if the “X” indicates a body shape or flexion. [Postscript from Charlotte Wile: See suggestions for the generic signs in Charlotte Wile, “An Idea and a Correction,” Theory Bulletin Board, Body Configurations thread, December 3, 2001; Ray Cook, “Generic Shape Form Sign, Theory Bulletin Board, Body Configurations thread, December 14, 2001.]

Peggy Hackney: Ex. 4gg could be the generic “Mode of Shape Change” sign.

Tina Curran: Ideas from the advanced Labanotation text and Anne Green Gilbert can be adapted for indicating a straight shape (Ex. 4hh), an angular shape (Ex. 4ii), a rounded shape (Ex. 4jj), and a twisted shape (Ex. 4kk). Would like to know more about the concepts of “pin,” “wall,” “ball,” “screw.”

Ann Hutchinson Guest: Ex. 4n means “Shape.” What Peggy Hackney and others have been discussing is “motion,” “flux” rather than a specific body shape. When working with children the signs in Ex. 4j-m can be used to show general shapes.

Sharlene Jenkins: How can one notate man–made or natural structures such as bridges or crystals? Would one use words or drawings?

Charlotte Wile: It might be useful to have examples of the body in shapes that may be ambiguous. Maybe they could be shown in digital pictures on the Theory Bulletin Board so they could be discussed and clarified.

Janice Meaden: Likes the signs in Ex. 4u-4y because they evoke a kinesthetic response and represent the form itself.

Jimmyle Listenbee: The tetrahedron form is a sub-set of a pyramid.

Peggy Hackney: Ex. 4u-y can also be indicated for body parts as well as the whole body, e.g., screw lower body (Ex. 4ll), wall upper body (Ex. 4mm), wall lower body (Ex. 4nn), pin upper body (Ex. 4oo).


Peggy Hackney: Signs for larger organizations of the body include: whole body (Ex. 5a), upper body (Ex. 5b), lower body (Ex. 5c). In Bartenieff Fundamentals we teach patterns for connecting the body-as-a-whole. The neurodevelopmental patterns that Bonnie Banbridge Cohen talks about underlie these patterns. They relate to how the body is functioning and organizing in kenetic chains. These “Patterns of Total Connectivity” include: Breath (cellular and lung) (Ex. 5d); Core-Distal (Bonnie Cohen calls it “Navel Radiation), which includes the limbs, head and tail) Head-Tail (spinal) (Ex. 5f); Upper-Lower (Ex. 5g); Body Half (Ex. 5h); Cross Lateral (Bonnie Cohen calls it Contra Lateral) (Ex. 5i). There can also be a body half pattern, such as “on the right side” (Ex. 5j). We need symbols to indicate “Yield and Push,” and “Reach and Pull.”

Jackie Hand: Ex. 5k is another way to show “right body half”; Ex. 5l indicates “left body half.”

Jean Johnson Jones: The wings could also be used to show “upper body.” (Ex. 5m)

Charlotte Wile: “Body organization” and “movements of discrete body quadrants” are different concepts. The signs in 5d-5i work well to show body organization. Perhaps there should be a separate set of signs that could be used as pre-signs to show movement of a discrete body quadrant(s), e.g., the upper right quadrant flexes; the upper body turns). Such signs could be based on Laban’s sign for the whole body sign (Ex. 5n). For example, Ex. 5o indicates “any body quadrant”; Ex. 5p indicates the right upper quadrant; Ex. 5q indicates the left upper quadrant; Ex. 5r indicates the right lower quadrant; Ex. 5s indicates the right upper and left lower quadrants; Ex. 5t indicates the upper body; Ex. 5u indicates the right side of the body. Thus, Ex. 5v says the right side of the body makes “V” shape. [Postscript by Charlotte Wile: For further discussion of body quadrant and whole body signs, see all the postings in the Theory Bulletin Board, Body Portions thread, September 7, 2000-November 15, 2001].

Janice Meaden: Symbols such as Ex. 5b and Ex. 5j can be used as pre-signs for discrete body parts.

Charlotte Wile: Using the sign in Ex. 5b to indicate the upper body (including the arms and head) can be confusing because in Labanotation it just means the upper torso.

Jimmyle Listenbee: Agrees with Charlotte about the need for two sets of signs.

Sheila Marion: If the signs such as Ex. 5b and Ex. 5j are not limited to a neurological focus, then it would not be helpful to have a new set of signs. The ICKL decision to eliminate carets possibly eliminates the conflict with the sign in Ex. 5b, since there will no longer be a need for that sign in Labanotation. Also, the signs in Ex. 5a-5m seem more kinesthetic.

Ann Hutchinson Guest: Ex. 5b will still be needed in Labanotation to redesignate a column for the indication of upper body movement.
[Postscript by Charlotte Wile: For a discussion of the new caret rules, see Sandra Aberkalns and Ilene Fox, “New Caret Rules as of 2001,” Theory Bulletin Board, Carets thread, April 12, 2002.]

Jimmyle Listenbee: Ex. 5w, which is derived from the Labanotation staff, can be used to show the right and left sides of the body.

Peggy Hackney: The signs in Ex. 5x and Ex. 5y could be used as a pre-sign to show cross lateral movement.

Jackie Hand: Ex. 5z could be used for the left body half (the same as Ex. 5l). Ex. 5aa could be used for the left upper quadrant.

Charlotte Wile: In LIMS and IMS Ex. 5a indicates the whole body, i.e., the same as Ex. 5n. Does a plain figure eight, as in Ex. 5a, have a different meaning in Labanotation? If so, this could be confusing. Similarly, in LIMS and IMS the sign in 5b indicates the upper body, including the head and arms. Does it have a conflicting meaning in Labanotation?

Ann Hutchinson Guest: Laban invented Ex. 5b in 1928 to indicate the upper body (e.g., the chest or the torso). It does not include the head or the arms.


Ann Hutchinson Guest: Ex. 6a shows the various turn signs.

Charlotte Wile: Why does the sign for any cartwheel have an ad lib. sign, while the other generic turn signs do not have one?

Ann Hutchinson Guest: Combining the signs for cartwheel right and cartwheel left, as in Ex, 6b, produces a funny looking sign. Adding an ad. lib. sign works better.

Jimmyle Listenbee: Ex. 6a is an elegant example of how the entire system ought to read. Ex. 6c works better than 6b. There is a big problem with the use of the ad lib. sign throughout the system.

Ann Hutchinson Guest: Maybe Ex. 6c would work better if the lines were shortened, as in 6d.

Patty Harrington Delaney: Ex. 6b and 6d are not clear. Ex. 6c works better because its shape looks more like the essence of a cartwheel.

Tina Curran: Should wheeling be included in Ex. 6a?

Ann Hutchinson Guest: Wheeling is shown as in Ex. 6e or 6f.

Lucy Venable: Any means more than two, so saying that Ex. 6c means turning in “any” direction is incorrect. Instead we should say turn in “either” direction. Also, in Your Move Ex. 6g is the sign for cartwheel either right or left.

Ann Hutchinson Guest: Re: The terms “rotation” and “revolution.” The term “revolution” is used for movements of the body-as-a-whole. Within the body there can be “rotations” or “twists.”

Jimmyle Listenbee: In mathematics a “revolution” means going around a point, e.g., walking around a chair. In a “rotation” the point is in the center of the thing that is turning.

Charlotte Wile: Is the term “turn” synonymous with “revolution”?

Jessica Lindberg: Uses the term “turn” for “pivot turns.”

This discussion was summarized on the blackboard as follows:

  • What does it involve? Mechanism, essential components that make it work.

  • How have the needs of the community (Motif) changed over the last 30 years (15 years, 2 years)?

  • Literacy involves meaning-making.

  • An awareness that movement “speaks,” carries meaning, and articulates.

  • I would understand some of the elemental parts that are conveying the meaning.

  • To what extent does literacy have to have both a cognitive and an experimental kinesthetic understanding?

  • Literacy -- ability to read the script (notation).

  • What are the things that are valued in relation of literacy?

  • Someone who practices movement, writes and reads about movement, creates movement, body mind, practice, knowledge of history, of body/mind, create/make document, analyze/synthesize, view, understand differences, communicates with others in movement.

  • Common vocabulary and way of communicating about movement.

  • Dance critics able to read score before the performance.

  • A continuum of expertise -- what is a baseline, entry line?

  • Baseline joy -- movement is essential to Life!

  • Interest and curiosity to go further into communication, or in many other ways.

  • There are levels of literacy.

  • Movement literacy implies written; literate means reading movement.

  • Want people to be vocally aware that they are literate.

  • Ballet choreographer has “written” a ballet, actually “creating.” A dance student is reading dance, i.e., reading books -- not notation scores. Not reading but understanding, taken in, decipher---Literacy numeracy. A movement word -- e.g., Kineracy.

  • Would this imply multiple ways of knowing movements?

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