Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Submitted By Nancy Allison et al. - June 19, 2007

[The following is a reprint of discussions that took place on LabanTalk in April 2007.]

Discussion #1, by Nancy Allison, Doris Caravaglia, Mei-Chen Lu, Mira Kim, Charlotte Wile - April 3, 2007

We are interested in knowing how you use the following words in relation to Labanotation:

1. Staging.
2. Restaging.
3. Reconstructing.
4. Directing.
5. Coaching.

Discussion #2, by Janos Fugedi - April 3, 2007

I suppose each nation uses different words for the same acts (rather notions?) listed. Anyhow, the clarification might be very useful.

Still, from the list you sent we use in our practice one word (originating from Latin) in a similar form:

reconstruction: in our understanding it means "the act of performing dance from notation"
(Hungarian spelling: rekonstrució)

Discussion #3, by Jean-François Charles - April 3, 2007

For me, "the act of performing dance from notation" is simply "interpretation" (sorry, I am not sure this is the correct word in English. I am sure of it in French. Maybe an alternative in English would be "performance".) Indeed, a choreographer may use notation (Laban or others, even its own notation tools) in order to create her/his piece, not only to "reconstruct" it. Moreover, as I understand "reconstruction", it nearly implies that the reconstruction is done by someone else as the choreographer. What if a choreographer uses notation to re-stage one of his/her own works 10 years after the premiere. Would you call that "reconstruction"?

Discussion #4, by Ray Cook - April 3, 2007

Here is my first reaction.

Re: staging means doing something that has already been done.

Staging by contrast could mean staging for the first time which is restaging.

I think that all stagings are a restaging of the original or a restaging of something that has been restaged.

Get rid of Restaging. We simply stage the work.

If it is staged then it automatically is a restaging.

Discussion #5, by Jean-François Charles - April 3, 2007
[Responding to Ray Cook's comments in Discussion #4.]

That is interesting. Indeed, do people use "restage" when they speak of a theater play? Or do people only use "stage"? In music, orchestras don't "replay" a Mozart symphony, they play it.

Discussion #6, by Greg Halloran - April 3, 2007

I personally prefer the word restaging but have found my administrators at our university prefer the term reconstruction for research purposes. I think restaging fits what we do better but reconstruction seems to emphasize the historical significance to non dancers. This could be particular to our university. We are a small dance program and I am usually evaluated by non dance administrators.

Discussion #7, by Deborah Friedes - April 3, 2007

I have used the first four terms (staging, restaging, reconstructing, directing) somewhat interchangeably. However, I think reconstructing also can be used to label the process of piecing together "lost" dances by consulting original or prior dancers, archival footage, photographs, and written accounts. For instance, Dianne McIntyre reconstructed Helen Tamiris's 1937 masterpiece "How Long Brethren?" in the early 1990s, and this was subsequently notated by Leslie Rotman. To most clearly describe my work with this dance during my MFA project at OSU, I would say that I directed an excerpt from Dianne McIntyre's reconstruction of Helen Tamiris's "How Long Brethren?" from Leslie Rotman's Labanotation score.

As for coaching, I typically use this term to refer to the process of an authority figure - a choreographer, dancer, or prior director -adding their expertise to the staging by providing added depth and nuance. The coach polishes a work the dancers have already learned, be it from score, film, or person.

Discussion #8, by Odette Blum - April 4, 2007

Here are my thoughts:

I consider myself to be the" Director" of a work "staged" from the Labanotation score, or another way I may say it: "directing" a work from the Labanotation score. For a program I use the former.

I do not care for the term "reconstruction" in relation to that process (in fact I detest it!!). A theatre director does not reconstruct a play, nor does a conductor a symphony.

Most people know very little about dance notation and staging from dance scores, so why make the subject even more esoteric!! Everyone comprehends "directing" and staging" and understands what that is all about.

Reconstruction is a term that is used by dance historians for dances of the past, who have to "reconstruct" using various iconographical sources. I do not consider it to be a "user friendly" term for dance notation.

Re-staging seems redundant.

"Coaching" is the process by which I assist the dancers in gaining the dynamics, phrasing, characterizations, etc. towards the performance of the choreographer's style. (As with all directors it is my interpretation, but based on some understanding of the choreographer's style and much attention to the details in the Labanotation score.)

Discussion #9, Ligia Pinheiro - April 4, 2007

According to my colleagues in theater, they direct a play - staging, restaging, or reconstructing are not terms they use.

I agree with Odette [Discussion #8]. Why make the field more esoteric? Directing is easily understood by those outside our field. I believe to reconstruct, as pointed out by someone else already, means to piece it together when a work has not been notated, or is partially notated.

Discussion #10, by Doris Green - April 4, 2007

In Africa, observing the works of the National Ballet of Senegal under M.S Senghor, or the National Dance Company of Ivory Coast under Akin Louis, or the Kalendelele Troupe under Washa Ng'Wanamashalla, the term staging is used when a dance is brought directly from the bush, and then it is shaped or molded to be performed on stage.

Reconstruction is a term I only know from Labanotation.

Coach is a term commonly found in physical education wherein an individual or a group is under the aegis of a person who helps them improve or perfect their skills.

Directing is used for drama productions.

Discussion #11, by Leslie Rotman - April 5, 2007

In revisiting the subject of terminology for dance stagings, perhaps you [Charlotte, Nancy, Mei, Mira and Doris] would like to review some of the previous discussions on the subject. Armed with a history of information you may move forward, rather than rehash old material. If interested, check out the minutes of the (well-attended) IMNA conference of 1990 and the materials which came out of that meeting: Guidelines for the Reconstructor and the accompanying Sample Contract. Also go through PAC minutes, especially from the 90's, when the terms the DNB decided to use were decided upon. It's an interesting and ongoing subject. Opinions evolve with changing times. Good to see what is working now.

Discussion #12, by Ann Hutchinson Guest - April 8, 2007

Here is my rather belated contribution to the terms used in bringing a dance to life from the notated score. My understandings are as follows:

Reconstruction: yes, years ago this was the DNB term used, but this has since been thought through more carefully. A reconstruction is what Millicent Hodson does, piecing together a lost work from all remaining evidence.

Revision: If a choreographer reworks an old piece, making changes, it is usually termed revising the previous work.

Staging is either the organizing of the mise en scene in a classical ballet where the milling around of the courtiers, peasants, etc. is not usually set and a fresh version may be welcome. This could also be called re-staging. Staging also refers to what Moisseyev did for his company in adapting Russian and other folk dances for use on the stage. Doris Green refers to this meaning with reference to African dances.

Directing from score is a good term as it suggests exactly what the conductor of an orchestra does. For dance, particularly in relation to more recent works, the dance director usually tries to capture as much as possible of the choreographer's intention and style. In music we may see (hear) a conductor's personal ideas regarding the work, an intentional departure from any known intentions of the composer.

Coaching, as mentioned by Deborah Friedes, is the highlighting and deeper understanding of an already learned piece by an authority figure.

Revival: this is the term that Claudia Jeschke and I use for our bringing to life the score which Nijinsky wrote of his first ballet L'Apres-midi d'un Faune. There is no change in teaching the written movements, and we also coach in the sense of helping the dancers find the meaning behind the movements.

Adaptation: what has not been discussed is when minor or major changes are intentionally made to a known work. This may be for purposes of humor, of dramatic effect, of switching gender, etc. etc. A very good example of this is Matthew Bourne's male Swan Lake, in which only the music is original. The term 'adaptation' probably suffices.

It is great to have these discussions! The contributions are most valuable. Thanks!

Discussion #13, by Sheila Marion - April 8, 2007

At present, I think it may be somewhat of a misnomer to use the word "Directing" when we stage a work from score. Due to contractual necessity in many instances (and preference or courtesy in others), the choreographer--or his/her heir, representative, consultant or assigned coach--often works with a cast during or after a piece has been set, before it is shown in performance. A director usually has final artistic say in what may be a team of artists working together to create a production. In our world, the Artist's Representative has that final say.

This is not to denigrate that process. There are many historical reasons why it has been in place, ranging from our field's nervousness about the efficacy of notation, to the kind of inspiration that having first-hand contact with an artist and her/his work can bring.

Several years ago I had the honor of staging Lin Hwai-min's "Crossing the Black Water," from Legacy, under the inspirational coaching of Cloud Gate company member Yang Mei-jung. Although the program credits read "directing" for my role, and although I did work to bring the cast up to a performance level before the arrival of notator Ray Cook and Ms. Yang, in later re-consideration, I would now probably use the term "Staged by..." Here is how the contractually designated program credits read:

Crossing the Black Water

Choreography by Lin Hwai-min
Coaching by Yang Mei-jung
Music by Chen Yang
Costume Design by Lin Hwai-min
Costume Construction: Nadine Spray
Lighting Design by Lin Keh-hua; Re-created by John Bohuslawsky
Prop Design by Nieh Kuang-yen

Directed by Sheila Marion
from the Labanotation score by Ray Cook
Additional coaching by Ray Cook

... (additional information about the piece followed)

Discussion #14, by Charlotte Wile - May 9, 2007
[Responding to Leslie Rotman's comments in Discussion #11]

Leslie Rotman said it might be useful to review the records of previous discussions that took place at the DNB in the 90' concerning terminology for dance stagings. Below are some excerpts from those records.

The 1995 minutes for PAC (the Dance Notation Bureau Professional Advisory Committee) contained the following:
"The DNB contract recommends the following statements for programs and all publicity:

- Reconstructed by (name of person) from the Labanotation Score by arrangement with the Dance Notation Bureau.

- Directed by (name of person) from the Labanotation Score by arrangement with the Dance Notation Bureau. The contract does not state where in the program the credit should appear.

The attached sheets show how differently people are credited, or how they credit themselves. Below are listed some of the thoughts of what this group perceived these terms to mean.

- 'Revived by', or 'revival': bringing to life an entity, eg. Faune (a score previously existed).

- What’s the difference between 'staged by' and re-staged'? Some felt that 'staged by' didn’t mean anything as the word would need to be used as a verb.

- 'Reconstructed': pick up the pieces from various sources, previous cast members, articles, etc. No existing score or single source, eg. Sacre, Cotillion. Tyl Eulenspiegal etc.

- 'Recreated': means 'filling the gaps' when the original sources are not available and the stager will make educated guesses, or will add choreography in 'the style of' the original choreography, eg. Sacre.

- 'Choreography set by': if someone other than the 'stager' comes in to coach, to set the choreography.

- 'Additional coaching': yet another individual that comes in once or twice to coach.

- 'Directed by': If only one individual is responsible for the entire staging.

It was agreed that the term reconstructed/tion should not be used in the same breath with a notated score. It was felt that the term is very specific and does not apply in any situation where a notation score exists."

The following were listed as dictionary definitions in a paper entitled "1990 IMNA conference. (I believe this was the International Movement Notator's Association, which no longer exists).

Reconstruction: The act or result of reconstructing.

Reconstruct: To construct again.

1. Construction:
a. The action or business of building.
b. An interpretation.

a. A manager
b. The interpretive supervisor of actors in a play or film or musicians in an orchestra or chorus.

Setting: verb
a. To put in a specific position or state
b. To restore to a proper and normal state
c. To put in a mounting; mount

Mount: to place in an appropriate setting, as for display, study, etc.

Setting: noun
a. A group of circumstances, situations etc. joined to be treated as a whole.

Teacher: One who teaches, esp. a person hired by a school to teach.

a. The occupation of teachers
b. A precept or doctrine

Rehearsal: The act or process of rehearsing
a. To practice in preparation for a public performance.
b. To perfect or cause to perfect (an action) repetition.
c. To retell

Stage: noun
a. The scene or setting of an event
b. A step in development

Stage: verb
a. To present or perform on or as if on a stage
b. To arrange and carry out

Discussion #15, by Leslie Rotman, May 10, 2007
[Responding to Charlotte Wile's comments in Discussion #10]

Thank you for taking the time to review the PAC and IMNA minutes. I found it helpful to confirm my memory.

Let me clarify for others that the DNB contract I used while I was with the DNB read "restaged by" because I changed it in accordance with that 1995 PAC recommendation. I'm not sure what the current DNB contract says. Also, I sometimes suggested other terms, such as "Directed by", when appropriate. It is important to understand that situations vary, so there isn't any one word that will suffice for all. Some stagers and dance companies, such as Ernestine Stodelle and ABT, insist on using their own terminology. However, we can hope to gain a common understanding within the notation community.

No comments:

Post a Comment