Monday, May 10, 2010

Minutes for the Open Theory Meeting, April 5, 2010

Submitted by Charlotte Wile - May 10, 2010

Following are minutes for the Open Theory Meeting held at the Dance Notation Bureau, April 5, 2010. 

Present: Ray Cook, Alice Helpern, Kristin Jackson, Mira Kim, Mei-Chen Lu, Lynne Weber, and Charlotte Wile



1.2  P.W. Pulto has been studying Labanotation with Mei and Mira as a correspondence student. The group discussed his paper “Analysis and Notation of Steps in Labanotation,” which proposes a way to accurately indicate the timing of Tango movement. The proposed indications are exemplified P.W.’s notation of “Basic Tango Movements” at the end of the paper.

1.3  P.W. put video fragments of the tango movements online:

1.4  Before the April meeting, P.W. e-mailed this caveat: “I don't consider the basic tango movements as the best advocacy for the ideas discussed in my paper. They are rather simple, and could have been notated in the traditional way.

1.5  I just wanted to think around the problem with rhythm and stepping before making a start with notating (first simple but afterwards also more complicated) tango material.”

Discussion of P.W.'s paper.

1.7  [Note from Charlotte: This was a challenging discussion for me to document. Our conversation was somewhat convoluted and we seemed to go around in circles trying to understand the issues provoked by P.W.’s paper. I hope I have summarized the major issues accurately. I encourage other attendees to let me know where I am mistaken and I will include their comments in the next minutes.]

1.8  In discussing P.W.’s paper, the group considered three aspects of a step (Ex.1a):
  • “Heal contact”: The heal makes contact with the ground and begins to take the weight of the body.
  • “Center”: The body’s weight has been transferred so the whole the whole foot is on the ground and the weight of the body is “centered” over the foot.
  • “Gesturing”: The center of weight moves away from the centered position while the nonsupporting leg comes off the floor and gestures to take the next step.

1.9   Common step notation

1.10   In Labanotation, steps are often analyzed as follows:

  • The heal contact occurs on the beat.
  • Center occurs half way into the movement.
  • Gesturing takes the same amount of time as the movement to center.
1.11   Ex. 1b illustrates how this analysis can be notated.
  • The beginning of the forward support sign shows the heal contact. The contact is written on the beat. 
  • Center occurs half way into the forward sign. This is assumed without being written.
  • The length of the second half of the forward sign indicates the duration of the gesturing, i.e., the gesturing takes the same amount of time as moving to center. (Note: In this example the gesturing leg is not written.)

P.W.’s notation

1.13   In his paper P.W. says certain Tango steps need a different analysis:

  • The heal contact occurs before the beat.
  • Center occurs on the beat.
  • The duration of going to center is proportionately longer than the movement away from center.
1.14   Example 1c illustrates P.W.’s idea for indicating this.
  • The beginning of the forward sign shows the heal contact. This contact is written before the beat.
  • Center is indicated with a slash in the forward sign. This shows transferring the weight to center takes a relatively longer amount of time.
  • The length of the direction sign after the slash indicates the duration of gesturing. This shows the gesturing and moving away from center takes a relatively shorter amount of time.

1.15   The photo below shows Mira (on the left) and Mei discussing the timing of the “centered” part of a step.

Comments on P.W.’s proposal.

1.17   Everyone in the group felt P.W.’s idea is eloquent and useful. Even in P.W.’s “simple” notation examples, important details of the movement’s timing are clearly and immediately apparent.

1.18   We discussed which of P.W.’s ideas are new and which are already in the system. One aspect of timing P.W. addresses is how to indicate that the heal contact comes before the beat. His solution of writing supports below the bar line is not a new idea. Repositioning the support indication, as in 1d, is standardized in the system. An example is not given in Guest,
Labanotation, but it would be understood in a score.

1.19   What is new is P.W.’s use of a slanted line to show variation in the timing of center, as in 1e. In 1d center is ½ way into the movement. In 1e center comes later.

1.20   Ray, Mira, and Mei pointed out that the rule about center occurring ½ way into the step has been changed. In Guest, Labanotation, p. 127 it says that it is ½ way. However, students are now taught that it occurs 1/3 of the way into the step (1f). [Addendum from Charlotte: Has this been formally decided, e.g., at ICKL?]

1.21   Examples 1g-j summarize the various possibilities discussed above. (In these examples “H” means heal and “C” means center.)
  • Ex. 1g) Standard notation - Heal on the beat, center 1/2 way (Guest, Labanotation).
  • Ex. 1h) Standard notation - Heal on the beat, center 1/3 way (what students are now taught).
  • Ex. 1i) Standard notation - Heal before the beat, center 1/2 way.
  • Ex. 1j) P.W. notation – Heal before the beat, center near the end.

1.22   Another way the timing of stepping can be indicated is with center of gravity indications, as in this excerpt from Rhonda Rhyman et al., “Adaptation of Labanotation for the Clinical Analysis of Kinematics of Human Gate” Dance Notation Journal 2, No. 2, Fall 1984, p. 17.

1.23   The group felt P.W.’s proposal might work better than using center of gravity indications. It is visually clearer and easier to read. Putting the slant inside the support indication is a way to combine the ideas of support and center of gravity. Ray said this might help beginning L/N students understand that a step is about transferring weight instead of just moving the feet. Kristin said combining the ideas makes clear the kinesthetic connection between the center of gravity and supports.

1.24   Variation in the timing can also be shown with foot hooks, as in 1l (see Guest,
Labanotation, p. 189).

1.25   We were confused at first about the meaning of the short horizontal “tick” in P.W.’s paper. We concluded that the tick refers to a beat in music (the same as in conventional notation). The slanted line shows when the center occurs. Center on the beat is written with the slant on a tick, as in 1m. If center does not occur on a beat, the slant would be written without a tick, as in 1n.

1.26   The group had some suggestions concerning the autography of P.W.’s indications.

1.27   In his paper the slanted line goes to the right when it is on the right side of the center line in the staff, and to the left when it is on the left side (1o). Perhaps it should always be slanted the same way, regardless of which side of the staff it is on (1p). Ray pointed out that slanted lines in other symbols are drawn going in the same direction, e.g., the slants in high direction signs. Having the slant go to the right would probably be easiest to draw. Mira wondered if LabanWriter automatically switched the direction of the slants. If so, she said getting L/W to write them the same direction would be easy to do.

1.28   In P.W’s paper the slanted line for low symbols is drawn as in 1q. We suggested that white space should be used for such indications, as in 1r. This follows the method used for other modifications of high and low direction signs (e.g., see Guest, Labanotation, p. 391). Modified middle level indications should be written without a dot, i.e., the dot is assumed.

1.29   We explored the idea of using a slash with notation such as 1b above. We were not sure if this would work. For instance, 1s might be used to show the heal contact is on the beat and center comes near the end of the movement. However, what would 1t mean? [Addendum from Charlotte: Read literally, center (shown by the slashes) and the heal contacts (shown by the beginning of the forward symbols) would occur at the same time. That wouldn’t make sense.] Maybe one would assume that the heal contact occurs at an unstated time before the beat.

1.30   We did not have time to talk about P.W’s use of the slanted line in arm gestures (p. 4-6 in his paper).


2.2   This was a continuation of the discussion in the
January 12, 2010 meeting concerning the role of notators.

2.3   Mei wondered who owns a score.

2.4   Lynne said that this is a very complicated issue. A score may not necessary be owned by the people notate it or pay for it. A foundation may fund the creation of a score. However, the Bureau specifically may say in the contract that it owns the score. Mira said it is the same as for a music score, where the publisher owns the score.

2.5   Lynne said the dance is different from the score. The DNB may own a score, but it doesn’t own the dance.

2.6   Ray asked if a choreographer owns his dance. Lynne said that if a choreographer works for a company, the company usually owns the dance, unless they have a contract that says otherwise. It is similar to a scientist who works for a company and invents something. The company usually owns the invention.

2.7  Charlotte asked what “owning” means.

2.8  Lynne: Owning a copy of the notation score is different from owning a copyright. A lawyer in England (Francis Yeoh) is doing a PHD dissertation on these issues. He feels the DNB should obtain a copyright for a score that is separate from the copyright on the dance. On the other hand, in the past lawyers have said that is not possible. The copyright office in the US does not acknowledge the ownership of a score. However, in Great Britain apparently they might. In any case, the Bureau takes the position that it owns its scores.

2.9  Ray asked about a situation in which he writes a score, but is not paid for it, and does not give the score to the DNB.

2.10   Lynne said that in that case he would own the score. If he gives the score to the Bureau, he still would own the score, but the DNB would own the copy of the score. The score and the copy of the score are two different things. For example, the DNB donated scores to Ohio State University. The copies of the scores are housed at Ohio State, but they do not own them.

2.11   Lynne said taxes also play a part. For instance, if Ray donated his score to the DNB and took a tax deduction on it, then the DNB would own the score.

2.12   Another issue comes up if a choreographer dies and leaves dances to an individual. In the U.S. that individual will then owe taxes on the value of the dances. The value could be based, for example, on licensing and royalty fees. However, if the dances are given to a trust, then no one will owe taxes. In other countries the laws may be different. For instance, in Germany, substantial taxes will be owed whether they are inherited by a company or an individual. There is no option for setting up a trust like there is in the U.S. Consequently, William Forsythe has said he is not going to leave his dances to anyone when he dies. The Royale Ballet owns and uses Benish scores of two or three of his dances. The DNB owns one Forsythe score. It isn’t clear if the German government will allow those scores to be used when Forsythe dies.

2.13   Mei asked who should be allowed to edit or change a score. For instance, it may be necessary to make changes to bring the notation up to date, or because the notation has grammatical errors, or for some other reason. If the original notator is available and willing to make the needed changes, that would be preferable. But what happens if the notator is not available?

2.14   Ray said that even if a notator is dead, no one should be allowed to change the original score. If the score is rewritten it should be considered a new score.

2.15   Charlotte: The nature of the changes should always be clearly stated in the new score. In other words, what are the differences between the original score and the new score? Changes that are made without such a statement would be a betrayal to the nototor’s work.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Online Databases of Traditional Hungarian Dances

Submitted by Mei-Chen Lu and Charlotte Wile – May 4, 2010

We would like to direct you to an intriguing site created by János Fügedi and his colleagues from the Institute for Musicology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The site contains two interrelated databases of traditional Hungarian dances from their Dance Archive: the Motif Collection and the Film Collection.  Hundreds of dances are included in the collections.

An introduction to the databases says, “The structure of the Hungarian traditional dances is regarded motivic. The dances are built of short repetitive movement sequences, researchers call them ‘motives.’ The performers repeat these motives identically, symmetrically, they modify the motives, make variations by expanding, shrinking, or assembling parts.

The goal of the Motive Collection is to present the motives of the Hungarian traditional dances in a notation system called Labanotation/Kinetography Laban. Records of the Motive Collection were selected from the Notation Archive. The point of selection was to match the dances in the Film Collection.”

(For further information see “User’s Guide for Film Collection” and “User’s Guide for Motive Collection”)

We feel this site is an invaluable resource for dancers, stagers, notators, and educators. It is comprehensive, beautifully organized, and offers an exemplary model for documenting dance electronically through notation and film.