Monday, May 23, 2011

Minutes for the Open Theory Meeting, February 9, 2011

Minutes for the Open Theory Meeting, February 9, 2011

Following are minutes for the Open Theory Meeting held at the Dance Notation Bureau, February 9, 2011. The minutes were written by Charlotte Wile.

Present: Sandra Aberkalns, Keisha Bolden, Zack Brown, Ray Cook, William Kiley, Caity Gwin, Ann Hutchinson Guest, Oona Haaranen, Alice Helpern, Mira Kim, Lynne Weber, Charlotte Wile.

1)  Ann Guest’s Lecture on “Weight”
2)  Timing and Placement of Symbols in Relation to Ticks
3)  November 2010 Minutes - Comments from Billie Mahoney
4)  ICKL

1.1 TOPIC # 1: Ann Guest’s Lecture on “Weight”

1.2  The first part of the meeting was used to make an experimental video of Ann giving an advanced level lecture on “Weight.” The DNB is exploring the idea of using such videos for advanced notation study materials.

1.3  Ann’s presentation was extremely thorough and included many of the topics in Center of Weight: Advanced Labonotation, Issue 7, by Ann Hutchinson Guest and Joukje Kolff. The lecture was too long to be described here in detail.  An example of what Ann talked about is shown in Video 1 below. (Here and elsewhere in the minutes, to make a video larger, click the "YouTube" icon on the right bottom of the video.)

2.1   TOPIC #2: Timing and Placement of Symbols in Relation to Ticks

2.2  This discussion was a continuation of the discussion in the November 17, 2010 minutes (Topic #2) concerning the placement and timing of symbols in relation to tic marks.

2.3   Charlotte asked Ann to clarify two issues: 1) Where should a direction sign in the support column be written in relation to the tic mark? E.g., is it written on the tic mark or just after it? 2) Where does the timing for the direction sign begin? Does it coincide with the tic mark? In other words, any gaps between the tic mark and direction sign (due to hook placement, separation of direction signs, or some other reason) would not be included in the timing. Or does it coincide with the beginning of the direction sign (even when the direction sign is written after the tick mark?).

2.4  Ann said that the direction sign should touch the tick mark. It looks better if the direction sign has its own bottom line, but if it covers the tick mark, the meaning is the same. If there is any space between symbols, it is so minor that its time value is insignificant.

2.5  In discussing this issue, Ex 2a was considered. The gap is needed to show that there are two separate directions in the movement. Without the gap (Ex 2b) the notation would have a different meaning.
2.6  Everyone agreed that the first symbol in Ex 2a has the same time value as the second symbol. In other words, the gap is included in the overall time value of the indications.

2.7  However, there still remained some confusion about where the beat occurs in the notation. Ray said that if there were no symbols on the staff, the beat would happen on the tick mark. Ann replied that it occurs immediately after it, not on it. She said a tic mark is like a fence in a garden. It is used to divide the garden.

2.8  The orthography of 2c was discussed. Caity wondered if the gap was needed. Lynne said the gap is used for clarity of reading. Sandra said the gap would only be needed when you have two flat edged symbols sitting on top of each other. In forward steps, as in 2c, you don’t have that problem and the gaps are not necessary. Ann said the gap is needed so that the tic marc can be seen.  Without a gap, as in 2d, tic mark may not be visible.

3.1  TOPIC #3: November 2010 Minutes - Comments from Billie Mahoney

3.2  Just before the meeting Billie Mahoney e-mailed comments on the November 2010 minutes.  Unfortunately, it was not possible for Billie’s comments to be distributed before the meeting and there wasn’t enough time to read them thoroughly during the meeting or to respond to all the issues that she discussed. The group decided to just focus on the issue of transient foot contacts without sliding.  Billie’s entire e-mail can be seen here.

3.3  On page 4 Billie wrote, “For clarification, ex. 3a-d) explain tap dance movements in contrast to János’ understanding. THERE IS NO SLIDING IN FOOT CONTACTS! (only with sloppy execution, which takes many hours of class time drilling to overcome.)The detailed execution is shown first, with the prime (’) examples showing the simplified way of writing.”  [Billie’s examples are shown here below, reformatted for the blog]

 [end of Billie’s comments]

3.4  At the meeting Ann said the indication for a leg gesture with a single contact hook, as in 3e below, indicates a leg movement that ends free of the floor (a “V” shaped path, as in 3f). The untrained person would probably touch and then do a tiny bit of sliding before they lift the leg (the path would be curved at the bottom, as in 3g). Billie wants such indications to represent a single touch, without sliding (as in 3f).
3.5  Charlotte said that in János Fügedi’s 2007 ICKL paper “Unit Timing of Touching Gestures” he says a single touch without sliding is not possible. There would always be some sliding, even in tap dance. [See this online copy of the paper, p. 6. The paper is also in the 2007 ICKL Proceedings, pp. 33-48].

3.6  Ann asserted that doing the movement as a single touch without sliding is possible. It requires skill, a special flexibility in the ankle so you can touch and then let go. You need to be trained in the [tap dance] style.

3.7  Zack said that in terms of physics, it is impossible to not slide a little when you touch. He asked Ann what she meant by “touching.”

3.8  Ann again said it is possible for Billie to touch without sliding because of what happens in her ankle. See Ann demonstrating this in Video 2 below. (Unfortunately, the video doesn’t show the ankle movement very well, but hopefully it will still help clarify what she said. Starting on the left side of the screen, going around the table, it shows Lynne, Ann, Caity, Zack. Also, Ray and Charlotte are heard in the back ground.)

3.9  Charlotte said that awhile back, when the group was discussing János’s papers, she, Mira Kim, Mei-Chen Lu, and Emile Way did an experiment to explore transient touches vs. sliding touches. They videotaped themselves doing a transient leg gesture. First they did the movement attempting to not have any sliding, and then they did it with slight sliding. Unfortunately, on the video it was hard to see whether or not there was sliding in the “non-sliding” movements. However, they felt the sliding and non-sliding movements did look and feel different. In other words, even if there was some sliding in the “non-sliding” movements, performing them with different intents affected the execution of the movement. We had originally planned to put the video on YouTube, but decided not to because the subtlety of differences between movements was not visible when the video was put online.

3.10  Ann said she and Billie disagree about the use of the single hook. Billie wants Ex 3e to always mean no sliding, as in the way she uses it for notating tap dance. In contrast, Ann says in 3e a bit of sliding is permitted, as in the way people without tap training would do the movement.  If you want to specify sliding, you write it as in 3h. If you want to specify no sliding, you write it as in 3i.
3.11  Ray: Regardless of how much training you have had, according to the meaning of the touch sign, 3e should not be read as “it’s OK to slide.” If there is always going to be sliding, why do you need a symbol for touch? If 3e can be interpreted in two different ways, then you are in trouble.

3.12  Ann clarified that she feels the single hooked symbol indicates that you intend to do a single touch, but without special training you will end up doing a tiny slide. If you definitely want to have no sliding, then you would write 3h.

3.13  Sandra: When you wear point shoes it is easier to touch without sliding, as in tap. If you are on demi- pointe, it becomes harder.
3.14  Charlotte: We should keep in mind János’s perspective on the issue, including his exploration of gestural touching in “Ways of Notating Floor Touching Gestures with the Foot,” by János Fügedi & Gábor Misi” (I believe the article was written for the 2009 ICKL conference, but I’m not sure if it has been published yet). As I understand it, among other things, the paper proposes using a release sign, as in 3i, to indicate transient touches (without sliding).  This would mean the single hook symbol without a release sign (as in 3e) could be used for other purposes (e.g., see János’s paper “Unit Timing of Touching Gestures”).

3.15  Sandra: If a dancer does a tendu several times, each one will be different. But the underlying movement is the tendu. That is what you are writing.

3.16  Zack reiterated that according to physics the movement will always have a slide. What you are writing is what you intend to do, regardless of whether or not it in fact contains sliding. So it doesn’t matter whether or not there is sliding.

3.17  Ann said it does matter, because, as she said earlier, in Billie’s performance of tap there is indeed no sliding because of the foot and ankle action.

3.18  Sandra said that such style issues should always be glossarized to make sure it is clear what is meant by the symbols.

3.19  Ray said that it may be that in order to do the movement without the slide, you need to flex the ankle. If you do it without the foot action, you would slide.

3.20  Lynne said the surface you are moving on also makes a difference. If you have a harder surface, such as a tap shoe, the movement is more likely to have a bounce to it, without sliding. The movement will rebound off the floor. (The discussion in paragraphs 3.16 -3.20 can be seen in Video 3 below. The video shows, from left to right: minute .10 - Caity, Zack, Charlotte; minute .45 – Ann; , minute 1.21-Sandra talks in the background; minute 1.42 – Zack, Ray, Charlotte, Oona; minute 2.05 – Lynne.)

3.21  Charlotte said that if intending to slide produces movement that is different from when you do not intend to slide, then there should be a way to show those different intentions. The question we are struggling with is, how should those different intentions be indicated? 

3.22  Lynne: Composers sometimes write things that are impossible for the musicians to do. They are written to show intent rather than what can actually be done. And then sometimes in the future people acquire phenomenal technique and can actually do them.

3.23  Sandra: Also, the tempo of the music is going to determine a lot because the faster the music is, the more bound you are muscularly, which means you will probably rebound more. When the music is slower the muscles react differently.

4.1  TOPIC #4: ICKL

4.2  The last few minutes of the meeting were devoted to bringing everyone up to date on plans for the upcoming ICKL conference. The idea of having Motif Notation included in ICKL theoretical discussions was promoted at the last meeting. Charlotte intends to follow through by submitting a Motif Notation theory paper on “altitudes.” Also, the possibility of having long distance participation in the conference via Skype is being investigated.

4.3  Charlotte said the project of scanning all the ICKL technical papers is coming along. Eventually the facsimiles will be posted on the Theory Bulletin Board so that the papers will be more widely available.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

African Dance

African Dance
Submitted by Doris Green – May 10, 2011

In 1964, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act that mandated the inclusion of courses on Black and minority studies into the curriculum of colleges and universities on a nationwide level. Any educational institution not in compliance would risk the loss of Federal funding.

At that time I was an undergraduate student in Brooklyn College where I studied Labanotation. Department chairmen scrambled to find what courses they could offer to be in compliance with the federal mandate. When questioned I suggested that African dance and music be offered. The department was familiar with my work on the campus in music, dance and theater. Thus they began to groom me to teach a course or courses in African dance. Therefore in 1969 when I graduated, I became the first person to teach African music and dance in Brooklyn College.

As the first teacher of traditional African music and dance in the College, I faced many situations that needed my immediate attention, such as the lack of a textbook; lack of terminology that would define the area of specialization; lack of instruments and written documentation. I immediately began to corral the information I gleaned from years of studying African dance with African students who came to New York and shared their culture with us. I went to Africa not only to hone my skills but also to conduct research
and share my knowledge with Africans. I would bring home new dances and instruments to use in my classrooms.

African music is largely percussive in nature and cannot be written with the western system of notation. Africans were making dire efforts to find a way to write music of their instruments. They were mesmerized when they discovered that I had created a system wherein percussive music could be written and aligned with the corresponding dance movements.

For more than 41 years I have been conducting research in countries from Tanzania to Senegal. Not only have I written and published my autobiography No Longer an Oral Tradition: My Journey Through Percussion Notation, but also a textbook Greenotation: Manuscripts of African music and dance, which has yet to be published.

The O.A.U. [Organization for African Unity] examined my work and suggested that it be adapted and included in all schools throughout Africa. My textbook is the most definitive work in the field and has been used in Ivory Coast and Ghana. French copies of this text were deposited in Senegal for use in the theater. Until all colleges and universities, public and private in Africa and the diaspora that teach Africa music and dance have a textbook that defines its music and dance parallel to how a dictionary defines its words, their teachings cannot be assessed, and what is flamboyant will continue to rule.

It is unfortunate that people are dancing what they call West African dance, which is a rehashing of the choreography of Maurice Sonar Senghor of Senegal, and Keita Fodeba, who were the two principal leaders of the post-colonial cultural awakening movement that was premiered in France in 1953 producing the Guinea Ballet. Therefore “West African dance is essentially the dances of Senegal, Mali and Guinea. But people dance throughout Africa. What about Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone as these countries are also in the West African region? Of course Senghor after being successful with the National Ballet of Senegal, and the Mali Dance Company would bring the National Ballet of Senegal to Brooklyn in 1971and completely revolutionize how African music and dance was practiced and performed forever.

I am retired now, but in the words of Bob Marley, stand up for your rights, don’t give up the fight. I will continue to push for the use of Greenotation in all schools and colleges. In the absence of a textbook, academia does not recognize such courses as valid courses within the curriculum.

For Black History month I did a performance, book signing and presentation of my autobiography entitled  No Longer an Oral Tradition: My Journey Through Percussion Notation - From the streets of Brooklyn to the continent of Africa. Cablevision saw the advertisement and came to the Uniondale Library to tape the show.

The program aired on Channel 118 - Neighborhood Journal, to Nassau and Suffolk residents for more than two weeks, seven times a day. 

The Jones family is a group of six musicians and dancers who I am training as the next generation in African music and dance notation. Of course the field of African music/dance has a long way to go to the fruition of my plans for the comprehensive study of African music and dance, which includes the publication of the textbook Greenotation: Manuscripts of African Music and Dance.

I will work with the Library to produce more shows that can be used for Black History and women's  months.    

A reminder the 34th year of DanceAfrica will  showcase at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on May 26-May 29th. 

If the readers want to know more about my work they can view my website.