Thursday, June 9, 2011

János Fügedi’s Comments on the February 9, 2011 Theory Meeting Minutes (Response to Billie Mahoney)

Submitted by János Fügedi - June 9, 2011

Some Remarks to Billie Mahoney’s e-mailed comments [posted in the February 9, 2011 minutes] on the November 2010 minutes titled
“To the DNB Theory Discussions. (written last week, Feb 1-6, 2011)”

1.  First of all I have to thank Billie her comments, especially because her analysis and notations enlightened for me that the tap “brush” should NOT be regarded a transient touch. I will discuss this approach in detail later.

2.   I also owe thank to her for calling my attention to Lucy Venable’s paper (with examples by P. Heale and B. Mahoney) discussed at the 1969 ICKL (see Conference Proceedings 1959-1977, ICKL 1969, 13). Unfortunately the examples, which could be relevant from the point of the present discussion (17-21), are missing from the cited edition of ICKL Proceedings.

3.  I will refer to certain sentences of Billie Mahoney’s comments by paragraph numbers - even if such numbers are missing from the document - like this: BM, page 1. par. 4., and notation examples as e.g. BM Ex.3d.

4.   BM, page 1. par. 4.: “Jańos’ paper to change transit contacts to accommodate his beginning students”
I have never mentioned beginning students, especially not in connection with “transit contact”. (Nota bene: the movement Billie is referring to is called “transient touch”, see Hutchinson Guest Labanotation 2005, 183. In the following I will use Hutchinson Guest’s term, even if Billie keep on calling it “transit contact”.) Quite the contrary, I reasoned for system simplification because (almost) all the advanced students made mistakes when they had to follow the convention of exact timing to notate touching gestures.

5.  BM, page 1. par. 4.: “His supposed knowledge of tap dance from watching an internet video is not acceptable!”
I have neither supposed nor any other (e.g. definite) knowledge of tap dance beyond I just like watching it as a spectacular and virtuoso dance form. I showed and analyzed some sections of tap recordings in Mexico, which I found on the net to illustrate tap “brush”. The source was indicated on the slides of my presentation. Gianin Loringett, French dancer, choreographer, dance teacher was dancing, who is a professor of jazz dance at the Centre OFFJAZZ in Nice, also professor of the Conservatoire national e Région de Nice (source of information:
When Billie saw his dancing in my presentation in Mexico, she stated that the clips were sloppy tap performances. I can’t judge it, Billie is the expert. Anyone can watch and form an opinion; the lessons still can be seen here: - under the title “Get into the tap!”
After some search on the net I used these examples because I could download them free. Other sites I found with tap dance content needed money transfer for downloads. I’d be happy if anyone (e.g. Billie) could offer visual representation of tap “brush” to analyze.

6.  BM, page 4. par. 8 and BM, page 7. Ex.3 and 4: Let me call your attention to a terming difficulty. Billie stated on page 4, that “All examples are written in ‘unit’ timing”, while the writing method of BM Ex. 3c, 3d follows Knust’s convention (first published in his Abriss 1956, 60): the hooks are placed where (when) the contacts really happen, that is these indications represent specific (exact) timings. We have to know from agreement that while specific timing is used for the hook, unit timing is used for the direction sign, the two together are meant to indicate a movement (a “brush”) regarded as a transient touch. In Ex.3e, Ex.3f, and Ex.4 the hooks appear at the end of the direction symbols. Now we have to know from agreement that this placement intends to indicate terminating touch and – here really – unit timing is used.

7.  The conflict of simultaneous use of the two notation concepts is more obvious in Hutchinson Guest’s Ex. 292a (Hutchinson Guest Labanotation 2005, 183). The right leg must be moved from its side low starting direction to reach the ground on beat 1 prior the beat, but notation of the direction symbol starts on the beat, therefore the method used is unit timing. However the transient contact must happen on the beat, which is represented by the hook in specific (exact) timing. Understanding the intended movement content certainly needs special convention.

8.  Timing of direction and contact signs is a difficult problem of Labanotation, heavily conventiona­lized in other notation situations as well, not just in the one mentioned above. When we, Gábor Misi and I discovered this fact, we started to investigate the problem of indicating touching gestures. During our work I had to realize sadly that my paper presented in Mexico was rather a brave than a really established sortie in this field. So we compiled a paper which Gábor presented at the 2009 ICKL conference in Bangkok, and a revised version of his presentation was completed for the 2009 ICKL Proceedings. Since the proceedings should have been printed by now, but has not been yet, we made a PDF version of the paper which is enclosed here.

9.  The complexity of the problem forced me to reconsider my former, 2009 findings. The enclosed paper doesn’t give any solution, only summarizes the types of floor contact with the foot, compares usages, points out difficulties, calls attention to certain advantages or disadvantages. It is not an easy reading, perhaps even advanced notation practitioners need to focus as well to follow its line. From the point of view of the present arguing, let me call your attention to some of the main points:

10. Entry 5: The present understanding of indicating touching gestures stems from Albrecht Knust (see his Abriss 1956, 60). He introduced his rule of giving timing significance to the place of a hook on a direction sign in 1963 to ICKL, where it was recognized as “useful and comprehensive” (Conference Proceedings 1959-1977, ICKL 1963, 24).

11. Entry 10: After comparing exact timing, unit timing, and what I proposed in Mexico, we came to the conclusion, that none of them is capable to meet the three visual requirements raised in Entry 6, 7 and 8, which can be expected from the positions of foot hooks and direction signs compared to the musical order or to each other to indicate touching gestures.

12. Entry 19: Here we accepted the requirement for a transient touch – as a movement intention, just as the Minutes February 9, 2011 stated. (If we have a closer look Ann’s transient touch presentation on the embedded YouTube video, we can find that the first performance showed two opposite movements. Direction opposition separates movements. If at the end of one the touch is terminating, no matter how fast we move away from the point of contact, that contact would not be transient. In the second performance Ann made a ritardando-accelerando pair – a performance method similar to separating two consecutive non-legato movements. Worded another way, she left a possibility open for those, who rather avoid transient touch indication and prefer indicating it as a separate action.)

13. Entry 20: We questioned whether it is worth reserving a simple and easily understandable notation indication for transient touches. We stated that the transient touch is an “uncommon and almost unperformable movement phenomenon”. I still think so.

14. Entry 48: In our concluding paragraph we wrote, that “A special research is also needed to discover the difference between the execution and mental perception of movements”. We meant the timing difference, of course. This was the subject of a survey with dance student made during the last months, and which I will present at the next ICKL conference in Budapest. In this survey I was searching the reason of the already mentioned constant mistakes in notating touching gestures. The research hypothesis is, that not the physical process, but the result of movement gets conscious attention, of which a consequence is, that movement rhythm is represented in our mind as if it was “mind-notated” in unit timing.

15. Now let me investigate Billie’s notation as an outsider, whose field is analyzing traditional way of European dancing (though as far as I know tap dance is rooted in and originated from Irish tradition and Juba, see e.g. Hill’s Tap Dancing America: A Cultural History, 2010).

16. In BM Ex.3b. Billie states the tap is a result of a dynamic folding of the ankle (and, of course, of some lowering of the leg, because at the indicated level the toe would not reach the floor). Both the forward folding and the contact are cancelled right after their first appearance to withdraw their validity.

17. (A side note: as I learnt from Mária Szentpál, the cancellation of a dynamic contact is unnecessary, since in most dance practices the rebound – as a result of the hit – is automatic, especially in traditional dancing. I think it is the same in tap as well. Billie can tell us, is or is not a usual practice a kept contact in tap after a dynamic touch. We in Hungary indicate the rare case of the contact-keeping hit with a body hold above the hook.)

18. In BM Ex.3d we can see the same notation for the dynamic contact with the toe, with the same ankle folding-unfolding. The only difference between the two examples is, that the leg was moving place low (back, below the ankle), from its forward low position.

19. Notation of BM Ex.3d clearly states, that two movement concepts (a tap and a leg gesture), which might be performed separately as well, are performed at the same time, more accurately stated, the two movements are in superimposition.

20. Conclusively, BM Ex.3d, the “brush” – and let’s forget about the name implying sliding – has nothing to do with the concept of the transient touch, even if it may look so. With this approach it is all the same, how much the toe is sliding (sloppy) or how fast the tap is (brilliant), the point is the exact rhythm of the sound and the performing the direction with the leg.

21. Superimposition of movements is a favorite “tool” in traditional dance creation (and tap, again, can’t deny its roots in this respect either). I discovered the practice of movement super­imposition, when I realized that springs can be classified by three different, but not exclusive ways, since the concepts are frequently mixed (I published it as “Springs in Traditional Dance: An Analysis and Clarification. Studia Musicologica 1999, 159-188.” A former, less elaborated version was released in the 1997 ICKL Proceedings, 40-76.)

22. If we have a closer look at BM Ex. 3b, 3b’, 3d and 4d’, we can notice that the hook is not attached to the direction sign. Even this way of notation indicates clearly the two different movement concepts, the tap with the specific timing of the floor contact, and the direction into which the leg arrives (well, in practice slightly later than the contact is performed).

23. (I would like to avoid now the extremely difficult notation philosophical question of what a direction sign means in our system, because direction sign use definitely doesn’t follow the commonplace-close topos of “start of movement = start of direction sign, end of movement = end of direction sign”.)

24. Conclusively, Billie can’t lose any of the validity of her former notations, no matter how we conduct or conclude our research with Gábor. Quite the contrary, her usage of separating the hook from the direction sign to indicate exact timing for contact is a long desired possibility for me, but before proposing it, we really would like to investigate all the possible ways of notating touching gestures. And - as we stated at the end of our joint paper enclosed here – we do “not feel possessing the competence to solve the … tasks in all genres of dance. … Completeness in genre can be achieved only in cooperation with representatives of other genres of dance”.


Conference Proceedings 1959-1977, An ICKL Publication, 1996
Fügedi, János & Misi, Gábor: Ways of notating floor touching gestures with the foot. Unpublished manuscript.
Fügedi, János: Springs in Traditional Dance: An Analysis and Clarification. Studia Musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 40/1-3, 1999, 159-188.
Fügedi János: An Analysis and Classification of Springs. Proceedings of the Twentieth  Biennial Conference of the International Council of Kinetography Laban, August 9 – August 14, 1997, held at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, p.41-76.
Hill, Constance Valis. Tap Dancing America: A Cultural History, Oxford University Press, 2010
Hutchinson Guest, Ann: Labanotation. A System of Analyzing and Recording Movement. (Fourth edition) Routledge, New York and London, 2005
Knust, Albrecht: Abriss der Kinetographie Laban. Verlag Das Tanzarchiv, Hamburg, 1956

Ways of Notating Floor Touching Gestures with the Foot

Ways of Notating Floor Touching Gestures with the Foot
Submitted by János Fügedi - June 9, 2011

János Fügedi and Gábor Misi have made their paper "Ways of Notating Floor Touching Gestures with the Foot" available on the Bulletin Board.

To see the paper  go here.