Sunday, September 20, 2015

Leeder Project

Submitted by Charlotte Wile - September 2015
Written by Ann Hutchinson Guest - (October 2012 and March 2015)

[Following are two articles by Ann Hutchinson Guest about the Leeder Project.]



UP-DATE on the LEEDER PROJECT. October, 2012.


Picking up the Leeder Project, after the summer away, the focus has been on organizing the music for the chosen studies. Ideally we need the recording and the sheet music of the pieces being published in the book, however, it may not be practical to include the sheet music. The Swiss Archives converted the old cassette tapes into CDs but without identifying each piece. Separately they sent a list of the contents of each disk but this did not immediately tally. On request they also sent the sheet music of pieces by pianists who had worked at the Jooss-Leeder Dance School at Dartington Hall. My thanks go to the Swiss Archives for all their generous help.

I encountered problems in sorting out this music material. Into the picture comes Jonathan Still (Music Department, the Royal Academy of Dance) who has already been helpful on the music front, and Dr. Suzanne Knosp (Director of Music for the School of Dance/University of Arizona) who assisted me during several Leeder presentations at the National Dance Education Organization conferences in the States. Fortunately Suzanne decided to come to London in September on her Sabbatical. Both of them are amazed at the wide range of music choices that Leeder used in creating the classroom studies. Often the movement quality to be studied dictated the choice. In particular cases the music and movement were created in tandem. This project provides important examples of how movement and music are linked. What is fascinating is to experience the view provided by musicians experienced in playing for dance classes.

Jonathan states: “The value in my view is that musicians in dance usually feel as if there is no history to what we do, because it is impossible to recreate classes. This project brings together not only notation of the music, but recordings of it, and the ability to see the exercises that were created with it. The past of music for dance is usually a notional 'they' that we can only imagine by projecting our own experience backwards, whereas this makes the past tangible, audible, visible and offers, as it were, a critical eye on the present. It's a wonderful example of sensory history.”

Suzanne puts forward the point that, through this project, we will provide new information to be added to the historical archives of the International Guild of Musicians in Dance as well as the field of dance education. An examination of Leeder's musical choices for these studies may provide further insights into the teaching process of this important 20th century dance pedagogue and artist. It may also contribute to the study of the relationships between music and dance. These two experienced musicians are providing a fascinating additional dimension to the development of the Leeder Project. Both of them had composed accompaniment for studies, following my ‘singing’ from memory the music into a tape recorder. With the original music now found, comparison will prove interesting. Both see deeper significance in the project and have divided the material for further investigation.

Valuable preliminary material for the book already contributed by June Kemp are: Sigurd Leeder, A History; Sigurd Leeder, The Teacher; and The Sigurd Leeder School of Dance, Curriculum (a brief outline).

Word notes pointing out the highlights of each piece, what to focus on and the changes in quality underlying the different phrases, are already written for four of the ten contrasting pieces to be included in the book. The notation scores need careful checking to be sure the movements and transitions are clear. Thus there is still much work ahead.

Another important development has been the October visit from Switzerland by former Leeder student Evelyn Rigotti, who brought with her Romana Frasson, also a former Leeder student. Evelyn brought with her some important notated studies found at the former Leeder School by Christine von Metlin, a welcome addition especially as they included “Rain” which everyone remembered with special affection. Discussion centered on how to expand interest in the project, the Folkwang Hochschule in Essen-Werden should be contacted, also the Palucca School and others.

Apart from the production of the music CDs, work still to be done includes completion of the word notes for each study, checking these with other knowledgeable people, and checking the Labanotation for possible improvement. Further down the line is the production of DVDs of the studies in performance. For this we will be in touch with Joan Turner Bunster and her daughter Manuela at the University in Santiago, Chile, who are keen to undertake this part of the project as they have dancers trained in the style and the facilities for filming.

Report from Ann Hutchinson Guest
Holland Park, London.
List of Studies for this Book

1. Elementar I
2. Elementar II
3. Laufen (Running) Study
4. Somersault Impulse
5. Side Impulse
6. Swing Adagio (Arensky Waltz)
7. Side Mazurka
8. Rotation Study
9. Dirge III
10. ?




REPORT ON LEEDER MEETING March 21st 2015.

An invitation came from Evelyn Rigotti to attend the second meeting of former Swiss students of Sigurd Leeder.  During his last decades Leeder’s School of Dance was in Herisau, not far from St. Gallen.  These were students of his later years.  In contrast I was his student in the late 1930s.
The prospect of meeting this group and sharing with them the book I have been compiling on Leeder’s classroom studies had me on a plane to Zurich.  There I was met by Romana Frasson, a bright spark who is working closely with Evelyn on organizing meetings for the Leeder project.  She drove me to Wattwil where Evelyn lives and has next door a splendid dance studio.  Emilio Schl├Ąpfer was on hand to help discuss and pin down the program of activities.  The day began with a welcome warm-up conducted by Evelyn.  This was followed by my teaching an early study, the Somersault Impulse which I had notated when a student at the Jooss-Leeder Dance School in Dartington Hall, Devon.  Unfamiliar to the group, they tackled it with gusto, but neither I nor they atempted  the full somersault at the end.

After lunch I presented my work-in-progress Leeder book, explaining the contents, to what extent it is complete, and the music disc which has each of the pieces in chronological order.  Ideally it should include a DVD with performance of each study.   The interest on the part of the Chilean former Leeder students to assist in this project was discussed.  A film was shown of Leeder coaching Ueli Kohler in his series of barre exercises.  I had brought with me my collection of Leeder technique which I had notated in 1966 during a summer course in London.  In 1976 I visited Sigurd in Herisau and so have notes on corrections made at that time.  The afternoon concluded with everyone dancing the Rain study. I asked them to contribute what they remembered of the images that Leeder had provided for each section of this study, adding these to my performance notes for Rain

At some point we discussed the fact that, of those present, only Christine von Mentlen was able to read the notation, the others had not used it and so it had been forgotten.  I reported on how we were taught notation (script) at the Jooss-Leeder School.  The emphasis was on writing the classroom studies; the only reading we did was of other students’ homework.  It is true that in the mid-thirties there were very few scores available.  When I took my notation exam I was given the score of a solo of Leeder’s to dance.  It was the first time I had the experience of recreating the movements from the symbols.  At the Leeder School in Herisau it was much the same pattern.  When I saw the neat copies that Sigurd had written of his studies, I remarked how wonderful that the students could get copies to understand better how the movements should be.    But no, it was better for the students to write the studies themselves, his far more correct notations were not to be made available to them.  What a missed opportunity!  It is hard to believe, but the students were also forbidden to teach the studies - how then can the work be handed down?

To conclude the day,  there was much discussion regarding future plans.  I am hoping to attend the next meeting which is set for early September.  Altogether being with these people was an uplifting experience.  Much appreciation was expressed for my being there and for my contribution


[For notation for Rain and a picture of attendees to the 2015 meeting, GO HERE]


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