When looking over the requirements of the dance major/minor, you come across a class called Labanotation. I bet a lot of people question what in the world is this class; the first time I saw it I was kind of fearful because as long as I’ve been dancing I’ve never heard about it. Labanotation or Laban Movement Analysis is a language for describing, interpreting, visualizing, and notating all ways of movement. Simply put, it’s a system for analyzing and recording movement. Rudolf Laban, a dancer, artist, and theorist created Movement Analysis based on of his theories of effort (dynamics) and space (motion) which later became Labanotation. The system is extremely efficient in that a single symbol can describe direction, level, timing, and the body part that is moving.
Similar to music notation, Labanotation uses a staff. The staff is vertical, consist of three lines, and read from bottom to top. On the staff, symbols that are on the left side of the staff represent the left side of the body and symbols that are on the right side represent the right side of the body. Body part is indicated by placement of a symbol in a particular column on a staff and directions and levels are represented from the description of the symbol.
You maybe wondering what the purpose of Labanotation is. Through other mediums of preservation such as videos and pictures, many of the nuances and details can be lost. Through a notation score you achieve precision and accuracy while being able to maintain a historical choreographers’ vision. There are many works notated from historical choreographers, such as Doris Humphrey, Marius Petipa, and Alvin Ailey. There is more than just reading a Labanotation score and recreating the movement you see; the current upper-class dance majors are learning this concept with their 410 Special Project. A lot of research must go into the restaging of a score in the areas choreographer, work of dance itself, and the contemporary social climate in which it was produced. The New York City Ballet documented this process and has made it available.
These classes are offered at Agnes Scott College because of Bridget Roosa’sexpertise in the field of Labanotation. Studio Dance Theatre is very fortunate to have the opportunity the perform reconstructions from Labanotation every year. For more information go to Dance Notation Bureau website.
By Stephanie Cureton, Senior Dance Major