UTILITY OF SIMPLIFIED LABANOTATION
Maria del Pilar Naranjo
University of Antioquia. Medellín, Colombia.
University of Antioquia. Medellín, Colombia.
After using simplified Labanotation as a didactic tool for some years, the author can conclude that it accomplishes at least three main functions: efficiency of rehearsing time, social recognition and broadening of the choreographic consciousness of the dancer. The doubts of the dancing community about the issue of ‘to write or not to write’ are highly determined by the contexts and their own choreographic evolution, but the utility of Labanotation, as a tool for knowledge, is undeniable.
Keywords: labanotation, kinetography laban, simplified labanotation, motif writing, writing dance
Ever since the author started studying Rudolph Laban’s system for analyzing and writing movement, she has had colleagues around her asking: "but… what is it good for? "
It always struck her to realize that she never doubted about the interest of such a tool, while many dancers didn’t see its possibilities. Though, she understands now that her perspective was highly determined by her own educational history, in which knowledge was always legitimated by written supports , both for the verbal as well as musical languages she learned.
Then, during the time the author was specializing herself in Labanotation studies, she confirmed that the use of Laban’s system would allow a transformation of the dancer’s movement, as much as of her/his body and consciousness. The author also verified that it really is enough and effective to write dance to the most tiny detail, if desired. Though, it was clear to her that such practices needed a lot of dedication, which in many social contexts, particularly that in Colombia, in which she belongs, would not currently be available.
So, the author's conclusion after many years of studies was that for practical and mainly economical reasons, detailed analyzing and writing of dance could be seen nowadays useful, only in highly developed dance contexts, which still are just a few around the world.
However, the author continued using the basics of Laban’s kynetography in a dance composition course she currently teaches. The lack of time, and the need of easy and practical issues, made her decide to follow the simplified application developed by Valery Preston Dunlop (1967) in her series of books Readers in Kinetography Laban. Motif writing for dance., as well as the French version La symbolisation du mouvement from Jacqueline Challet Haas (2001).
In this kind of simplified Labanotation, the score written is more like a general outline. Dance is described in broad strokes, but complete enough to remember its basic features (like rhythmic structure, paths in space, turns, jumps or main gestures).
After four continuous terms teaching this course, the author can say that even in underdeveloped dance contexts, simplified Labanotation can be very useful for the following: 1) Efficiency of rehearsing time, 2) Social recognition, and 3) Choreographic consciousness.
EFFICIENCY OF REHEARSING TIME
The author states from her own experience that the use of simplified Labanotation enables completely inexperienced students composing solos and group choreographies efficiently (almost to bet that better than without using the system). They also have the possibility of studying their dancing roles on their own, before arriving to rehearsals, and anybody from a group can rehears another one’s choreography to her/his dancers.
Laban knew this, and still, almost one century after him, dance continues to be considered by society and institutions as a minor art.
In the dance composition course which the author teaches, musicians are usually invited to accompany class's choreographies after the students have already finished composing them (they create without music). It would be amazed to see the difference of attitude those musicians have towards dancers after they discover that the students use dance scores.
Personally, the author doesn’t believe that dance needs to have its written language to grow, become more refined or sophisticated. That process has happened in dance despite the oral and gestural transmission. But society has remained blind to all this development, and yet, in the era of the ‘modern, literate civilization’, nonwritten languages (like dance) stand as minor and insubstantial.
We would not do the work of writing everything down, just for others to understand that there’s something elaborated behind what we do. But, if society realized that dance can be as sublime as any other form of art or science, can you imagine how many institutional and social changes we could achieve?
Now this one is the real advantage and usefulness of Labanotation, whether simplified or not (at least for what concerns knowledge and art).
People always say: "Why to bother writing if you can make a video of it?"
All experienced dance writers know it: to write, you need to analyze and by analyzing you tremendously increase your consciousness of the dance you are studying. This can help the dancer understand the details of a specific technique or style; the choreographer can work in advance without the need of the dancers; the researcher can have a frame to understand the differences between choreographic genders and styles; the teacher can speed some of the learning processes; the dance community can construct a choreographic culture based on the knowledge provided by the written language, etc. Yet it has to be understood that Laban’s system is just one way of proceeding towards all this needs from our practice.
Still we can ask ourselves: Does the degree of choreographic consciousness really matters? If it does, is this the kind of consciousness we want to have? Or, which is it? What is the type of relationship we want to keep towards our choreographic production?
Maybe those are questions that will be answered now, by each choreographer, in her/his creative intimacy. But, concerning the global development of dance, the author would like to remember something she wrote in another article about Labanotation “(…) To those who are still asking themselves what the use of kynetography might be, I’d say you could ask yourselves what written language and its evolution means for humanity today. I bet Cro-Magnons didn’t imagine the reality in which we live nowadays” (Naranjo 2015).