More on Movement Notation: Reconstructing Dances from Labanotation

Inside Look: Folksay/Episode Three: Labanotation from CityDance Ensemble on Vimeo.
Greg Halloran deciphers the Labanotation score for Sophie Maslow’s Folksay, which he reconstructed for CityDance; video by Ludovic Jolivet

I recently wrote a Winger post about Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation, since I did an interview with EWMN expert Michal Shoshani for Israel Seen. Part of my interest in learning about EWMN stemmed from my own background in Labanotation, which is commonly used in the U.S. and which I studied in graduate school at Ohio State. In case you too are curious about Labanotation, here’s a tidbit for you!

In the video above, Greg Halloran discusses some basics of Labanotation, using the score of Sophie Maslow’s Folksay (1942) to illustrate his points. Always wanted to see what Labanotation looks like? There are some great close-ups of the score that show the intricacy of the notation, and Greg explains the movements that correspond to the symbols.

The goal of movement notation is not only to record a dance but to allow it to live again through reconstructions, and I’m embedding another video which covers this issue. In the clips below, Greg talks about the process of staging Folksay from score for CityDance Ensemble, a modern dance company based in Washington, D.C. and directed by Paul Gordon Emerson. Folksay is near and dear to my heart because I wrote about it and Sophie Maslow’s other dances in my undergraduate thesis, and CityDance has been on my radar for several years since the group performs not only new work but reconstructions of older repertory. Their production of Folksay will be at the Kennedy Center this Saturday night, and I wish I could see it!

Interview for CityDance Ensemble from Ludovic Jolivet on Vimeo.
Greg Halloran reflects on reconstructing Folksay; video by Ludovic Jolivet.

Watching this video, I started thinking about all of the ways I have learned repertory in rehearsals: directly from the choreographer, from someone who previously performed the piece, from video, from someone reconstructing the dance from Labanotation score (and since I know Labanotation, from the score itself). I began to wonder if other Wingers - contributors and readers alike - have ever participated in a reconstruction from score. Have you? If so, how did that experience compare to learning repertory in other ways?


  1. Katy C.

    Labanotation blows my mind…How do you even begin to go about learning it??

    Oct 20, 2008 @ 01:38

  2. CMR

    It’s a lot like learning a language. It starts out simple and gets more complex. It’s not that hard. Just takes some time to master. Check out the book Labanotation by Ann Hutchinson Guest.

    Feb 02, 2009 @ 04:33



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