What is the place for notation in analysis?
Keywords: Dance structures
We have to think about why we are using notation and does it contribute to analysis. The wonder of the various mathematical notations is that they enable abstract logical deduction. Something that is not possible with say Roman numerals, written language or graphical dance notations. In the later there are methods to re-codify as a means of looking for particular information, I termed this ‘re-codify’ as the parameter information was available before transcription and could have been taken directly for alternative analysis. For logical analysis it remains that the parameters of interest have to be isolated and presented in a form that allows for a structural, statistical, mathematical or other form of analysis.
The method of transcription is just a way to interpret the timeline of information to be able to read it back. This leads to the two main reasons for writing a transcriptions.
Firstly to help remember a dance – for dancers and teachers.
Secondly, to communicate as an accessible written visualisation to readers within discussions about dance.
Many experienced dancers will remember the dance and be able to explain an analytical breakdown of the parts, motifs and elements without any reference to a transcription. Where communication is within a genre, a system optimised for that genre is most often used, for example Romanotation in Romanian traditional dance, or minimal descriptions of actions for English dance figures, and where the communication is across genres (such as in academia) a “universal” system is used, most commonly Labanotation.
It is impossible to notate everything necessary to reproduce dancing; the rules, the association between various bodily movements that the mind treats as one, the association to the music, the spatial form, let alone the complete body movement. So any system can only summarise the key parameters that matter to the insider. The insider may well have a different perspective to dancing to an outsider observing the movements.
I presented a comparison between one Romanian centric notation system and the international (and “universal”) Laban system to show how the Romanian system is optimised to show primarily the parameters that matter for Romanian traditional chain dances, but in doing this many features primary to other dance genres cannot easily be notated.
Green, Nick (2016b). Fieldwork recordings and visual dance: questioning methodologies for analysing the process of local dancing.