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Ever tried writing dance?

The World of Arts:

Ever tried notating dance? It is very confusing but fascinating and needs an expert's patience. Nothing quiet captures the true identity and intentions of a ballet directly from a choreographer's mind like notating. It is like reading the mind of a choreographer once he is set to direct a scene in a ballet.


Beautiful movements once danced cannot be captured in its authenticity in the future without the help of a notator. This scene is from Swan Lake.

Choreography is at the mercy of interpretations by the dancers who perform it. This is the essence of dance life on stage and in order to maintain its continuity, notation is the answer.

One cannot, however brilliant he is, retain every movement of a dancer in his mind and the last thing the choreographer wish to do is to depend on a video. In order to have its true original intention, it must come from an accurate notation from the page.

However romantic the idea may be for ballet being lovingly handed down from one generation to another, the visual tradition is ultimately an imperfect method.

The lapses, oversights and steps vary from the origin. The unreliable memory is the source of information, subject to losses and additions. They keep changing over time and sometimes erases off completely.

Like the written syllabus, this is the system of writing down choreography that is known as dance notation. It is a developed order to safeguard against choreography being lost as had happened in the past.

Many dance companies around the world including in North America who hold their ballets in repertories, notate their work.

This is indeed very remarkable, like retrieving a book from a shelf for reference.

By itself, the Royal Ballet has accrued around 150 scores that are held in the Royal Opera House's dance notation library.

The master-copies are stored off-site. This company maintain a staff of experienced notators unlike the Bolshoi and the Kirov, who acts as custodians of its rich heritage.

Known as 'choreologists', their task is to revive and maintain the classic three-act Russian ballets. To be continued

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