Dance Notation

Definition

A written system of symbols, shapes, and lines that represent body position and movement. These are invented visuals used to plan, map, or record movement, as opposed to formal forms of dance notation. (Taken from the 2009 Ontario Arts Curriculum)

An Instructional Approach

  • Using a selection of the basic locomotor and non-locomotor movements (see lists below), ask students to create a simple line drawing to symbolize each movement. Students will use separate cards for each notation of movement.
  • Students will then organize their drawings into a sequence and will create a dance based on that sequence which includes an initial and final shape. As they are choreographing, students may need to create additional drawings to represent additional movements or pathways/directions that they have used in their dances. Once they've completed and rehearsed their choreography, students will transcribe the entire notation (write out the whole dance on one piece of paper) so that it includes all of the symbols they've created to represent their movements.
  • Students will then pass their sequenced notation to another group of students who will interpret the notation and will create a dance based on what they perceive from the notation. Both the group that created the notation and the group that received the notation will then perform the dances they've created and both they and the audience will compare/contrast and provide feedback specific to how each dance was related to the notation.

Locomotor Movements

walk, run, jump, hop, leap, gallop, slide, skip, crawl, roll, slither, creep, prance, march

Non-locomotor Movements

poke, lift, punch, flick, float, glide, press, carve, curl, lunge, slash, dab, wring, shake, rise, kick, squish, explode, twist, sway, turn, spin, dodge, reach, sink, burst, wiggle, stretch, swing, push, pull, fall, melt, fold, crumble

Variations for Different Levels of Readiness

  • With younger or less experienced students, use fewer movements (i.e.; two from each) from the lists above so that the dances will be shorter and easier to remember.
  • With older or more experienced students provide more movements from the lists above and allow them to select which ones they would like to use in their dance.
  • If you are working on a specific dance element (i.e.; space, time, body, energy, relationship), provide criteria related to that element so that students might, for instance, be asked to show movements on three levels or movements using a variety of speed or movements showing relationships between dancers by using contact and touch. Students would then also need to find a way to create notation to communicate these elements (i.e.; "How will you show that this movement is performed on a low level?").

Extensions

Line Trios

  • Each trio (group of 3) of dancers is given a piece of paper.
  • They each draw a line on the page, representing the pathway they will dance.
  • They choose the colours they feel best represent their pathway.
  • Each trio then practices and performs their pathway dance.
  • They choose a common beginning shape and a common ending shape to indicate when they start and when they find an ending.
  • The dancers can choose whether to dance their pathways simultaneously or one at a time.
  • After performing their trio for the group, each trio then combines with another trio and teaches their pathways to the other group (and vice versa).
  • The six dancers then decide how to combine their pathway dances into one group choreography.
  • The groups of six perform their choreography for the whole class.
  • Variation: The teacher could provide a three-line pathway drawing to the students that they could then interpret in their trios.

Dancing Hands and Feet

  • Using large pieces of paper (a roll of paper works well) and a choice of paints, students will move improvisationally (making it up as they go along) across the page using their hands and/or feet and tracing the pathways and shapes of their movements as they go.
  • They will then pass the page to another group who will interpret their notation and will create a movement phrase that they think reflects the colours and shapes on the page.
  • Variation: Students could move across the paper in response to a variety of styles of music.

Cross Curricular Uses 

Social Studies - Mapping Skills

Use the mapping symbols used to represent railways, highways, topographical elevations, rivers, etc... as stimulus to create movement.

Science - Growth of Animals

Use animal tracks as a type of notation, exploring the different types of tracks that animals create as they move in different ways.

Drama

Use the created dances as a means of expressing the inner feelings and thoughts of a character in a dramatic situation.

Literacy

After one group completes their dance, another group must write down the choreography in complete sentences using the key words from the brainstorming list.