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Labanotation is Creative: How a Systems Perspective Reveals Generativity in Dance Notation and its Archives

Mara Pegeen Frazier


Labanotation is commonly viewed as a purely quantitative form of description. Because of the preoccupation in the world of professional and educational dance on the individual’s act of movement invention, scholars often overlook Labanotation’s systemic creativity. Scholarship to date has more commonly discussed Motif Notation and Creativity. However, when studied in light of Csikszentmihalyi’s ‘systems model of creativity’ as an integrated environment of individual, field, and domain, Labanotation shows itself to be a vehicle for creativity. Recognition of the creativity of notators, notation technologists, and stagers can benefit the field if it is recognized and articulated. This article combines historical analysis and qualitative analysis of present-day creative notation work. It discusses examples drawn from an archival collection of Labanotation materials that explain various ways in which Labanotation promotes creativity. The examples discussed draw upon archival materials to Doris Green’s system for notating African dance and drumming, the technological innovation of Lucy Venable’s software program LabanWriter, and the creative re-framing of an authentic restaging of excerpts from Anna Sokolow’s Rooms by Valarie Williams.


dance; Labanotation, Motif Notation, education, creativity

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