Écritures du mouvement

Curator of the exhibition: Claire Rousier
Scientific Curators: Jacqueline Challet-Haas and Annie Suquet
Compilation of texts: Jacqueline Challet-Haas, Claire Rousier and Annie Suquet
Graphic design of the exhibition: Agnès Dahan

Dance can be written, dance can be notated.

What a strange thing to say! Indeed few people know that choreography has acquired many notation systems for various purposes throughout its history. But is it really possible to notate movement? It is very hard to imagine, whereas it seems clear to everyone that we can write a language and read music using scores. Gestures seem out of reach, as if their secret were only intended for those who made them.

Since the 15th century, over a hundred movement notation systems have been developed. This exhibition features their highlights and leading figures: from the Cervera manuscript in the 15th century to choreographic transcriptions of today’s artists, from Blasis’ illustrations in the 19th century to Laban and Benesh dance scores in the 20th century. It highlights the great diversity of writing forms. Indeed each system demonstrates a different way of grasping movement, marked by the historical context and cultural imagination of the society in which it emerged. A number of mutual influences are also outlined, such as what Laban consciously borrowed from Beauchamp-Feuillet system.

Just as the forms are multiple, the functions are diverse. Alternately a mere reminder as part of the working process or material for learning or even creating, notation is at the heart of issues such as the development, preservation and transmission of repertoires. It also emerged as a remarkable tool to analyse elements of movement and styles. As such, its use goes way beyond the field of dance: for example, anthropology uses it to try and understand the cultural specificity of motor behaviours.

The graphical power of the systems developed prompts us to look at them as drawings which strength and diversity are enticing. These movement notations that go before, through and beyond choreographic work provide us with many possible routes within the processes used to create works.