« THE MUSICAL DANCE NOTATION : L’ÉCRITURE Pierre CONTÉ .»
Communication to the World Conference on Dance (Larisa GREECE, 6-10 July 1988).
Remark For the use of the reader of this Site added in 2011.
To see examples in order to understand this notation you can, on the left’ column, click on :
- C.1. Branle Double Renaissance for description, tablature and notation of this easy and ordinary dance and see the first dance’extract of the video Branles Renaissance
- C7 Farandole : ça ira ! and read the notation of some steps ( sautillé , galop etc) of the street dance of the familly of FARANDOLE called "Ah, ça ira ! " the song of the French Révolution.
- 3.10 Hasapikos (The dance inspiring the Syrtaki music of THEODORAKIS) and read the first suite of steps called « Aplo » and a second suite out of many.
- II -TECHNIQUE OF THE DANCE NOTATION or ÉCRITURE CONTÉ
Outlines : rythm’notation, choreographic staves (scores), space’notation, change of directions, intensity, amplitude, emphasis, facing, bibliography.
1 -.The three common factors of dance and music
For each bodily act of dance Pierre Conté shows that four factors are liable to enter into it :
-the space (filled by a position or a movement)
-the time (wich is used by a position or a movement)
-the intensity (the strength of a movement)
-the accent (the subtile variation of strength)
If we put the factors of dance and music on the following lists :
« factors of dance » « factors of music »
We see that three factors out of four are common (time, intensity and accent).
The conclusion is that we can write down these three factors of danse in the same way that is used in music.
In other words : the rythms of the movements of the different parts of the body during a danse (the kinetic melodies of the limbs) are written with the same signs as for the rythm of a song (quarter notes ,half note etc...)
2 -THE CHOREOGRAPHIC STAVES (SCORES)
Sound is specific to music and space is specific to dance but Conté chose a choreographic staff very close to a musical staff, where the actions (position or movement) of the limbs of the body are written as you can see in the - PICTURE 1 figure I -
The canvas includes a choreographic score of nine lines which, in the space of the paper , creates five interlineations utilised as is explained in - PICTURE 1 figure II - with the possibility to add one interlineation more in case of pressure on the torso and one supplementary line in case of pressure on the head.
At last two dotted lines :
- One line, above the choreographic staff, to write with words the expression (as in music)
- One line, below the choreographic staff, to indiquate the « facing » expressed by an angle in degrees between the axe of the person who start to dance and any « cardinal » point which must be arbitrary but necessarily chosen as an axe of 0°.
- Without mention of a « cardinal » point on the score means that the « cardinal » point is the public. For instance, on PICTURE 1 figure II , (90° ) means that on the stage the dancer start dancing facing to the left of the public (in French : face au coté « jardin » facing the side « jardin » of the stage) For complete explanation of the « facing » see chapter 12 and - PICTURE 6 figure XIII –
3. ANALYSIS AND NOTATION OF THE SPACE FACTOR IN A POSITION OF A SEGMENT OF THE BODY
Conté analyse :
3.1. Conditions of part of the body with the weight on it or not.
3.1.1. A condition of pressure (with the weight on it)
The condition of pressure is written down on the lower part of the choreographic score in bold note and generally the tail down to indicate an important weight on it ( see - PICTURE 1 figure I - for the weight on the right leg and on « demi-pointe » indicated by a « sharp » )
See also in this Site - score Farandole « Ça ira » -1st measure = walking (pas de marche) step and weight on left foot then on right.
3.1.2. A free condition (without the weight on it)
The free condition on the contrary is written on the upper part of the choreographic score in small notes and most of time with their tails up.
See - PICTURE 1 figure I - arms and head and left foot free.
3.1 3.A condition of flexion :
There are five condition of flexion written with one notch to five notches (three notches for a right angle). See - PICTURE 1 figure I - The arms and the right leg are flexed .Right leg with the weight.
There is only one condition of extention written without any notch.
See - PICTURE 1 figure I - the free left leg is extended.
See– PICTURE 2 figure III -1note = weight on left leg extended.
3.1.4.A condition of contact :
See – PICTURE 2 figure IV –
We have written nine contacts with the ground.From left to right, on nine beats a-b-c-d-e-f-g-h-i, nine contacts :
(a) on flat left foot ; (b) on heel of right foot ; (c) return on flat right foot ; (d) on quarter raised left foot ; (e)on half raised right foot ; (f) on tip toes ; (g) return on flat left foot ;
(the effect of the symbol before the note-position lasts during the whole bar but vanishes after the bar)
(h)on the two knees ; (i) on knee and elbows.
3.1.5.A condition of jump or leap
The leap is considered as a loss of pressure and contact with the ground. All the parts of the body are free .
We write the amount of time of the leap with a rest. See PICTURE 3 figure V.
The movement start on the flat left foot with a good flexion of the leg to obtain a good leap which last one eigth of a note rest and stops on the two legs flexed to the second degree (60°)
We see that the place of a jump and the amount of time it takes indicates the intensity of the impulse.
For instance , click at Fartandole « ça ira », the intensity of the jumps is light during the steps : pas de course – sursaut – sautillé – galop.
A change of direction is indicated by a number written generaly out of the choreographic score before and near the tail of the note of the limb concerned. The directions stays the same till a new number is written .
4.1. « Primary directions » .
See PICTURE 3 figure VI :
0 = segment on normal place when the body is in upright standing position.If there is no indication, the segment is on 0.
different changes of directions (of moving)
1 = segment moving in front of the body.
2 = segment moving to the side of the body.
3 = segment moving to the back of the body.
5 = segment moving toward above the body.
4 = position of the segment (head or torso) after turning to the right or to the left.
4.2 « Intermediate directions
The combination of two numbers indicates that the direction is intermediate between these primary directions and nearer to the direction indicated by the first number written.
For instance - PICTURE 4 figure VII – :
- 20 is an intermediate direction closer to 2 than to 0.
- 15 is an intermediate direction closer to 1 than to 5.
Generaly two crossed numbers indicate that the intermediate position is just in-between the two crossed numbers (in the bisection of their angle)
See PICTURE 4 figure VII : five-one crossed, two-zero crossed, one-zero crossed.
Particular cases (for legs only)
- The directions of the legs 01, 02, 03 are free of weight but touching lightly the ground.
-The directions of the legs with crossed numbers : zero one crossed, zero-two crossed,
zero-three crossed are « dégagé à terre » (just off the ground).
For instance the direction zero-two crossed that you can see - PICTURE 4 figure VII – is a « dégagé à terre » sideward
4.3. « crossed position »
See - PICTURE 4 figure VIII -
v = first degree of cross position and of cross movement
x = second degree
xx = third degree
Click at « Hasapikos » - .and look at the first score : Applo.
4.4. gathered position
There are symbolic letters to indicate :
« hands on to the hips » = « h » « foot to the tibia » = « t »
witch are gathered positions usefull in gymnastics, in folk dances .
4.5. particular positions of the hands and feet requiring symbolic letters for example : supination = u
bending in 4 sides = - a (foreward)
- b (backward or extension of the hand)
- m (side of the thumb)
- n (side oposite of the thumb)
4.6. Turning (rotation)
A turn is symbolised by a double slash across the tail of the note of
pressure ( for instance, raising to the right for turning to the right)
followed at the end of the turning by a number of turns written in a
circle. See PICTURE 6 figure XII.
Click at Potamia
5. ANALYSIS AND NOTATION OF THE TIME FACTOR FOR A POSITION OR A LIMB OF THE BODY.
The employment of music notation ( which has now proved its efficiency in the whole world) is the best way to record the different speeds and rhythms of the limbs and their simultaneity or to note the amount of time a position is held.
The theory, signs and arrangement of the time factor of dance are identical with those of music.
For example, relative values of speed are represented by notes which have the same value and imply the same principle as the notes that we find in music theory :
- 2 half notes = 4 quarter notes = etc…
- the dot after the note increase its duration by half of its value.
- absolute values : same use of the tempi. Click at Farandole « ça ira », Hasapikos , Katsori or Potamia and look at the scores .
- same use of three against two (or reverse)
-same beats, bars, time signature, rhythms or « rhythmic structures »
-same bars to music and dance.
Click at Farandole « ça ira », Hasapikos , Katsori or Potamia and look at the scores .
- same forms , time constructions, time structures. : call and response – verse and chorus –canon – theme and variation – suite - etc…
In dance the note indicates as in music :
-the exact moment of arrival in a position.
-the amount of time this position is held (in the case of a movement, the amount of time to reach a new position)
With the factor of time we can pass from the natation of a position to the notation of a movement wich is considered like the way between a position and a new position which follows.
(In the same manner that, in musical score, following notes indicate the melody but also the movements of the feet and the fingers of an organist like P. Conté)
It follows that the elements of analyse and notation of movements are the same we have seen for position augmented by two following factors : nuance and emphasis .
6..ANALYSE AND NOTATION OF THE « NUANCE » OF A MOVEMENT OR OF A SEGMENT
6.1.The intensity of the strength required by the movement.
We write, as in music, a soft movement which increases to become the strongest : ppp < fff
6.2. Gradations of the amplitude of a movement.
A movement, a step can be :
-the more curtailed (ccc)
-return to middle-sized (m)
-the greatest (ggg)
If there is no indication the step is middle sized. See PICTURE 5 figure IX.
7 - .ANALYSIS AND NOTATION OF THE EMPHASIS OF A MOVEMENT.
The accent which is the subtle variation of the intensity of the movement is written like in music (legato, staccato, etc…) for instance a stamp on the floor is written by a dot (stronger by a little vertical dash) under the note.Like you can see PICTURE 5 figure X .
We can note a delayed movement with the « appogiatura » which, by its place, indicates the moment of acting and, by its value, indicates the amount of time to reach the following and principal note-position. This amount of time is taken on the main notes which follows. See PICTURE 5 figure XI .
8 - ANALYSIS AND NOTATION OF THE MELODIC UNITY IN A GESTURE OR IN A STEP OF DANCE
To notice the linked connection of movements, particularly in a step of dance, we use a curved line above the group of notes concerned . Click, at the left column, on the dance « Potamia ».
Remark : Like in music this curved line above a group of notes must not be mistaken with the slur (the link between a note and a following same note on a following beat or measure wich prolongs the action) :
- the sound in music as, notably, syncopation
- the weight on a foot in dance like you can see on PICTURE 5 figure X or if you click on the dance : « Hasapikos »
At last the element of facing is used to situate exactly the action and must not be mistaken with the direction (seen before).
The facing is expressed by an angle in relation with a focus choosen conventionally. The angle of the facing is written on the low dotted line of the choreographic staff.
For instance , on stage generally, the focus is taken to the public.
The focus is considered as the axe of zero degree.
On stage , for instance, the facing of the « coté cour » (in french) is expressed by (270°) written on the low dotted line of the choreographic staff.
- PICTURE 6 figure XIII , you can see the facing of the differents sides and corners of a stage in a theatre .