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Dancing the Score: Dance Notation and Diffrance


This article moves towards an explanation of the kinds of meaning captured in dance notation, towards a critical reection on linguistic accounts of meaning in dance, and towards a model of analysis that slips free from the dichotomy of theory versus practice, and its correlate of text versus experience. In following Derridas argument about speech and writing, and through a re-reading of his account of the myth of Theuth, I suggest that dance notation sensuously illustrates the kind of binary-destabilising matter and movement that Derrida theorises variously as trace, diffrance, and arche-writing. Further, I propose that dance notation, in its relationship to theatrical dance, provides an exemplary, rather than a unique, textual practice: one which necessarily annihilates the old mind/body and speech/writing dualisms. While Derrida achieves this through elaborate, often mischievous, wordplay in his deconstructions, I reect upon the etymology of choreography and choreology, upon the process of reading and writing a dance score, and upon the marginal status of notation within the dance eld. Early in my studies of dance notation I looked forward to the day when I would be able to read a dance open the pages of a score and see the choreography unroll before me, like a ickering movie in my minds eye. My Benesh Movement Notation [BMN] teacher, Elaine Tyler-Hall, brought a copy of Tudors Shadowplay into class in order for us to see a fully mastered score. The elegant grey swirls upon the faint red ve-line stave, the neat hand-written notes, the facing pages of precision oor-plans all this dazzled and inspired me. After gaining advanced certication in BMN and in Labanotation, and having spent a good amount of my time teaching and working with both these systems, I am still dazzled, and always initially overwhelmed, when I open a new score. With the exception of solo studies that use a familiar dance vocabulary, I cannot conjure the dance upon the page: I must move into the space, disassemble the notation signs and then reassemble them in and through my body before I am able to understand what is written. For a long time I believed this reected some failure of mine with regard to notation. If only I were better at it, more gifted as a dancer, if I applied myself more diligently, and so on, then the choreography would come to life for me through visual inspection alone. I am now convinced that this need to actively put my body into the score is not a failure of mine, but a demand of the notation, and perhaps of reading practices more generally.


In setting the context for his argument in Of Grammatology Derrida notes that everything philosophy considered under the province of language for the past two and a half thousand years has been now transferred to writing. He states:
we say writing for all that gives rise to an inscription in general, whether it is literal or not and even if what it distributes in space is alien to the voice: cinematography, choreography, of course, but also pictorial, musical, sculptural writing. (Of Grammatology 9)

I am glad that Derrida invokes dance and choreography, since the relationship he explores between the voice and writing resonates for me with the relationship between dance and its notational forms. A common sense assumption here would be to forge the following analogy speech:dance and writing:notation. Through Derridas dismantling of the hierarchical binaries in which writing is conceived as a mere representation, as a second-rate activity (B. Johnson ix) lacking the authority of full self-presence that the voice commands, I glimpse how tantalisingly slippery this analogy is for examining the status and practice of dance notations, which themselves occupy no place of authority or of symbolically invested reference (Louppe 19). In following Derridas argument about speech and writing, and through a re-reading of his account of the myth of Theuth, I suggest that dance notation sensuously illustrates the kind of binary-destabilising matter and movement that Derrida theorises variously as trace, diffrance, and arche-writing. Further, I propose that dance notation, in its relationship to theatrical dance, provides an exemplary, rather than a unique, textual practice: one which necessarily annihilates the old mind/body and speech/writing dualisms. While Derrida achieves this through elaborate, often mischievous, wordplay in his deconstructions, I reect upon the etymology of choreography and choreology, upon the process of reading and writing a dance score, and upon the marginal status of notation within the dance eld. While Derridean ideas about deconstruction, the trace, and diffrance have been explored provocatively in connection to postmodern dance by Albright,1 Lepecki,2 and many others, these analyses have commonly held back from a sustained consideration of dance notation as writing, and its status in relation to the dance in performance. Yet, to my mind, this seems an obvious place to start if post-structuralist ideas about language, textuality, and embodiment are to be thought through western theatrical dance rather than mapped out on top of it. I conceive this essay then as a rst step toward a more thorough explanation of the kinds of meaning captured in dance notation, towards a critical reection on linguistic accounts of meaning in dance, and towards a model of analysis that lets me slip free from the dichotomy of theory versus practice, and its correlate of text versus experience.3 Returning to the quotation from Derrida above, I note that the dancing body does leave an inscription in space, albeit an evanescent one starkly contrasting with the more permanent mark of pen upon paper. Nonetheless, Derrida suggests that choreography etymologically, writing dancing is not


really writing. He implies that choreography has been considered alien to the voice, to the logos, and to the (mythic) full self-presence that the voice promises, and thus, in so far as writing has been posited as derivative of speech, a writing that is disconnected from this originary act cannot be writing at all. This unsettles my initial analogy of speech:dance and writing:notation. If choreography does not hold a traditional and metaphysical connection to the voice, to breath, to the spirit, to logos, then how can I suggest it as analogous to these very things? At the same time, in line with conventional dualistic thinking, dance would of course align with the body, with graphos, and not with the mind and with logos. To argue the presence of presence, or even the myth of full self-presence in dance is beyond the remit of this article. I will note though that Sparshott, in suggesting a threefold ambiguity in the way that meaning in dance can be construed, posits that dance might be taken as pure appearance that is yet the appearance of a real human presence (22). I will return later to the ways in which dance does and does not manifest this presence. The analogy remains troubled even if I can argue for dance performances as equivalent to acts of speech. In the score of Yvonne Rainers Trio A: The Mind is a Muscle, Part 14 it is the choreography, not any one instance of performance, that is written since the score attempts to capture the essence of the work, the choreographic intent, independently from any individual iteration.5 Trio A has been performed by countless hundreds of people in a variety of forms solo, trio, group piece and with varying degrees of success by different dancers, both professional and amateur. Each instance of its performance is judged according to how well it manifests the intention and the detail of the piece.6 The choreography might then be thought to have a form outside of any one performance and that form pre-exists any written documentation. Consequently, although I might ordinarily imagine that writing comes after speech, and that score-writing comes after performance, I also nd that theatrical dance in performance would seem to come after the choreographic writing, exemplifying Derridas suggestion for speech that there is no linguistic sign before writing (Of Grammatology 14). The earliest recorded use of the word choreography, in 1789, referred directly to the written notation of dancing (Oxford University Press) and, judging from the quotations cited in the dictionary, only later did the literal sense of writing dancing fall away. The Oxford English Dictionary gives little indication that choreography might be a creative process that generates a new artwork. The entries under choreograph, choreographical, choreographic, and choreographically are each equally vague with regard to satisfactorily dening a current usage of these terms as they now pertain to dance composition. They give preference to an (archaic) understanding of choreography as the art of dancing in which that art is participatory and/or performative. It seems then that etymologically our understanding of the art of dancing, the participation in and performance of dancing, is already infused with notions of writing, even where and when no written text is referred to or generated. And insofar as dancing is indisputably an art of the body, this association with writing, the kind



of bad writing that Derrida suggests has been exiled in the exteriority of the body (Of Grammatology 17), begins to make sense. Dance, in terms of the performance of its choreography (perhaps akin to the speech that is given voice), is then already marked as a form of writing. Additionally, and once again following patterns of Western dualistic thought, being considered corporeal rather than intellectual or spiritual, the dance should sit on the side of writing rather than on the side of the voice while it also maintains an alignment with living speech. Its status here is undecidable on either side of the binary. It is a further irony that the living, breathing dance is designated as choreography a form of writing while the notation of that dance and the study of the art of dancing is designated as choreology (Oxford University Press) etymologically connected to the notion of the logos from which the voice derives its authority. While the living dance and its unwritten form in choreography crosses the binary through afnity with the body and writing, the document that records the living dance on paper asserts a claim through language to the legitimisation of speech and discourse. Thus, the binary is crossed in the other direction. The etymological connection to the logos announces that the written score is used in dance to mobilise a claim for intellectual legitimacy and, paradoxically, as an escape from the connes of the body. Yet, when I reconsider the relationship between choreology and choreography in Derridean terms, I must acknowledge that the notation score is as corporeal as the dance in performance is textual. In practice, dance and score-reading cross the body-mind divide all the time. I am looking at the Labanotation score of Yvonne Rainers Trio A: The Mind is a Muscle, Part 1. Its subtitle alone announces the interconnectedness of mind and body required to perform this work. I scan the symbols on the very rst page, looking for clusters that form familiar movement patterns. There is a pli and a turn of the head and then something more detailed involving arms and surfaces of the hand. By simply casting my eye up the staff I can neither see nor feel the movement here in anything but the most general terms. I turn to the next page, advancing through the score trying to get a sense of the dance that the notators claim to have captured. Page Two: The right hand makes it a snakelike cleopatra position. This catches my interest and I take a moment to work through the symbols upper arm here, lower arm there, wrist bent backwards, thumb facing side, back of hand touching the forehead. I move my right arm as I read out column by column from the center of the staff and then, with a little adjustment, it is clear: it might seem more swan than snake from the symbols but the word note calls to mind friezes and hieroglyphs and gives me a sense of angular tension through the arm. The score is dense with symbols and devoid of helpful markers like metrical division into measures. I can recognise and translate each mark upon the page, but this alone does not constitute understanding the score. Even as I verbalise the coded instructions, circle the left leg from front to back tapping at the oor while making small contractions in torso and shifting the head back and forth, I cannot feel the whole movement in my body nor can I see it being performed



in my minds eye.7 What kind of reading is this that cannot be accomplished while sitting in a chair and that cannot be accomplished by sight alone? In fact, although the score for Trio A poses particular challenges for sight reading in light of the precise but difcult movement, the absence of repetition, the absence of metrical timing, and the deliberately inorganic sequencing, the process here is much as it is for any choreographic score.8 It would appear that I cannot read it like a novel, like mathematical formulae, like tarot cards, or like a train timetable. The score demands my active physical participation:9 I must dance it if I am to know what is written, and even then the dance itself eludes my understanding. Sparshott notes that I cannot see the dance I am dancing (20), and in score reading this is equally true indeed, I cannot see the dance I am reading even though it is written on the page. The notation score records the dance neither as it appears in its entirety to the audience nor wholly as it is performed by the dancer. The score operates with multiple frames of reference, and the dance arises in the relation between these as it is pieced together in and through the dancers bodies. Moreover, as a result of the imperfect notationality of dance (Sparshott 17),10 there is always something missing from the score itself that choreologists attempt to capture by including copious supplementary notes including reviews, photographs, and references to sources for further study.11 The dance score cannot maintain a sense of absolute distance between the reader and the dance.12 To be read the dance must be articulated through the readers body. It has a presence, and this presence is corporeal as well as a living, breathing truth. This play of presence is particularly slippery for dance. The presence of the dance Trio A can only arise through my dancing body, but the dance is not present to me as a work of art as I perform it: its presence is only available to someone watching me dance. And yet, this presence demands the kind of distance that the presence of speech tries to repress. Further, for both the dancer and the audience, whatever presence appears or is experienced through the dance, it is always underscored by the absence it ensures. In no form can the dance be held eternally present; each new step consigns the previous one to oblivion leaving only a trace of that which has gone before. For the audience member, the dance as a whole and in its parts ees from grasp, never to be perceived in its entirety, and for the dancer, never to be experienced in the same way twice. On another level, a sense of originary presence is always displaced when a dance is performed by those other than the choreographer, especially so for a group piece. The meaning of the dance can only be uttered by the multiple bodies on stage together, but none of them are speaking/dancing their own words/movement. It is always already substantially distanced from its own origin. Despite the essentially somatic experience of reading a notation score, the development of dance notation systems and the generation of libraries of notated dances have been seen by many as part of a more general thrust towards accruing a literature of dance in the twentieth century. This literacy was considered vital for dance in staking a claim to legitimacy as an art form and



to gaining recognition as a discipline within institutions of higher learning. In 1953, lamenting the parlous state of dance scholarship, dance scholars Winthrop Palmer and Anatole Chujoy noted that [n]o other art form has so meager a literature as dance (cited in Bopp 111) and Ann Hutchinson Guest writing in 2005 attests that dance has been hampered by the lack of a means of capturing the essential factors on paper, the absence of a common method of analyzing movement, a universal terminology, and the scarcity of the recorded knowledge of the past (8). In other words, she is pointing out that dance has suffered from the lack of an adequate written form. Given that dance as a practice is very much of the body, and in light of the prevailing tendency in western cultures to value and prioritise the mind over the body, it would seem that in mobilising the written text and the notation score in a claim for legitimisation, some dance scholars have associated writing and literacy with intellectual kudos and hence with the mind. It is ironic enough that the practice of reading and writing dance notation must necessarily be a somatic practice and yet is posited as being somehow distanced from the body and connected with the mind, but Derridas assertion that writing, the letter, the sensible inscription, has always been considered by the Western tradition as the body and matter external to the spirit, to breath, to speech and to the logos (Of Grammatology 35) makes it doubly so. Now, ostensibly the relationship between speech and writing parallels the relationship between dance and notation but, as I began to illustrate above, Derridas work in Of Grammatology and in Dissemination suggests that it is not nearly so straightforward. Indeed, as I pick through the ways in which the notation score may both exemplify and contradict his analysis of phonocentrism and logocentrism and his suggestion that speech is really a form of writing in which the knowledge of itself as writing is repressed, I nd that these undecidables of absence and presence, of mind and body, of the sensible and the intelligible make both the dance score and the dance13 itself look like the very performance of diffrance, like arche-writing14 made esh. One of the places in which this contradictory and ambivalent association of the dance score to the written text is demonstrated is in Derridas deconstruction of the Egyptian myth of Theuth in the Phaedrus, if Ammon is seen as the choreographer and Theuth as the notator or choreologist. For example, Derrida tells us God the king does not know how to write, but that ignorance or incapacity only testies to his sovereign independence. He has no need to write. He speaks, he says, he dictates, and his word sufces (Dissemination 76). Choreographers rarely know how to write their dances. They enunciate their movement ideas to other dancers to perform for them, and to remember for them. Or, as Rainer did in Trio A, the choreographer dances her own steps for the audience. In either case, choreographic authority sufces to identify the dance, outside of any written score. She has no need to notate the dance herself. At the same time, like Theuth, the choreologist presents the notion of notation to the choreographer, awaiting approval and legitimation and is thus a subordinate character, a second, a technocrat without power of decision, an engineer, a



clever, ingenious servant who has been granted an audience with the king of the gods (Derrida Dissemination 86).15 Without the choreographers permission the dance cannot be scored. More crucially, without the choreographers enthusiasm for documentation, the nancial resources will not be forthcoming to pay for any dance to be notated. In companies where a notator is permanently on staff, the hierarchy of the institution reinforces this subordination even if the personal and professional relationship between choreographer and notator is amicable and respectful. Just as Theuth must approach the king and persuade him of the benets of his pharmakon, of this writing, so too must the choreologist persuade the choreographer that a score of the dance is more a remedy than a poison for the life of the work. Part of the choreographers suspicion about notation is also captured by Derrida in his discussion of the pharmakon:
We should not forget that, in the Phaedrus, another thing held against the invention of the pharmakon is that it substitutes the breathless sign for the living voice, claims to do without the father (who is both life-giving and living) of logos, and can no more answer for itself than a sculpture or inanimate painting, etc. (Dissemination 92)

The notation score is often criticised for its inability to capture the dynamic richness of dance, for missing the nesse of breath and spirit that animates performance. Even as Labanotation and BMN develop to encompass the recording of elements such as breath or sense of weight, these symbols are infrequently used in a score and it remains true that notation only gives us an outline, which we must interpret by lling in the gaps (Laurenti 107). This is the same kind of outline though that writing gives us in relation to the voice the shapes of the words and the structures of the sentences do not convey pronunciation and intonation. Laurenti uses this same absence from the written text to justify omissions in the score:
That certain things should be left implicit in the notational system comes as no surprise: everyone is familiar with the limitations of alphabetical notation, which are only partially overcome, but not entirely suppressed, by the international phonetic alphabet. (107)

This, though, is precisely the absence that leads to the subordination of writing to the voice, and perhaps of the score to the dance.16 Nonetheless, even in its incompleteness, the score might threaten to usurp the choreographer, the life-giving and living creator of the dance, by contradicting imperfect human memory or by standing in the place of the choreographer when/if the work is restaged. The score will most likely not answer how to adjust the dance for a different stage space, it cannot suggest alterations and alternatives to adapt to changes of cast,17 and the score cannot guide the dancers interpretation in anything but a general way. Indeed, it cannot answer for itself, or replace the choreographer when clarication is needed in terms of intention and interpretation, although it may provide more clarity than a faded living memory with regard to spacing, timing, and contact between



dancers. As a matter of course though, the dance score does not, nor does it claim to, displace the choreographer, since the reconstructed work is always subject to approval by the choreographer or her representative before it is performed. The pharmakon of writing is presented to Ammon as a remedy for forgetfulness. Likewise, where dance notations have been promoted and supported it has been for their role in preserving canonical choreographies, and where they are not supported it has either been because, as noted above, their faithfulness to the originary work is not trusted, or because the very notion of preservation is thought suspect, as was the case with Rainer and her colleagues when they were rst experimenting with postmodern dance at Judson Church. Within dance studies though it has not been posited that under pretext of supplementing memory, writing [the notation score] makes one even more forgetful; far from increasing knowledge, it diminishes it (Dissemination 100) as Derrida suggests the kings objection to the pharmakon will be. Just as Derrida identies, and critiques, the division of writing in Western philosophy into good and bad forms, so too he notes and critiques the division, determined from Plato, of good and bad forms of memory in which the bad is passive and repeats mechanically whereas the good employs the active reanimation of knowledge (Dissemination 108). Here the score pulls away from a parallel with the written text in the way it encodes meaning. The notation score does not represent the dance. The score will not, by itself, reveal how the dance looks, feels and sounds. Instead, the notation provides a set of instructions as to how the dance can, or should, be remade. From my description above it will be apparent that the notation score cannot be passively read. The symbols must be moved and their relation on the page undone and rearticulated in concert through the body. It is already a form of deconstruction in that the text must be taken apart to be corporeally reconstituted. Even if this is done little by little as a process of sight-reading, the meaning of the score is still elusive. In his work on semiotics Charles Peirce suggested that meaning is use (Nth 101), and for the dance score this use is performance. The scores meaning can only be performed, or rather its meaning is produced through each instance of performance and every performance requires an active reanimation of the knowledge encoded in the score. With score in hand and eyes turned toward the page, the dancer cannot do the bent over, head shaking, ear rubbing, knee swaying motif from Trio A. There are just too many simultaneous symbols informing the sequential co-ordination of the body for this to be read through. To do it, I must learn it, body part by body part, moment by moment, until the movement feels like my own. When the movement lives as a whole in my body, rather than as discrete symbols describing ngertips, head facing, leg rotation, arm exion and so forth, I know that I have not just read the signs on the page, I have found the dance written in the score. This is no mime of memory (Derrida Dissemination 105). This animation of the dance from the page demands a deployment of living memory, of memory as psychic life in its self presentation to itself (Derrida Dissemination 105).



Derridas assertions about the relationship between voice and text, both as it has been conceived within the tradition of Western philosophy, and as he suggests it to be, do not map perfectly onto the relationship between dance and score. In the sub-cultures of Western theatrical dance, everyday assumptions about the status of dance and its notations, of choreography and choreology fail to line up in a stable way with the logocentric givens of European and North American cultures. Our logos (choreology) is written; is touted as a means for securing intellectual legitimacy; is viewed suspiciously by many dancers and choreographers often for fear that it fails to capture the life or spirit of the dance; and yet is only available for understanding when animated by a dancing body. Our graphos (choreography) leaves no mark on paper; it is akin to the unmediated vocal utterance the ancients valued for expression of spirit and truth; its bodily expression has contributed to its exclusion over the centuries from philosophical discourse on art and culture; and yet, even without graphical documentation, it is already written, re-inscribing dancers bodies and lived space in each new instance of performance. Mind and body, speech and writing, choreology and choreography. Or choreography and choreology? The binaries wont hold. This is exactly what Derrida aims to show his reader. Dancers and notators know this through their everyday practice. It makes sense to me to see my work with a notation score as a form of reading in which bodily awareness is heightened. It is still reading, and exists on a continuum the other end of which is a practice in which the body has been repressed, denied, exiled. And just as Derrida suggests a form of writing that precedes speech as a strategy for overturning oppositional thinking, so too is choreography in performance preceded by a writing in the studio. This is not just one more instance in which an investigation of dance practice illuminates the absurdity of our heritage of mind/body distinctions and provides esh for otherwise abstract theorising. Certainly, dance notation is a practice that challenges previously conceived dualisms. Indeed, it destabilises these so thoroughly that it might constitute a valuable research tool for work that aims to avoid both the bloodless trap of representation and textuality and the solipsistic cul-de-sac of experience.18 And crucially, these insights might also help put to rest some of the circular debates about the validity of the whole enterprise of dance documentation via notation. The score is neither more nor less stable than the dance to which it stands in relation.

1. For example, in Choreographing Difference Albright uses the theoretical insights of Derrida, and of Hlne Cixous, to ground an approach to dance analysis. She extends the implications of their interests in the instability of meaning to a reading of a dance text in order to address what . . . is frequently absent from contemporary theory an awareness of the material consequences of the live performing body (94). Ann Cooper Albright, Choreographing Difference: The Body and Identity in Contemporary Dance (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1997).



2. In Inscribing Dance Lepecki explores the correlations between dance, writing and femininity. He suggests that dance does not exist outside the sphere of writing, and uses the work and writing of dancing masters such as Arbeau and Noverre to provide the historical grounding for his argument. He asserts that dance notation and documentation provide nothing but a stiff body, yet goes no further in exploring notation as a form of writing. Andr Lepecki, Inscribing Dance, Of the Presence of the Body: Essays on Dance and Performance Theory, ed. Andr Lepecki (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2004). 3. In elaborating on his call for a form of cultural phenomenology Thomas Csordas states: In brief, the equation is that semiotics gives us textuality in order to understand representation, phenomenology gives us embodiment in order to understand being-in-theworld (147). In effect this is a call to move away from understanding culture as operating purely from the neck up to an understanding that cultural knowledges are grounded in the body. He suggests several constructs that might be useful for eshing out a methodological approach for analysing culture and self from the standpoint of embodiment. I think employing dance notation as a research tool is one way to proceed, but that it also offers the potential to bridge this conceptual separation between representation and being-inthe-world. My dissertation research on dance notation and embodied subjectivity explores this contention further. Thomas J. Csordas, Embodiment and Cultural Phenomenology, Perspectives on Embodiment: The Intersections of Nature and Culture, eds. Gail Weiss and Honi Fern Haber (New York: Routledge, 1999). 4. Rainer choreographed this work in 1966, originally performing it as a trio with Steve Paxton and David Gordon. 5. It is worth noting here that parallels with, or inferences drawn from, work on musical notation are of limited use. I have found no published research that explicitly interrogates the relationship between musical score and musical performance in Derridean terms. Peter Johnson, mobilising Nicholas Cooks notion of the two musics, the work as notated and the work in performance suggests that the composers idea is never fully recoverable in performance. This contrasts with a widespread assumption in dance that the choreographers intention is never fully recordable in the score. The complex relationship between score, performance, and the work itself, gured abstractly elsewhere, is conceived quite differently, undoubtedly due to the different conditions of production of the score in music and in dance. In either case, Derridas point that there is always some breach between what is intended to be conveyed and what is conveyed seems to hold true. Peter Johnson, Musical Work, Musical Performances, The Musical Times 138.1854 (1997). 6. How is the intention and detail of a correct performance established, if not through a notation score? Most audience members will have never seen a score of the dance they are watching, and yet they may have a sense of whether the particular performance before them is a faithful rendering of the work, or even an exemplary performance of the same; for connoisseurs, balletomanes, and critics this judgement may arise from memories of previous performances, video recordings, reviews, photographs, discussions with the choreographer, and so forth. 7. It is not like this for musicians. In email correspondence, composer and dance accompanist Jonathan Still explained to me: I do always hear a score in my head. There are limits to how efcient this is, depending on the repertoire and style, but its remarkable in a way that one doesnt tend to play something and then say I would never have thought it sounded like that. The a-ha! moment I get upon guring out a dense cluster of symbols seems not to occur for musicians who can audiate quite easily. 8. In this instance, the difculty of reading is closely aligned to the kind of difculty of performing Trio A that Rainer intimates in her subtitle, however it is learned from score, from video, or from a teacher. Scores of dances such as Odiles Act III variation in Swan Lake or the solo Caught by David Parsons read more easily from the page, in part because of the conventional vocabulary and rhythmic components, but they present extreme challenges in performance because of the demands made in terms of technique and precision timing. However, if I cannot execute the movements to performance standard myself, I can still mark through the movements and project my body imaginatively into the notation.



9. I am not suggesting that other kinds of texts do not also require corporeal engagement in order to be meaningful. Indeed, I think this is why a discussion of the process of reading dance notation is useful: embodied understanding that may often be obscured when reading other textual materials is active and explicit when reading a dance score. 10. This imperfect notationality is, however, by no means exclusive to the dance. Written transcriptions of signifying practices regularly miss the nuances of timbre, intonation, dynamic force and so forth. I think perhaps it is not so much that dance notation fails to record these details to a greater degree than written speech does, but that these subtleties have been widely considered less important for an understanding of meaning through language than through dance. My contention here is informed by my reading of Julia Kristevas thoughts on signifying practices. However, I would be opening quite a different can of theoretical worms if I were to begin unpacking her argument here in the footnotes. See Julia Kristeva, Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art, trans. Thomas Gora, Alice Jardine and Leon S. Roudiez (New York: Columbia Press, 1980); Julia Kristeva, Revolution in Poetic Language, trans. Leon S. Roudiez and Margaret Waller (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984). 11. Benesh notators and Labanotators have become increasingly diligent with regard to the inclusion of contextual materials about the dance being scored. Scores from the midtwentieth century are likely to provide the reader with nothing but the staves of notation whereas scores from the late 1970s onwards may have lighting plots, copies of critical reviews of the work, details of casting, copies of costume designs and so forth. Sheila Marion suggests that this inclusion of supplementary information shifts the emphasis of the score towards production and away from movement standing by itself. Sheila Marion, A Comparison of Two Scores of Billy the Kid Proceedings of the 17th Biennial Conference of the International Conference of Kinetography Laban (MTA Zenetudomanyi Intezet, Budapest: ICKL, 1991). For Derrida, this inclusion of additional materials might connote something less pragmatic, since it bears uncanny parallels to his notion of the supplment. Derrida suggests that the supplment, for him that is writing, always completes as well as adds to that which it supplements, speech, and thus it implies an absence in that which was rst conceived to be fully present. While the notation score might seem to be a complete and faithful record of the dance, the supplementary materials imply its incompleteness, and have the potential to usurp the scores authority. Yet they themselves are always equally supplementable. 12. This would be true of any number of textual practices, but is foregrounded when considering notation. 13. Infrangible, one from the other, perhaps the dance in performance always exists in relation to some kind of score, albeit most likely unwritten, a placeholder for a set of characteristics by which an informed audience can agree this is or is not, say, Trio A? Nelson Goodman claims that the primary function of the score in dance or music is to authoritatively identify the work from performance to performance (128). There are signicant problems for dance and its notations within Goodmans argument but that must remain material for another paper. Nelson Goodman, Languages of Art (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1976). 14. Arche-writing is Derridas term for a more general conception of signication in which all meaning is deferred, referred, open, and inevitably removed from any grounding myths of self-presence and originary truthfulness. 15. Benesh choreologist Ann Whitley reports that Noa Eshkol, co-creator of the EshkolWachmann notation system, describes notators as resembling the scribes of ancient times . . . kind of expert menials in the service of artists and creators. Ann Whitley, More Than an Expert Scribe? The Human Dimension, Preservation Politics: Dance Revived, Reconstructed, Remade: Proceedings of the Conference at the University of Surrey Roehampton, ed. Stephanie Jordan (London: Dance Books, 1997) 136. 16. Shelly Saint-Smith, my colleague at the Royal Academy of Dance, points out that this idea, that the score is subordinate to the dance, does not hold true in all contexts. She wonders whether, during the restaging process the dance is, in practical terms, subordinate to the score until the moment of performance. I think her comment provides a further indication of the ambiguity of the relationship between notation and performance.



17. Although increasingly notators and restagers are providing rich addenda to cover such contingencies. 18. Again, see Thomas Csordas for an elaboration of the polarities I am invoking here. Csordas, Embodiment and Cultural Phenomenology.

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DOI: 10.3366/E0264287510000344

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