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February 02, 1994 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1994-02-02

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.



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By
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n their usual innovative
and professional form,
the University Depart
ment of Dance has set a
tremendous undertaking
in this year's grand performance
- "In the Spirit of Diaghilev" in
conjunction with the University
Symphony Orchestra. The four-
piece tribute to the great Sergei
Pavlovich Diaghilev of the Ballets
0Russes were inspired by the
Diaghilev era and will premiere
choreography by dance faculty
members Gay Delanghe, Linda
Spriggs and Bill DeYoung (to
Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite").
Also included in the perfor-
mances will be the revival of
Vaslav Nijinsky's rarely per-
formed ballet "Afternoon of a
Faun" (set to the music of impres-
sionistcomposerClaude Debussy),
a piece originally produced by
Diaghilev, though eventually aban-
doned because of Nijinsky's alleg-
edly obscene choreography. The
piece will be presented with the
original choreography as inter-
preted by world renowned dance
historian Dr. Ann Hutchinson
Guest. Guest visited the Univer-
sity to teach the dance majors per-
forming in the piece from her stud-
ies of the original Nijinsky score
and choreography.
Guest is famous for her many
contributions to the dance world,
including her founding of the In-
ternational Council of
Kinetography Laban, a group of
choreographers who believe in
# using notation as a
means of
teaching
dance.
This
was af-
ter she was honored by becoming
one of the four people whom
Rudolf Laban entrusted with his
notations system. Guest also per-
formed for eight years as a profes-
sional dancer in concerts and in
Broadway shows, working with
such choreography greats as Agnes
de Mille and Helen Tamiris.
Her teachings were at presti-
gious institutions like the High
School of Performing Arts in New
York City, where she was the first
teacherof ballet and Labanotation,
asystem where symbols and short-
5 hand are used to write down a
choreographers notes as to what
the exact movements in a piece
are. It can be used as a "score" for
the dancers' movements along with
the music,just as a composer writes
his/her score for the instruments.
Her notation training included
three years at the Jooss-Leeder
School in the Laban system, where
she worked with senior

Kinetography Laban teacher
Albrecht Knust. It was also during
this time that she recorded "The
Green Table," "Big City," "Ball in
Old Vienna",and "Pavane."
Nijinsky's "code," a series of
notation shorthands mixing the
famous Laban notation and
Nijinsky's own markings, was a
mystery to choreographers who
hoped to perform the exact "After-
noon of a Faun." Guest, along
with colleague
ClaudiaJeschke
and grants
from the Na-
tion al En-
dowment for
the Humani-
ties and the
Skaggs Foun-
d a t i o n,
cracked the
code.

dancers that I've worked with is
because it's a very limited range of
movement. Especially if you're a
modern dancer and you're used to
flinging your limbs in space and
going down to the floor and com-
ing up again. Here there are very
precise positions and movements,
and yet you have to fill your space
so that it comes out as a true move-
ment and not an arm being raised
like a block of wood," said Guest.
It was left up to the dancers,
therefore, to understand the steps
as well as understand why they're
filling the space the way they are.
Nijinsky's vision for the piece was
to have the dancers seen in the first
dimension, so they always are fac-
ing the audience and moving in a
very constructed manner.
"They need to find the inner
meaning and motivation behind
each movement without changing
the choreography."
The music itself was also quite
difficult, so Guest made up tapes
and had each dancer listen to the
music for the piece with a voice
over it, counting out the varied and
hard to follow beats.
"Most people, particularly
dancers, know the music, but it
changes meter
all the time;
it's very
hard to
count,"
she said. "So the tapes
help them to know where they
should be and when.
"In addition to that, I also wrote
out cue sheets with abbreviations
as a memory aid, since they don't
know notation. This way, once
they've learned the piece listening
to the tape they can check the cue
sheets. I think that's helped quite a
bit."
The dance program at the Uni-
versity does not include in-depth
teaching of notations such as Laban
notation. Guest believes that as
time goes on notation will become
more integrated into the teaching
of dance in general.
"We haven't got notation inte-
grated into the teaching of dance
yet. It's on it's way but it's slow
because the pattern's always been
the dancers learn by observing,
watching and copying. To have a
dance score as you have a music
score is comparatively new, and
not so many dancers have had the
advantage of learning notation,"
she explained.
Though they had a lot of other
things to learn already, Guest said
that they did have 15 minutes where
she could teach Laban notation.
Other than that, the dancers learn
about six hours-worth of notation
during their education of dancers.

She would definitely like to see
more in the future.
"I did explain to everyone how
we write the basics, of how we
write walking, the direction you
face on stage and some of the most
used directions," Guest said.
Guest has also been develop-
ing different ways of teaching
dance which she discussed in
different lectures during her
stay at the University. One
such topic was "TheE
Language of
Dance," which has
led to her interpre-
tation and teaching
of many different pieces:
and techniques. This has t
also led to the publishing v
of a Language of Dance '
Series, which in-
cluded her findings
about the "Faun" x
ballet.
Herwork has
also led her to the
development of t
her own approach to
teaching dance through
developing an alphabet
which spells out the move- 5
ments of a certain dance. This
entails breaking down a movement
to see what smaller movements
comprise it.
"Our language is made up of 26
letters and from those you get mil-
lions of words depending on how
you arrange them. It's the same
with movement. You only have
so many parts of the body,
and so many directions in
space - you have a few ba-
sic movements and then
it's just how you put
them together. So inl
this system you can
write out any kind of
movement. It makes it more
precise," she explained.
The choreographer also
spoke on the use of video
instead of notation, stating
that while notation is her
favorite form, using
both is best. Usinge
video alone leaves a
lot of room for discrep-
ancies, so she has no fear
of the videotape making the
use of notation obsolete.
"I don't worry about the
video because it's not always
very clear, not always very faith-
ful. It's like music. The advent of
records and CDs hasn't done away
with the music score," Guest said.
"There are a lot of people who
use video who say it just isn't the
answer, not to preservation, not to
the record of the work itself. It is,
in fact, a performance of the work
and that dancer may have made
mistakes or put in personal man-
nerisms, and how do you know
which is the mannerism and which
is the choreography?"
"It's good as a memory aide,
but I'm abit more keen on notation
because it's such an educational
eye-opener. When you learn the
Laban system, you learn so much
about movement; the slight differ-
ences that you more or less thought

were the same then get sorted out
and you're that much richer."
In searching for the disadvan-
tages in using notation, she felt the
biggest problem is that there aren't
very many people who are well
versed in Labanotation, and that
teachers have stopped teaching it.
Other than that, she could only
remember one instance where
i correspondence student of
= otation couldn't relate what
lhe was being taught on pa-
per to the concrete move-
ments. She
, think past
+>,the sym-
bols to the
actual movements.
"I suppose it's as though
N ~ you were talking and aware
that every wordyou're say-
ing is made up of w-o-
r-d, word, and you're
not thinking of what
word means. Why am
I using that word? Do I
emphasize it? And the
same thing with move-
ments. Some movements are
the main ones to be emphasized,
and basically the same movement
could just be supporting another.
You need personal instruction to
learn how to distinguish that,"
Guest explained.
"Also one of the dangers of
learning from notation is that the
dancer's performance can be me-
chanical, but that's more the
fault of the dancer than the
notation. As with a play, like
° Shakespeare, it can be read in
a very dull way even
though you're say-
.. ing all the right
words. It takes an
actor who under-
stands, who has an inter-
pretation,who knows what
Shakespeare meant with those
words, to bring it to life."
For the specific
Nijinsky piece
that is being per-
formed for this
concert, Guest
F. said that it was a
bit ahead of it's
time, and because
ofthat,itwasnotwell-
received. He worked ac-
cording to his vision of hav-
ing a piece that appeared
two-dimensional.
"He had an idea that was not
unlike the Egyptian hieroglyph-
ics, so he designed the whole thing
to be very flat, and you only move
straight across the stage, and only
small moves up and down. And at
the time they were very strange
and new."
Along with the re-creation of
the original dance score, the sets
and costumes of Leon Dakst will
be recreated partially by theater
Professor Peter Beudert and by the
students in Eduardo Torijano's Art
455 course (sets), and by Sarah
Baum and Susan Holdaway-Heys
who will be constructing and paint-
ing the costumes based on the same
design.

Exhibition:
"Nijnsky Dancing:
Photographs'from the
Roger Pryor Dodge
Collection," with guest
curator Beth Genne,
through February 27 at the
University Art Museum.
Panel discussion:
"Recreating a masterpiece:
Staging Nijinsky"'s
'Afternoon of a Faun.
Peter Beudert will recreate
the Bakst set. Also present
will be Dr. Ann Hutchinson
Guest, Jessica Fogel, and
Beth Genne; February 5 at
4:30 p.m. at the University
Art museum.
University courses
in conjunction with
the performance:
The Art of Dance in the
Residential College, taught
by Beth Genne.
Interesting facts:
The set for DeYoung's
Firebird Suite will be
created in part through the
efforts of Costa Rican
muralist Eduardo Torijano,
who was commissioned to
create the set and his Art
455 Collaborative Projects
course at the School of Art.
Additional departments
which are participating in
the production: the Institute
for the Humanities,
University Productions, the
Theater Department,
University Art Museum, the
History of Art Department,
the Residential College, the
School of Music and the
School of Art.

While
for her
r es i -
dency in
Oc tober
and No-
vember
of last
year, she
took a
great
deal of
pleasure
in teach-
ing the
dancers
the diffi-
cult spe-
cifics of
Nijinsky's
original
piece.
"It is difficult for many of the

,
,; > ;;

... is made up of four ballets: "Afternoon of a Faun," choreographed by Vaslav
Nijinsky; "Daughters of Isis," a collaboration of University faculty members Bill
DeYoung and Linda Spriggs; "The Vast Sky is Falling," choreographed by U faculty
member Gay Delanghe; "The Firebird," choreographed by DeYoung. The University
Symphony Orchestra will fill the intervals with music from the Diaghilev era, including
pieces by Stravinsky, Satie and Ravel.
Performances are Thursday through Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.
at the Power Center for the Performing Arts. Reserved seating is $14 and $10, with $6
student tickets and are available at the League Ticket Office. Call 764-0450.
Executive Positions Available &j

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