By Greg Halloran
I set dances via the Labanotated score. Labanotation is the written language of movement. I interpret the symbols from the written page into movement for the dancers. Directing via Labanotation is a unique art form. It takes years of study, just as becoming fluent with any other language, and can sometimes become time consuming interpreting the score. I have always enjoyed both my analytic and artistic sides so early on I enjoyed my Labanotation training. I enjoy choreography but I will never be known internationally for my own works. In directing from the score, I can play a major part in bringing world renowned choreography to life.
The process of reconstructing (or restaging) dances from the written score is different for each director. I personally don’t like to restage dances that I am not familiar with or from choreographers I am not accustomed to in their styles. I have reconstructed dances from choreographers such as Doris Humphrey, Ted Shawn and Charles Weidman to more current choreographers as Clay Taliaferro and Victoria Uris. I am more prone towards the Humphrey/Limon style but having danced in Folksay in 1989, and having the privilege experiencing Sophie Maslow in her coaching of this production, I felt comfortable in restaging this work. I am experienced in interpreting the older styles of modern dance from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. I find this a fascinating time in modern dance history as American choreographers strived to develop modern dance accessible and about the average person. It is also a very different way of moving which can be beneficial to current dancer’s training. Current choreography often doesn’t tilt or twist the torso the same as historic modern dances.
I guess what I enjoy most about reconstructing dances from the Labanotated score is the insight a score can bring to a particular choreographer. I can’t think of a more intimate way to understand a choreographer’s life than reading one of their dances. I can read history book after history book but to fully live a choreographer’s dance from the Labanotated score brings me closer to a choreographer than any other written material can. I always experience a personal bond with each choreographer I reconstruct. I know I am responsible for bringing their love, choreography, back to life. This is something that can’t be taken lightly.
In conclusion, I find directing from the Labanotated score a fascinating research field. I have directed an average of one dance per year for the past nine years. I was lucky enough to study Labanotation and directing with my mentors Odette Blum and Lucy Venable before they retired from teaching. I guess, in my little way, I am keeping historic modern dance available to today’s audiences and am happy society appreciates all generations of modern dance today.