Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation (EWMN)

EWMN Presentation

INTRODUCTION — from Movement Notation by Noa Eshkol and Abraham Wachmann

To begin with, it must be pointed out that this notation is a movement notation and not a dance notation. The difference between these two conceptions is this: while the term ‘movement’ includes in its meaning all the possibilities of movement of the human body in their various manifestations, the term ‘dance’ indicates, in every period, a certain range of movements expressing the choice of a composer and dancer, and fulfilling the demands of a particular society in a certain epoch. In other words, while ‘movement’ is the name given to the material wherein all dance is wrought, the ‘dance’ is always the result of a specific way of treating the material.

Today the word of dance is compounded of a host of different approaches to the treatment of the world of movement, that is to say, of innumerable dance systems and dance styles. Every dance system regards itself as the one representing the best way of dealing with the material – movement. It is inevitable that each should deny the reason for the existence of every other system.

With every dance style or system is associated a special vocabulary of terms, technical and ideological, which is in every case necessary for the communication of that system from one person to another. Usually these special groups of terms do not remain within their own bounds, each in the particular style wherein and for which it was created, but are raised from years of persistent usage to the level of basic laws which propose to explain and define the world of movement in general. But these known ‘basic laws’ thriving in the world of the dance today, lose their power the moment an attempt is made to apply them to the explanation of dance styles for which they were designed. Therefore the existence of sets of laws is a grave defect and an unending source of obscurity and disagreement among those who actually work in the same creative field. This fact alone (the existence of a multitude of sets of laws) would not have been a negative one, had it been possible to create by thier means order and system in the infinite possible combinations of movement; for their function lies in the potential capacity of creating order and system, although each in its own manner – a manner expressing e difference of outlook. In essence, then, all dance styles are closed units, with no standard of comparison between them.

These statements are proved by the fact that not one of the numerous sets of ‘basic laws’ has brought into being a comprehensive system of notation. The intelligibility and practicability of a system of notation should be measured from its ability to describe all the potential phenomena in a defined field of interest, independently of stylistic appearances which are characteristic and special.

A system of notation would have grown up naturally, had the field of interest (movement of the human body) been analyzed in a homogeneous and consequential manner.

As far as this notation is concerned, any possibility of movement of the body which can be expressed is ‘important’ and ‘wanted’, without prejudice and without taking into consideration the burden of emotional and stylistic notions which may be attached to any movement, and which lie outside the bounds of the world of pure movement. Therefore, there is in the outlook on the world of movement which this notation express, no place and no value for many of the concepts which are most used in the world of dance, such as ‘expressive’, ‘aesthetic’, ‘external-internal’, ‘contraction-release’, ’round’ or ‘straight’ movements, ‘space’ as opposed to body. For this notion are annexed each to a special range of movements and are, each in a certain style dance, the excepted convention influencing creation and criticism. But all of them have been established from the point of view of dance, and not of movement.

It is apparent that, as in any defined field of interest, so in the world of movement, fundamental properties of the material may be discerned, which do not loose their significance in any stylistic frame. And it is inevitable that a notation-a set of sign capable of expressing, symbolizing, ‘standing in place of’ any event- should reflect the point of view and method of analysis through which the event have passed on the way to their notation.

When a certain event raised out interest to the point where it becomes desirable to remember it, describe it, and above all to think and calculate or to compose within it – in short, to express it – then a fitting substitute is required for the actual event, this substitute is a symbol.

Any event which has not been provided with some symbol will remain fortuitous and unrepeatable. The symbol (or set of symbols) must be capable of expressing the chief properties and essence of the event, in a practical and possible manner, mainly for the purpose of thinking about and withing this event, that is, for the purpose of composition.

It must be stressed that the notation offered here does not intend to warp the ways of any dance system or style, or to deprive the creator of the free use of the imagination for personal expression. On the contrary, since the notation has been constructed in the wake of detailed analysis of the material it open new horizons of possibilities of dealing with this material, for it discovers and points out many facets of it which have remain until now unexploited. This investigation into the heart of the matter and means of thought within it, stimulates the imagination of the dance creator and drives him to extract ideas hidden within the material which are thereby brought out from obscurity. Furthermore, and not less important, it is to be hopped that the notation will influence and advance the experiment which are made in the direction of the establishment, understanding and agreement about the laws of composition of the dance – laws which must consider and stand in close affinity with the fundamental propertied of the material.

It is possible to write in the notation every visually discernible movement of the human body, and, therefore, all that has been composed in the world of the dance. However, for the recording of these dances, one would have to analyze them according to the given concepts of the notation, in spite of the face that they have not been composed in consciousness of them. The analysis of these dances (period dances, national dances, theater dances) which is made with the use of the concepts of this notation- concepts which are general and do not loose their significance in any frame of dance whatsoever – might bring about the understanding of the difference of structure between styles.

This difference is always the result of a different way of treating the world of movement. The difference of structure implies different conventions of composition, which are responsible for the special flavor and character of any dance style. These conventions are expressed symbolically in a record of a composition in a characteristic formation and combination of the notation symbols. This kind of expression which is at the same time an explanation is factual and materialistic as opposed to an explanation given by means of the word, which involve the danger of being entirely personnel and based on the ‘taste’ of the explainer. A result of this maybe that the critique of dances are already existing and of those as yet uncreated, may turn from being utterly arbitrary and personal to being as far as possible objective.

The discussion of rules of composition for the dance, which begins to shows themselves with the understanding of the fundamental properties of the material and the notation of it, can only follow the practical investigation of the notation itself.