Lissy Willberg: Hyphenated Score: A Terpsichorean Examination of Space


Thesis Advisor: Grant Watson

Thesis: Hyphenated Score: A Terpsichorean Examination of Space

August 2022


The project of my master’s thesis at the Dutch Art Institute sprang from an initial approach of researching a suitable notation system for my artistic works. In the first chapter, after having introduced my practice and several notation techniques explored to date, I look at the history of dance notation. I particularly focus here on Austro-Hungarian dance theorist Rudolph Laban, who was the most influential figure in this field in Europe during the decades before and after World War II. Studying Laban’s ideas regarding dance notation and movement analysis quickly reveals the extent to which his concepts of space and directional orientation are based on Eurocentric concepts of horizon, symmetry and the upright self. If the dancing body according to Labanotation must always move “in-line,” what happens once geometry crashes? Through thoughts of contemporary thinker Sara Ahmed, dancer and choreographer William Forsythe, as well as Aboriginal directional orientation methods I am contesting Laban’s universalist understanding of a human body moving in space. The third section, thus, points at the limitations of Laban’s concepts. To date, a uniform technology for notating movement in dance does not exist. Writing this thesis helped me understand why this is still the case. 

Author: Lissy Willberg