Madeleine Scott: Director, Ohio University School of Dance

“lma, motif, benesh etc. cope poorly when trying notate improvisation and some late 20th and early 21st century dance forms. lma et-al are old conceptual filters that will prevent us from seeing the ‘new’. they only allow us to notate (or make) what is within current frameworks.” ~matt gough

Madeleine Scott:

All systems are based on the selection of which features to include or exclude. The choice to include some information necessarily excludes other information. Obviously our capacity to see and identify for inclusion is constrained by that which we are able to see or let into our awareness. We are confined by our cultures and our previous knowledge. Much of the history of science and its progress reveals this truth in action and much science fiction writing is based on this premise.

By definition any system that conceptualizes and categorizes ideas and information will exclude some things too. Sometimes this happens because we need to confine information to what is manageable – as when we restrict the features of an experiment so that we can prove a theory. Sometimes it happens because we are not aware – we do not know what we are missing – precisely because we are missing it!

It’s likely that many new fields of movement practice and expression find deficiencies in any system that tries to identify movement and limit its definition or confine its parameters. But does this mean the system itself is at fault? I think it means the system must be intensively interrogated and adapted to include new features – like any living language and growing body of knowledge. However, in the absence of a foundational system, there is equal danger that common understanding and communication will not occur.There is a need to work with the understanding that a system by definition is limited – and to recognize the limitations of those who use it. If a system is too rigid it is dead – it has no capacity to make adaptations – it will not advance knowledge, it will only serve itself. If it is used in too systematic a way, it cannot adapt to changes in awareness or include new information and conceptual understandings.

As someone who has worked with the Laban material for 20 years, I am biased in this. But regardless of its deficiencies – many of which arise from lazy, rigid or uninspired application of the system and are not inherent to it – LMA is the most conceptually comprehensive and elegant system I know of. It is both complex and simple – simple enough to be readily understood, but complex enough to require a greater investment to reveal applicability and utility.

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One thought on “Madeleine Scott: Director, Ohio University School of Dance

  1. it is important to note that the text quoted from me was in response to this:

    “action quality pathyway shape size tempo – all of these are rooted in studies of composition, and LMA. motif analysis, for example, suggests that all dance or movement can be broken down into simple components and organized accordingly. this is the premise of VICKIs select vocabulary. it’s the components of movement – and i think this is common to all choreography, whether using old or new models. [~ choreobot8]”

    i was not suggesting that laban notation (et al) are ‘at fault’ but their principles are not common to all models. by extension they may not be suitable for analyzing all new models.

    your reference to science is a good example, lets take physics (in general). imagine laban is the newtonian model, and we want to analyze a ‘quantum’ choreography. the laban/newtowin model give us poor results. we need to quantum model to explain the observed phenomena.

    as you say:

    “There is a need to work with the understanding that a system by definition is limited – and to recognize the limitations of those who use it. [ ~ madeleine-scott ]”

    which isn’t that far from:

    “lma et-al are old conceptual filters that will prevent us from seeing the ‘new’. they only allow us to notate (or make) what is within current frameworks. [~ matt gough]”

    or

    “We are confined by our cultures and our previous knowledge.[ ~ madeleine-scott ]”

    sometimes, to provoke or answer (new) questions we need to put aside the old frameworks for a while. we can get it out again when we have fresh sight, and see what old(er) frame work can tell us.

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