Benesh Movement Notation

I have decided to teach myself the basics of notating ballet, using a technique called the Benesh method.

I was looking for something that I can do, to ‘keep my hand in’ whilst my regular ballet classes have 6 weeks off over the Summer holiday period, and was introduced to the Benesh method via the Royal Academy of Dance website.

It is a method of notating ballet choreography in a similar was a musician notates a piece of music with a musical score. In fact, there are some big similarities between writing music and notating ballet. Both use a 5 line ‘stave or staff’, both are written in musical bars, and both use various symbols to represent what the player ‘musical or balletic’ is to do.

The positions of the hands, legs, direction of head, movements, stage directions, etc are represented, in graphical form, for ease of practice and accuracy.

Benesh notation plots the position of a dancer as seen from behind, as if the dancer is superimposed on a stave that extends from the top of the head down to the feet. From top to bottom, the five lines of the stave coincide with the head, shoulders, waist, knees and feet. Additional symbols are used to notate the dimension and quality of movement. A frame is one complete representation of the dancer.

A short horizontal line is used to represents the location of a hand or foot that is level with the body. A short vertical line represents a hand or foot in front of the body, whereas a dot represents a hand or foot behind the body. The height of the hands and feet from the floor and their distance from the mid-line of the body are shown visually. A line drawn in the top space of the stave shows the position of the head when it changes position. A direction sign is placed below the stave when the direction changes.

It’s an incredibly interesting aspect of ballet, that adds a whole new aspect to my introduction to this incredible art form. The Benesh method is certainly something that I would like to continue my education in.

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