Dance Notation

Page from Adam. Adolphe, 1803-1856, composer. Giselle (Choreographic work : Petipa after Coralli and Perrot) [Жизель]. Pas de deux from Act I for Agrippina Vaganova and Anatolii Obukhov : Stepanov dance notation score : autograph manuscript, undatedDance notation is a written system used to record choreography. Unlike music notation, there is not one dominant system in use. Prominent dance notation systems include Labanotation and Benesh Movement Notation.

The Stepanov system, designed by Vladimir Ivanovich Stepanov, is no longer in use but was used to record the choreography of the Imperial Russian Ballet around the turn of the 20th century. These dance scores preserved Petipa's choreography for many classics, such as Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. That collection of scores is now held at the Harvard Theatre Collection.

Information on how to read Labanotation can be found on the Dance Notation Bureau website. Information on Benesh can be found through the Royal Academy of Dance. Stepanov wrote a manual for his method, which was translated into English as Alphabet of movements of the human body.

Searching for Dance Notation

To search for Dance Notation, go to the Advanced Search page in HOLLIS. Select Library Catalog from the Search for: options and enter dance notation in the first search box. You can add search terms relevant to your project, such as a title or dance company, in the second search box.

Screenshot of a HOLLIS search for dance notation.

If you wish to limit your search to unpublished sources, you can try choosing Archives / Manuscripts from the Resource Type dropdown menu.

Unfortunately, there isn't a way to search for dance notation as a format. You can only search for it as keywords, or as a subject. So searches like the one above will bring back works about dance notation in addition to dance notation itself.