Language of Dance, a theoretical and practical framework, is a tool to
experience and understand movement and to communicate movement concepts
through movement-based terminology and symbols. The framework consists
movement concepts as expressed by the distinct terminology of the
Movement Alphabet and the Motif symbols, visual representations of the
- Representation of movement concepts on paper through Motif Notation;
of movement in time and space through Motif Notation. One enters into
the theoretical and practical aspects of the framework through one or
more processes, such as exploration, observation, interpretation,
analysis, evaluation, creation, and documentation of movement concepts.
Movement Alphabet is composed of the prime actions (the movement
‘verbs’), movement concentrations and aims of which all movement, hence
all forms of dance, are comprised. Each ‘letter’ of the Alphabet,
expressed by a Motif symbol, represents a movement category.
Language of Dance Approach is a learner-centered pedagogical framework
that uses the Movement Alphabet and related Motif symbols to link the
physical experience of moving with cognitive and affective
understanding. Grounded in experiential learning, the Language of Dance
Approach cultivates critical and creative thinking, personal empowerment,
and artistic agency.
is a “language” of functional and expressive gestures and body
configurations through which non-verbal communication can be achieved.
Notation provides the means to analyze movement patterns, phrases, and
“sentences.” The Language of Dance®, like any verbal
language, has basic “parts of speech.” There is a clearly constructed
grammar that defines the relationship of the movement words to each
other and how they function in the movement sentence. The structural
categories in this language of movement are verbs, nouns, and adverbs.
Ann Hutchinson Guest, dancer, teacher, writer, researcher, visionary,
and an acclaimed dance notation expert, created and developed the
Language of Dance Approach and coined this term in 1967. Dr. Guest
began to use the notation symbols in a freer, more exploratory way while
teaching children at the 92nd Street Y in the 1950’s.
She discovered that the physical coordination and focus required by
structured notation limited the children’s freedom to move and be
creative. This experience inspired her to research and identify the
prime actions universal to all movement forms. After consulting many
lists and sources including the “Seven Movements in Dance” as taught in
the Cecchetti Classical Ballet Method, Laban’s list of basic actions, and
the writings of Margaret H’Doubler, she codified her definition of the
ABC’s of movement, the Movement Alphabet. Dr. Guest is also the primary developer of Rudolf Laban’s (1879-1958) system of Kinetography, which she coined “Labanotation.”
love to move. They learn through both visual and physical means hence
their joy in discovering each Movement Alphabet ‘letter’ and their ease
in relating to the symbols. Not only does it enhance their motor skills
but also their creativity. Generating their own sequences is like a
game; they see it written down and they enjoy performing the movements
they have chosen.
artists using the Language of Dance Approach throughout their
professional and pedagogical practices. They use it as a pedagogical
framework in teaching, learning, and assessment; as a compositional tool;
as an inroad to understanding the dance in dance history studies; as a
pedagogical framework to create comprehensive literacy-based dance
education curricula; as a research framework for critical analysis and
comparative studies in dance; as a principal means to access to our
dance legacy; as a means to build and develop artistry; and as an
advocacy tool to communicate about dance using a dance-based language
and symbol system.
The Language of Dance® approach promotes the transference of the physical experience of dance
to an intellectual understanding that enhances student learning as well
as the dance-making process. In gaining these skills and developing a
sense of ownership, students grow in confidence and in perceptual
skills. The movement terminology introduced from the start, provides an
important means of communication and can save time and confusion. This
is particularly helpful for children or participants with learning
difficulties who, with Language of Dance®, are able to talk about their movement ideas and comment on what they are observing in the performances of others.
The Language of Dance Approach uses Movement Alphabet concepts together
with the symbolic representation of each concept to give students
the chance to achieve measurable skills in dance, learn movement,
vocabulary, and develop choreography. This in turn will improve fitness
and coordination, encourage social and communication skills, and help
build self-confidence. Addressing kinesthetic (through the movement),
auditory (through correct terminology), and visual (using visual motif
notation symbols) learning styles, classes can be adapted to suit
students of all levels. The process of exploring the raw material
of dance provides an enlightening and revealing experience for all who
have grown up learning structured forms of movement. They begin to
recognize the component parts of familiar actions and positions and
hence experience them in a more insightful way.