Dr. Ann Hutchinson Guest MBE (1918-2022)

Having experienced the benefits derived from dance literacy early in her dance studies, Ann Hutchinson Guest determined to spread its use so that all might benefit. One of the founders of the Dance Notation Bureau in New York in 1940, she directed that organization for 20 years (without pay), making and seizing opportunities to record important choreographic works from the American dance heritage. She also established the Labanotation Institute based at the University of Surrey in 1985 with the aim of furthering dance education in the UK.

Dr. Guest, the author of the definitive Labanotation textbook (a term she coined for this system of recording movement), has also written countless teaching courses and educational manuals. A grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities supported her writing a series of books on Advanced Labanotation subjects. In producing books about or containing Labanotation, she has mastered the skills of book layout and production. Dedicated volunteers assisted her to establish the Language of Dance Series, published through Gordon and Breach. This series makes important historical and present notated choreography, in both classical and contemporary dance styles available.

Her research led her to begin a comparative study of other systems to record movement resulting in the publication of Dance Notation - The Process of Recording Movement on Paper (1984, Dance Books) and in 1987, CHOREO-GRAPHICS: A Comparison of Dance Notation Systems from the 15th Century to the Present (Gordon and Breach).

This investigation of the fundamental principles of thirteen leading systems and how the same basic movement patterns are recorded in each system has significant value, as there are several systems in use world-wide.

She has revived and notated historical works to give the field direct access to its dance heritage. Notable highlights include La Cachucha, the dance which Fanny Elssler, the leading ballerina of the Romantic Period, made so famous; Pas De Six from La Vivandière by Arthur Saint-Léon, and most stunningly, Vaslav Nijinsky’s L’Après-midi d’unn Faune, for which she received the Vaslav Nijinsky Medal in 1996.

Dr. Guest has been awarded two honorary doctorates for her contribution to the art of dance. In 1997, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Motus Humanus and an Outstanding Contribution to Dance Research Award from the Congress on Research in Dance. The National Dance Education Organization awarded Dr. Guest its prestigious Life Time Achievement in 2004.

Through her ground breaking work, Dr. Guest and like-minded colleagues have made collections of dance scores and study materials possible and available, providing opportunities for comparative research in this field that previously could not have existed.

As a visionary, she recognizes how much still needs to be done to achieve the goal she set out toward so many years ago.

In 2022, Dr. Ann Hutchinson Guest was appointed an Official Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in recognition of her services to dance.