The Language of Dance® Approach grew out of Dr. Ann Hutchinson Guest’s work with children at the New York City 92nd Street Y.M.H.A. in the 1950’s and later with adults in London’s Teacher Training College of the Royal Academy of Dance in the 1970’s.
Guest, the primary developer of Rudolf Laban’s (1879-1958) system of Kinetography, which she coined “Labanotation”, began to use the notation symbols in a freer, more exploratory way while teaching children at the 92nd Street Y. 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 ©1983.
In England, the need for a freer use of the Labanotation symbols arose when Valerie Preston taught Laban’s Educational Dance to physical education teachers, one of whom suggested the name, Motif Writing. This led to Preston’s development of the usage and to the subsequent publication in 1967 of her books on the subject entitled Readers in Kinetography Laban, Series B, Motif Writing for Dance.
While teaching a course at the Teacher Training College of the Royal Academy of Dance in 1971, Guest returned to her exploratory and creative use of the motif symbols. She recognized the need for complex movements to be deconstructed to their most basic elements with the ability to be built back up again. During this time, she codified the Language of Dance® work and produced the textbook entitled Your Move - A New Approach to the Study of Movement and Dance published in 1983. The second edition (2007), co-authored by Dr. Tina Curran, co-Founder of the Language of Dance Center (USA), is Your Move: The Language of Dance® Approach to the Study of Movement and Dance, available from Taylor & Francis.
The establishment of the Language of Dance Centre in London (1967) and the Language of Dance® Center (USA) in Connecticut (1997) with Dr. Tina Curran and Heidi Wiess enabled Guest and others to raise the profile of this innovative and pioneering approach to teaching dance.
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.
Over a 25-year period, Valerie Farrant was an integral part of the Language of Dance family. She taught LOD courses and workshops in a number of countries - Japan, Mexico, and South Africa to name a few. She trained and certified the vast majority of current LOD specialists across the globe, and was instrumental in the setting up of the Language of Dance Centre Mexico and Japan.
Valerie Farrant trained at the Rambert School of Ballet. She began her professional career as a classical dancer with the Ballet Royale de Wallonie in Liege and went on to perform in Staadtheaters in Regenburg, Braunschweig and Hannover.
As a founder member of the contemporary dance company Tanz Forum, Cologne she performed in the works of, amongst others, Christopher Bruce, Glen Tetley, Norman Walker, Kurt Jooss (Green Table) and Hans van Manen. Valerie trained in Cologne, with Anna Price (Graham), Tatiana Granzeva, Richard Gain, Hans Meister, Rosella Hightower and Peter Appel. She toured Europe and the Middle East extensively with Tanz Forum and performed in televised works.
On returning to England she began a freelance career teaching Graham-based technique classes and choreographic workshops. This has included work for the RAD, ballet clubs, summer schools, art centres and colleges. From 1993-2013 Valerie was Head of Dance at Brockenhurst College, teaching Language of Dance, Performance Studies and Dance ‘A’ Level courses. Since becoming a Language of Dance Certification Specialist in 1997 she has taught courses in London, Hampshire, Mozambique, Romania, Texas, Japan and Mexico.
As Director of Language of Dance Studies, Val was most people's first contact to the Language of Dance approach. She was a mentor to many, and her expert knowledge was only topped by that of her teacher and our founder, Ann.
Val was laid to rest May 25, 2022 at the Hinton Park Woodland Burial Ground in Christchurch. We send our love to Val's family today and always.
The Language of Dance Centers have lost 2 iconic and irreplaceable members of our family, but we will strive to ensure that their legacies live on.