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Dance Notation Goes Mobile at Reed College

Portland, Ore (August 2, 2011) -- The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded a $25,000 Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant to support Reed College's development of a dance notation application for iPad. The project, Enhancing Dance Literacy, is directed by Dr. Hannah Kosstrin, a visiting assistant professor of dance at Reed. The goal is to provide students and faculty with sophisticated dance notation and editing tools that can be used easily in the classroom, studio, and elsewhere.

"This iPad app will significantly change the way dance and movement teachers read, write, and share notation in their teaching, research, and public projects," says Professor Kosstrin.  "The beneficiaries of this project will be researchers, scholars, teachers, choreographers, dancers, and students in fields such as dance, theater, performance studies, and others who use movement as an integral part of their scholarly inquiry. At Reed, students will have the opportunity to use this technology in their coursework and research projects."

The software development is the result of a partnership between Reed College and The Ohio State University, where Professor Kosstrin recently completed her doctorate. The iPad app utilizes one of the most widely used systems for documenting dance, known as Labanotation, and builds on LabanWriter, a software package previously developed for desktop computers at OSU.

Labanotation is a movement notation system developed in the 1920s that is based on a staff with symbols that denote where the body goes in space, time, and duration. Labanotation, along with its corollary Motif Writing, is a literacy tool for dance and movement, both for reading the notation of existing and historical dances, and for notating new dances for documentation or generative purposes.

The NEH-supported app will provide a powerful tool for stylistic analysis of choreography through dance notation, a foundational form of dance literacy. This type of analysis is integral to the study of dance within the humanities; it provides a unique perspective on cultural norms, political trends, gender relations, issues of identity, and other historical elements as embodied in choreographic styles. The study of dance styles and aesthetic progressions strengthens students' analytical, critical thinking, and writing skills. As a musical score is vital to music students’ understanding of musical compositions, dance notation similarly allows students entry into dance analysis from the inside out.

Martin Ringle, Reed's chief technology officer and coprincipal investigator for the project, observes that "the development of this mobile app for dance notation points the way to a wealth of new software applications for the liberal arts curriculum. The ease of iPad app development allows even small institutions, like Reed, to play an important role in the development of new instructional technology tools."

This fall, early versions of Reed's iPad dance notation app will be shared with colleagues at several colleges and universities who will test it and provide feedback on its usability. In late spring 2012, the app will be released broadly as freeware.



Dr. Hannah Kosstrin, 503-777-7360,
Dr. Martin Ringle, 503-777-7254,