Rudolf and Joan Benesh
The Birth of Choreology
Reading Dance is the book on which Rudolf Benesh, founder of Choreology, was working when he died in 1975. Completed and fully revised by his wife Joan, a former dancer with the Sadlers Wells (now the Royal) Ballet, it represents the most comprehensive account to date of the system of movement notation invented by Benesh, developed through the Institute of Choreology that they established in 1962. It is now in use among ballet and dance companies throughout the world, most notably in the Royal Ballet itself.
For centuries, dance has been the sole major art form without a notation of its own. Choreographers have had to depend upon their memories to reproduce the great ballets of the past, and have often had to teach new dances to their companies by demonstrating them step by step to each dancer in turn. Yet, asks Benesh, could music have produced Bach of Haydn, let alone Beethoven or Mahler, without an efficient system of notation? He hopes that the invention of an accurate and easily learnt notation, as applicable to folk and modern dance as to ballet, may prove as great an instrument for the development of dance composition as the music score did for music.
In Reading Dance, Rudolf and Joan Benesh explain clearly and simply the principles on which the notation is founded. The signs – set out on a five-line stave like music, which makes possible a fully integrated dance and music score – are illustrated with Rudolf Benesh’s fine original figure drawings.
The book also includes extracts from notations of folk dances, oriental dances and ballets.
Reading Dance is a book which dancers all over the world will find an inspiration; an exciting new tool for the development of their art. But Benesh notation is also applicable in other fields of movement – it has already been successfully used in neurology, physiotherapy and ethnology, and has been suggested as a method of evaluating information on animal behaviour in zoology.
Rudolf Benesh copyrighted the Benesh Movement Notation in 1955 and founded the Institute of Choreology in 1963. His wife Joan Benesh joined the Sadlers Wells Ballet Company in 1951, before founding the Choreology training course in 1963.
“The signs together with Rudolf Benesh’s figure drawings make the whole process pretty clear, so it should be of even greater value to anyone professionally involved in any aspect of dance”
‘Dance & Dancers’
“The late Rudolf Benesh’s clear line drawings of dancers is of enormous help in interpreting them”
Douglas Blake, ‘The Stage’
“This system is remarkable for its visual simplicity”
‘Education and Training’