Jump to content
This Site Uses Cookies. If You Want to Disable Cookies, Please See Your Browser Documentation. ×

Benesh 102 - General Concepts

Recommended Posts

this thread accompanies Benesh 101 - The Basics, where an attempt is made to 'teach' in-stave information:


THIS thread will be an overview of some of the general concepts involved in notating with benesh.

for starters, some of you may have questions about its historical development.


here is a page from alt.arts.ballet which answers some general questions about notation (and also, unrelated, about Life Forms software, and about Contact Improvisation). no responsibility taken by me for anything it says there - i haven't read it. :):


here is a page which gives an abbreviated history of the benesh institute (in london) up to the late 1990's:


Link to comment

OK - another slant -


timing of movement may or may not be music.

obvious, really! :)

however, for ballet, mostly it WILL be music, so i'll just talk about music, but the same principles apply to whatever else might be providing the timing.

a single beat is referred to as a "pulse beat". this beat is a crotchet value, unless otherwise stated.

a 4/4 will have 4 pulse beats, or 4 crotchet values per bar. a 2/4 will have 2. a 3/4 will have 3, and so on.

within that structure, further divisions are indicated by sub-beats (which i won't go into, any further, right now).

the basic rule is, that if there are equal numbers of notated positions in a bar, and crotchet values in that bar, then it will be one position per note (value), unless further information is provided to contradict that.

here is an example where 'further information' WOULD be necessary:

1 tendu devant, (count 1)

close 5th, (count 2)

1 quick tendu devant to 5th, (and 3)

hold in 5th (count 4)...

there will be 4 notated positions in that bar of 4/4:

the tendu, the 5th, the tendu, the 5th.

- but one position is on a sub-beat ("and') and another beat has NO movement on it.

there are benesh symbols, to write above the stave, for the sub-beats, if and when you need to use them.

and for the 1-count 'hold', you write the pulse beat symbol (a circle with a vertical line straight through it) above the relevant empty stave-space, to indicate that the beat occurs there - but movement doesn't.

below, i will see if i can find you an example of the use of such symbols...

Link to comment

OK - have a look at the ALLEGRO book, previously mentioned in the "101" thread:


look at bar 4. (the bars are counted, in this case, from the first set of vertical double-lines. those double lines have a meaning we will get to, later...;) the FIRST thing that looks like a bar is NOT a bar, but rather just the starting position. the (apparent) 2nd and 3rd bars are in fact the FIRST two bars - the musical Introduction.)

in that bar 4 of the exercise (leaving aside the Intro), you will see

a notated position on count 1,

then a pulse beat above the empty space for count 2,

then another notated position for count 3,

and another empty space (withOUT any pulse beat symbol) for count 4.

so: that's what a pulse beat looks like, and that's how it's used.

down in bar 7, you will see a symbol for a half beat (the 'and' count) and another use of the pulse beat.

Link to comment

a little bit more on MUSIC :

we have talked above of main ("pulse") beats, and (ever so briefly) of sub-beats.

the time signature is indicated at the commencement of the piece - by using ONLY the top number out of the musical time signature. for example,

if the Benesh stave says 4, it's a 4/4, or a 12/8

if " " " " 3, it's a 3/4, or a 9/8

if " " " " 2, it's a 2/4, OR a 6/8

(please don't lets get into the 'why' of THAT, just now!!)

legato lines are used over any section of benesh stave, just the same way as they are used in music - to instruct that what's underneath the legato line is to be performed smoothly and continuously.

tempo indications, if necessary, are printed above the commencement of the piece, just as in music, i.e. crotchet = 64 (or whatever the crotchet speed IS).

italian expressions, as used in music, are also used above the commencement of the piece, and anywhere else they may be needed, to indicate movement quality. examples: con espressione, largo, andante, fortissimo, , whatever...

double bar-lines indicate the end of the piece.

Link to comment


this is just a little observation of my own.

some people will read or accept all that i have put down about BMN (Benesh Movement Notation) without noticing this, but i'm going to say it, partly because i think it's interesting, and partly in case others are wondering about it.

you may have noticed that the notated positions are just that: POSITIONS - rather than movements.

movement happens FROM one position TO another, or IN positions. so BMN works principally by depicting the positions.

this is in contrast to laban, which 'thinks' in terms of EFFORT - that is, the ACTION, rather than the position.

BOTH systems will include ALL the information you need, ultimately. but they begin from a different 'point of view' , if you like.

please, if anyone here is very knowledgeable about laban, and would like to comment on this here, do go ahead...

Link to comment


so far we have talked principally about notating what ONE dancer is doing.

if more than one are doing the same thing (and/or some doing the "other side"), you can label *1* stave accordingly. e.g. 32 girls doing bayadere shades entrance, or 32 swans in swan lake act 2 - theoretically, at least, one stave alone could pretty much handle THOSE situations.

for pas de deux, you use *2* staves, joined together by every bar line - that way the pair can be easily matched up on EVERY count. :)

for a whole cast of different characters - think opening scene of petrushka, or any general milling around type of crowd scene - you use a different stave for each character, again often joining all the staves together, bar for bar, so that it can readily be seen on the page which character is doing what, when.

have i covered all the usual options, there?

if not, please ask. :)

Link to comment
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...