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Input for an Ad Student.

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Hi there, I'm an advertising student working on a campaign for the NBC (National Ballet of Canada) and looking to learn a bit more about ballet to better represent it. Having dug up all kinds of information on the subject I'd like to know a bit more about the way which these steps and poses are recorded on paper. For example:


Are dance steps still written like this? Do various symbols represent the individual poses and moves? Does anyone know how to translate? Thanks for any help you've got to offer!

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Hi, adstudent, and welcome to BalletTalk.

While it's board policy not to "help" students with their academic assignments, I think there's a little wiggle room in here, because your question is tangential to the main point of your task.

I'm not an expert, but this looks to me like a diagram for the floor patterns, kind of a road map showing where each dancer goes in changing formation. If anyone knows differently, I hope they'll correct me.

There are two widely used notation systems in ballet, Benesh notation and Labanotation. I'm sure that you'll find examples of each with a good web search.

Good luck!

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I've never seen a ballet written out that way before, although as carbro notes, it could be used to indicate patterns. Most of the time, steps are written using the French terminology, although dance notation is (slowly) becoming more widely used. The thing is, ballet steps are taught in person, directly from teacher to student, rather than being written down. Written notes are used more as an aide-mémoire for a teacher to remember exercises or for a dancer learning choreography, so frequently they aren't intended to be legible to anyone else.

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That looks like the very old Beauchamp notation, which was known from about 1680 through 1780. It shorthanded (or footed, rather) what the dancers feet did, but only clues about what the rest of the body did. Floor planning of ballets became more formal, and the individual steps became more spelled-out in the Stepanov notation in use in Russia during the Imperial period. Today's Benesh notation and Labanotation are capable of extremely detailed recording of very tiny detail, but they take a lot of study in order to learn.

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Adstudent, The school attached to The National Ballet of Canada may include notation in their curriculum. Perhaps you could get some material from them. If so, I'd be interested in hearing which system they teach. Labanotation is widely used in the states, but I understand Benesh is mainly used in England.

I have only studied Labanotation, which can record movement accurately and in great detail, and so it is valuable as a way of keeping a record of a work. The problem is, it is extremely time consuming, both to write and to read. For that reason, it isn't practical for dancers to learn choreography from a score the way musicians do.

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