notation of a dance takes place in the studio as the work is being taught
to a group of dancers who don't already know it. The notator is there
for all the rehearsals, recording not only the steps but also any imagery,
motivation, and characterization given to the dancers by the choreographer
or stager. The notation process does not in any way change or disrupt
the normal rehearsal process.
The completed score provides a blueprint for future stagings of the work.
A score allows each artist to learn the work without being influenced
by someone else's artistic interpretation.
In addition to producing the score, which captures the choreography, DNB
collects a full range of materials to ensure complete documentation. These
records of specific performances
tapes and marked music scores
information such as costume, set, and light designs
else required by a specific dance to ensure future stagers will have
the information they need.
"How Much Does It Cost
to Notate a Piece?" Senta Driver (posted on 4/5/2006)
This is one of the first questions
a Notator gets. It happens to be a little hard to answer quickly, since
it does not actually just depend on how long a dance is or how large its
cast and production effects, but on elements which are even more key.
The DNB has been examining in detail the real cost of all its activities,
as part of our response to the ongoing financial challenge. When we ask
for your help, we need to be able to tell you how money gets used, and
how far your contribution will go. As one part of this effort, we have
consulted four experienced Notators and one potential buyer of a notation
project, and came up with interesting new information.
The most important factor, say the Notators, is the quality of the rehearsal
process. Notation is best done when a work is taught to a new cast. This
ensures that dancers will ask all the relevant questions in the Notator's
presence, and the Notator will hear the artist's answers, which all go
into the score as word notes. It is vital that the Notator attend all
rehearsals from the very beginning, and also sit in on meetings the restager
might have with costumers and musicians as well. If the Notator arrives
to find the dancers have already been rehearsing, or (worse) learning
their roles from video, or misses conferences about artistic information
that belongs in the score, the time it will take to produce a final score
can be greatly extended. Teaching the choreography from video is especially
problematic, because it leaves out the choreographer's detailed explanation
of movement and how and why to do it. The Notator needs, and preserves
in the score, all the knowledge shared with the dancers and intrinsic
to the values of the work.
The second most influential pricing element involves the score: complexity
of the music, if used; whether the Notator can get a written score of
the arrangement the choreographer used; and how the dance is counted or
the cues are established. Notators do careful research into the artist
and composer for a project, and their training includes the process, necessary
at times, of tracking down the correct sheet music where there may be
numerous versions of the same music. Evaluating a recent project, Notators
Leslie Rotman and Sandra Aberkalns asked Nancy Allison, who is working
to commission notation of three works by Jean Erdman, "Do you have
music scores for the works? Do you teach the choreography to sound cues
in the scores, or to musical or dancers' counts? Is it relatively easy
to find the sound cues? Is it challenging to define the timing for the
dancers? Do you use a metronome at all?" Allison's informative answers
were a great help in creating estimates of how much post-rehearsal score
work the Erdman dances may need. It is this "paper time" that
is the unpredictable factor.
The length of the work, the size of the cast, the amount of unison movement
used, the length of the rehearsal period and the movement complexity also,
of course, influence the cost. Bureau Notators ask for a videotape when
they begin creating an estimate for a client. What they produce is an
educated opinion on how much time it is likely to take in the post-rehearsal
period to turn the rough notes made in rehearsal into a final score. This
could be anywhere from two months to a year; as with composing music or
handling a legal case, it is subject to unexpected changes. Some Notators
work by hand on the final autography, and others use LabanWriter, a software
program developed for the Macintosh computer by a team at the Dance Notation
Bureau Extension for Education and Research at The Ohio State University.
The DNB process of planning notation has been opened up, again as part
of a new approach to its structure and staff roles. Senta Driver enlisted
Certified Notators Sandra Aberkalns, Leslie Rotman, Patty Harrington Delaney
and Ray Cook in an informal advisory group to recommend notation projects,
help estimate their cost, and suggest which Notator might take the assignment.
So the bottom lines vary a good deal. A recent simple but subtle ten-minute
duet for ballet dancers, involving a score with sheet music and good background
material easily available, costed out at about $8000 after four months
of post-rehearsal work on paper. In contrast, a ballet trio that had been
taught from video before the Notator was brought into rehearsals, with
her only reference a silent film, took over two years to complete, at
a real cost in staff time of over $20,000.
As Nancy Allison has demonstrated, sophisticated information from the
artists improves the accuracy of estimates. It makes it easier to raise
support to accomplish notation's valuable, but complex, service to the
artist's concept and to history.