Over the next few weeks we will be highlighting award-winning projects and ideas from this year's Core77 Design Awards 2012! For full details on the project, jury commenting and more information about the awards program, go to Core77DesignAwards.com
- Dancing What You Can't See
Designer: Sarah Handelman
- Location: The London College of Communication
- Category: Writing & Commentary
- Award: Student Runner up
This essay explores the current function and potential of dance notation systems. As complex systems of documenting ballet, most dance notation is unreadable, even to the professional ballerinas who perform the parts. The piece bridges an academic tone with personal anecdote. It employs footnotes and images to convey the notation's nuance and complexity.
How did you learn that you had been recognized by the jury?
The Tuesday the awards were announced, I tuned in to watch! I live in London, and it was already evening there, so I was making dinner when I heard Alice call out my name. What a lovely surprise!
What's the latest news or development with your project?
I am currently looking for a good home -- a design magazine or journal -- for a version of this piece to live. During my masters, this was one of the first big projects I started on ballet, and it fed directly into my research and dissertation (which argues to expand the form and content of ballet reviews), and this research informs much of my professional work. In other words, although the project hasn't been officially published, it drives most of what I do.
What is one quick anecdote about your project?
Many of my favorite anecdotes ended up finding their way into the essay's narrative, but for me, the best moments were when I sat down with a new piece of notation that depicted a ballet I had learned from my teacher years before. The notation wasn't something I recognized, yet the ballet was a dance I knew by heart. I was speechless the first time I really got to dive into a notated ballet—I didn't recognize any of the symbols. I couldn't imagine how I'd learn a dance from a piece of paper like that. But the disconnect between the page and the dancer was also quite an ephemeral idea I felt really compelled to explore.
What was an "a-ha" moment from this project?
While I was learning about dance notation and researching ballet's academic history, every moment had it's own little fact or moment that surprised me. My biggest a-ha moment was when I watched a Royal Ballet rehearsal of the classic ballet Giselle. Afterwards, I found the notation and could finally visualize movement. As ballets get older, I think we'll find that we have to carefully balance their preservation with their strong oral tradition. I definitely learned that notation is a terrific tool for preservation, but its usefulness to present dancer (many of whom don't know the written language) could be challenged.