Ann Hutchinson Visitor, one of many world’s foremost authorities on dance notation, the essential follow of recording dances on paper within the method of a musical rating, died on April 9 at her residence in London. She was 103.
Lynne Weber, govt director of the Dance Notation Bureau, which Ms. Hutchinson Visitor and three different ladies based in 1940 to advertise what was then an esoteric follow, confirmed the loss of life.
Ms. Hutchinson Visitor was educated about quite a few dance notation programs, which search to protect choreography as its creators supposed relatively than counting on reminiscence or movie. However she was notably dedicated to the one launched by Rudolf Laban, which is now broadly often called Labanotation, a time period she is alleged to have coined.
She studied underneath Laban, who died in 1958, and he or she was instrumental in spreading information and use of his system, in addition to increasing it because the artwork of dance itself expanded.
Ms. Hutchinson Visitor was a dancer on Broadway within the Nineteen Forties and early ’50s, showing in musicals like “One Contact of Venus” (1943), during which she labored with Agnes de Mille, and “Billion Greenback Child” (1945), choreographed by Jerome Robbins. By then she was already an advocate of notation, and after the long-running Cole Porter musical “Kiss Me, Kate” opened on Broadway in 1948, its choreographer, Hanya Holm, requested her to notate the present’s dances.
On account of her work, the present turned, in 1952, the primary choreographic work to be registered for a copyright.
“She completely noticed that dances ought to be copyrighted,” Ms. Weber, who just lately labored with JaQuel Knight on notating his choreography for Beyoncé’s “Single Women” video, stated in an interview. “She was a visionary.”
The acceptance of dance notation had been spurred by the Dance Notation Bureau, which Ms. Hutchinson Visitor based in New York in 1940 with Eve Gentry, Janey Worth and Helen Priest Rogers. Labanotation is actually “a residing language,” as Ms. Weber put it, utilizing symbols to characterize dance actions.
“The printed Labanotation web page appears to be like like a mixture of hieroglyphs, pictographs, Morse dots-and-dashes, doodles, and a music rating turned on edge,” The Related Press wrote in 1954, when the idea was nonetheless one thing of a novelty.
As soon as, throughout World Warfare II, a postal inspector flagged notation paperwork that Ms. Hutchinson Visitor and Ms. Rogers had despatched to Laban in England, suspecting that they have been some kind of espionage written in code. The identical thought occurred to whoever wrote the headline on a 1951 article about Ms. Hutchinson Visitor in a Sunday complement. “That woman dancer writing down humorous symbols isn’t a Russian spy,” it learn, “she’s utilizing an odd new invention which will have vast functions.”
These functions included something involving bodily motion, from how one can function heavy equipment to the right golf swing.
“At a time when the world of elite dance was run nearly fully by males, Visitor created an necessary establishment of girls devoted to preserving motion for posterity, utilizing a classy method that few folks wherever had mastered,” Whitney E. Laemmli, a historian of science and know-how at Carnegie Mellon College and the creator of the 2017 article “Paper Dancers” within the journal Data and Tradition, stated by electronic mail.
“She led the hassle to standardize Labanotation,” she continued, “and her promotion of the system ensured Labanotation’s continued use for almost a century. The Labanotation guidebooks she authored are nonetheless cited right now, not solely by choreographers however by scientists and engineers desirous about finding out and simulating human motion by way of laptop.”
Ms. Hutchinson Visitor was usually requested, Why hassle with notation? Can’t dances simply be filmed? The lengthy reply was that movie would possibly seize solely model of a chunk of choreography, together with any errors the dancers made; notation, however, was dispassionate and particular and true to the choreographer’s intent. It was the distinction between listening to a symphony and seeing the person components of its rating.
In a 1953 interview, she gave a shorter reply.
“Can they movie dancers from all physique angles?” she stated. “And dancers’ garments get in the way in which; will they dance bare?”
Ann Hutchinson was born on Nov. 3, 1918, in Manhattan. Her father, Robert, wrote detective tales. Her mom, Delia Dana, was a granddaughter of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and of Richard Henry Dana, creator of “Two Years Earlier than the Mast.”
Counterintuitively, Ann owed her lifelong curiosity in dance to sickness, as she defined when she opened the Likelihood to Dance contest at Jacob’s Pillow in Massachusetts in 2019 — sure, at age 100 — with a quick discuss and solo dance efficiency.
“On the age of 8, I had a burst appendix,” she stated. “I used to be given 5 hours to reside. I used to be in mattress for a month. A yr later I had one other main operation — in mattress a month. For 2 years I might solely stroll. I used to be not allowed to run, leap, swim, climb timber or something like that. I used to be very heavy on my ft, and my mom stated to the physician, ‘What will we do?’ ‘Give her dance classes.’”
She spent a lot of her childhood in England residing along with her father and stepmother. Whereas attending a boarding faculty there, she continued to pursue dancing and expressed curiosity in additional dance research. A household good friend steered the Jooss-Leeder College at Dartington Corridor, the place dance was being taught utilizing Laban notation and the place Laban, who was Hungarian, arrived in 1938 after fleeing Naziism. She studied there for 3 years.
“I used to be at all times backside of the category” by way of dancing, since she had began later than the opposite college students, she stated in a quick movie about her life made in 2020, “however I used to be good on the notation.” The choreographer Kurt Jooss requested her to notate his ballet “The Inexperienced Desk.”
At 21 she returned to New York to pursue a dance profession, and shortly she had met different proponents of the Laban system. They taught Labanotation to others and constructed up a library of notated dance works, together with ballets by George Balanchine. In 1954 Ms. Hutchinson Visitor printed “Labanotation,” an introduction to the system. Balanchine wrote the preface. A fourth version was printed in 2005.
Ms. Hutchinson Visitor’s different books embrace “Your Transfer: A New Strategy to the Research of Motion and Dance,” first printed in 1983 and up to date with Tina Curran in 2007. In 1967, Ms. Hutchinson Visitor established the Language of Dance Middle in London to advertise dance educating strategies she had developed and to convey motion training to kids, with an emphasis on the underprivileged and people with particular wants. In 1997, she and Dr. Curran established an identical group in america.
Ms. Hutchinson Visitor’s marriage within the Nineteen Forties to Ricky Trent, a trumpeter she had met whereas performing in “One Contact of Venus,” led to divorce. She married Ivor Visitor, a famous British dance historian, in 1962. He died in 2018. She leaves no rapid survivors.
Ms. Hutchinson Visitor was educated about different dance notation programs, moreover Labanotation, together with some developed by well-known choreographers just for their private use. One in every of her most satisfying initiatives, she stated, was working with the dance historian Claudia Jeschke to decode the notation system utilized by Vaslav Nijinsky to file his 1912 ballet, “L’Apres-Midi d’un Faune” (“Afternoon of a Faun”).
That famed work had been handed down through the years based mostly on dancers’ recollections, opinions and different secondary sources, however the decoding work produced a model that Ms. Hutchinson Visitor believed was nearer to what Nijinsky had supposed. First staged within the Nineteen Eighties, it featured, amongst different issues, a extra energetic function for the nymphs within the piece.
“So most of the memory-based variations, they misplaced a number of what the nymphs did, why they did it,” she stated within the movie. “I really feel that Claudia and I have been capable of convey to life Nijinsky’s ballet as he had needed it, and each time we produce it, it’s a pleasure.”