Benesh Circus Notation

Research and reflection on specific notation systems for circus disciplines.

A circus artist and a choreologist (*), Katie Wolf developed a "movement notation" project linked to the circus arts. Its main objective was to develop the Benesh Movement Notation (*) in order to create a transcription tool specifically for circus techniques. It could also benefit those who wish to note other types of movement in general, and dance in particular.

This media used for this research are scenes from the Cnac graduation show. The scores will serve as a reference for the ambitious project of creating a Benesh notation dictionary for the circus arts.

Calendar: the 2014-15 school year was spent among the Cnac students and teachers, observing, analyzing and noting the development of the graduating class in their end of year show, directed by Jérôme Thomas.

The principle: based on a superposition of the different dimensions of the body in motion, the Benesh movement notation provides the possibility of separating information (body movement, space, time and accessories). It is an efficient method of highlighting the important aspects of each discipline. This notation system also attaches great importance to positions and figures, which are "the elements of language characteristic of the circus arts" for the researcher and burlesque actor Philippe Goudard.

This research will enrich and complete the Benesh movement notation system in the domains of objects and apparatus, the body supported by objects, the relationship between the performers' bodies and the directions and rotations of the body in space.

It could be used for learning and for the reconstruction of these disciplines within circus schools, dance and notation.

For future circus artists, these notations will serve as a database and teaching resource for their own technical and artistic work.

(*) Benesh Movement Notation (or choreology)

Notation Benesh - Ilustration

BMA is a movement notation system and a so-called universal language invented by Rudolf and Joan Benesh in 1955. It enables a representation of movement through space, of the relationships between individuals and their material environment, of their movements, and the positions of the different limbs and parts of their bodies. 

Exemple of Benesh notation

Notation Benesh, variation pour sangles, Kati Wolf

Katrin Wolf

Katrin Wolf has a DMA (diploma in the arts professions) in circus, and her experiences as an aerial acrobat (mainly in Candides and Ningen by the Cirque Baroque and Sakountala by Marie-Claude Pietragalla) provided her with an indispensable technical base that gave her with a different view of her practice. As an assistant director she realized the importance of a precise and legible system of recording for an artistic team. Her discovery of a writing system capable of transcribing every dimension of movement was decisive. She graduated from the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse in Paris with distinction in her studies of the Benesh Movement Notation, which enabled her to master a writing tool for movement.

Summary HLM Circus and Dance - Katrin Wolf (in french)  

Various works (books, works and journals) on the subject are available at the Cnac Resource Centre.

Access to the Benesh Circus Arts Notation notebooks in french - Katrin Wolf

Here the article in french on the initiation to Benesh notation provided as part of Lifelong at the CNAC in February 2017, by Katrin Wolf.