Benesh Movement Notation

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Sample of Benesh dance and movement notation

Benesh Movement Notation (also known as choreology, dance script, or simply Benesh notation) is a dance notation system used to document dance and other types of human movement. Invented by Joan and Rudolf Benesh in the late 1940s, the system uses abstract symbols based on figurative representations of the human body. It is used in choreography and physical therapy, and by the Royal Academy of Dance to teach ballet.

Benesh notation is recorded on a five line stave from left to right, with bar lines[clarify] to mark the passage of time. Because of its similarity to modern staff music notation, Benesh notation can be displayed alongside (typically below) and in synchronization with musical accompaniment.


At the public launch of Benesh Movement Notation in 1955, Rudolf Benesh defined it as an "aesthetic and scientific study of all forms of human movement by movement notation".

In 1997 The Benesh Institute, an international centre for Benesh Movement Notation[clarify], was amalgamated with the Royal Academy of Dance.

Notation system[edit]

Benesh notation example. A dotted vertical line indicates the centre of a frame, though it is not part of the notation.

Benesh notation plots the position of a dancer as seen from behind, as if the dancer is superimposed on a stave that extends from the top of the head down to the feet. From top to bottom, the five lines of the stave coincide with the head, shoulders, waist, knees and feet. Additional symbols are used to notate the dimension and quality of movement[clarify]. A frame is one complete representation of the dancer.[1]

A short horizontal line is used to represents the location of a hand or foot that is level with the body[clarify]. A short vertical line represents a hand or foot in front of the body, whereas a dot represents a hand or foot behind the body. The height of the hands and feet from the floor and their distance from the mid-line of the body are shown visually. A line drawn in the top space of the stave shows the position of the head when it changes position. A direction sign is placed below the stave when the direction[clarification needed] changes.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ryman-Kane, Rhonda; Hughes Ryman, Robyn (2014). Benesh for Ballet: Book 1. DanceWrite. p. 68. ISBN 978-1-63102-603-4. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Benesh, R. and Benesh, J. (1983) Reading Dance: The Birth of Choreology. McGraw-Hill Book Company Ltd, ISBN 0-285-62291-9
  • Neagle, R.J. and Ng, K.C. (2003) Machine-representation and Visualisation of a Dance Notation. in Proceedings of Electronic Imaging and the Visual Arts - London July 2003.
  • Ryman-Kane, Rhonda, and Hughes Ryman, Robyn (2014) Benesh for Ballet, Book I: Basic Ballet Positions in Word Definitions, DanceForms Images, and Benesh Movement Notation, ISBN 978-1-63102-603-4

External links[edit]