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Movement Notation and the Analysis of Embodied Knowledge: Three Ethnographic Examples

Kate Grim-Feinberg and Monica FA Wong Santos


This paper discusses ways in which Labanotation contributes to the analysis of human movement in anthropological research. It is based on the experience of the authors, who, as graduate students in anthropology, were involved in research projects where they used Labanotation for the collection and analysis of data. We argue that the ability of Labanotation to represent accurately whole body movements and gestures, as well as the spatial relationships among moving agents, makes it useful for analyzing different dimensions of social life as enacted by the moving bodies of persons. It also records action from the moving person's point of view, which conforms to the ethnographic practice of taking into account local meanings attached to particular kinds of social action. As such, it can be used at different stages of ethnographic research and for different analytical purposes. To illustrate, we present topically diverse ethnographic projects where Labanotation was used: 1) documenting the New Year ritual of the Lahu Na Shehleh people of northern Thailand for the purpose of preserving the dance and teaching it to younger members of the community, 2) understanding local practices of ballet dancing in the Philippines, and 3) identifying tacit learning of social norms among children in Ayacucho, Peru.

Studying Human Movement in Anthropology

We argue that human movement notation is a valuable tool for documenting and interpreting culturally specific meanings of human movement and human movement systems. Although film, sound recording, and still photography are useful research aids for these kinds of studies, the ethnographic analysis of human movement requires data and knowledge that can only be obtained from direct observation of the movements and, when plausible, from learning and performing the actions themselves. Because movements are performed within their culturally prescribed spatial and temporal context, they must be researched in that context and complemented by direct inquiries to the movers about the intent and meaning of their actions (Farnell 1994, 1999; Williams 1982).

     Farnell (1994) discusses these issues extensively in her article "Ethno-graphics and the Moving Body," where she presents new theoretical directions for the study of human body movement and related methodological concerns. She writes, "With a movement text . . . one is aiming at a performable script that encodes indigenous understandings" (1994: 964). This requires researchers to view human body movements as "signifying acts" (Williams 2003) and to interpret the semantic content from the moving person's point of view.

     Labanotation is a writing system for transcribing human movement. It has proven especially useful in ethnographic studies that investigate the social and cultural dimensions of human movement (for example, Farnell 1995; Mijares 2012; Page 1990, 1996; Williams 1995a).1 Labanotation (also known as Kinetography Laban) was invented circa 1928 by the Austro-Hungarian choreographer, dancer, and movement investigator Rudolph Laban. Although used primarily to notate Western dance idioms such as ballet, modern dance, and European folk dances, it was designed and further developed to write any movement of which the human body is capable (Farnell 1996; Hutchinson Guest 2005: 3; Laban 1928). As such, it has the capacity to document non-Western dances and other movement systems such as sign languages and gestural systems. It also allows researchers to record in detail body movements and spatial relations that often intersect with verbal discourses (for example, Farnell 1995, Grim-Feinberg 2013, Williams 1995b). While other forms of movement notation do exist,2 from an anthropological perspective Labanotation is the most comprehensive and best equipped to handle all forms of human movement in different cultural contexts (Farnell 1994, 1996; Page 1996; Hutchinson Guest 2005). A major anthropological factor here is that the graphic signs are written from the point of view of the mover (that is, the person who is moving)3 and can take into account the "intent" of the movement.4

     In this article, we discuss how we used Labanotation in three recent ethnographic projects. We illustrate the documentary and analytical potential of Labanotation in ethnographic analyses of moving bodies in different kinds of performance contexts: at an annual community ritual, within ballet training and performance, and in interactions in a school setting.

     In the first example, both authors used Labanotation to conduct a structural analysis of a dance of the Lahu Na Shehleh, an indigenous community in the Chiang Rai province of Thailand, as part of the community's revitalization efforts. In the second example, Santos found Labanotation a useful resource to document embodied discourses in the field, especially in cases where ballet practitioners emphasized particular ways of executing movements in standardized learning systems. In the third, Grim-Feinberg used Labanotation to compare children's actual activities to the ideal spatial orientations, postures, and movements that were expected of them in different situations. Through this comparison, she was able to explore important questions about how and why children learn, enact, and fail to enact social norms.

Example 1: A New Year Ritual in Thailand

The first example involves the conservation of a dance of the Lahu Na Shehleh (referred to more succinctly as Lahu) from the Chiang Rai province in northern Thailand. The primary investigators for this research project are two senior anthropologists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), Jacquetta Hill and David Plath, who began this research in 2004 (see JASHM 20[2]). It focuses on the New Year's Dance (CaKhui), which is also performed by neighboring ethnic groups in the region (see Figure 1).

Figure 1
Figure 1. CaKhui.

     Members of the Lahu community requested that Hill and Plath assist them in preserving this endangered cultural practice, one that they find central to their ethnic identity. Hill and Plath proceeded to collect audio and video documentation of the dancing, eventually calling on graduate students at UIUC who specialize in ethnomusicology and movement analysis for a closer study of the dance-music form. The authors are two of three researchers who analyzed the movements of the New Year's Dance using Labanotation. Our primary goal was to understand the structure of the dance in relation to the accompanying music.

     Logistical and financial limitations prevented us from witnessing the dance first hand, and we had to rely on video footage to transcribe the movements. Grim-Feinberg analyzed footage taken by Hill and Plath, while Santos examined archival silent footage of the dance recorded in 1965 by Hans Manndorff.5 This was far from an ideal situation for ethnographic movement analysis, since neither of us knew the spoken language or cultural context we were observing on film. However, we were fortunate to enlist the assistance of a Lahu consultant, Nannaphat Saenghong, a member of the Lahu community engaged in doctorate studies at UIUC (see Figure 2). Her embodied knowledge of the New Year's Dance provided an invaluable resource for understanding the structure of the dance. With Saenghong's input, we were able to identify movement phrases that constitute larger patterns called AwHuis, in the New Year's Dance. The archival footage added a new dimension to the project, providing data for comparative analysis of the dance across space and time.

Figure 2. Working with Nannaphat Saenghong.

     To an outsider's eye, the dance may appear to be nothing more than a series of repetitive movements, mostly stepping. At the beginning of the process, we had to work out our own ways of counting and phrasing sets of movements in the dance based entirely on our observations of the video footage: Grim-Feinberg's score reflects eight-count phrases; Santos's score does not have phrases but shows continuous counting of each "step."6 Only after working with the Lahu dancer Saenghong could we produce revised scores that contain more accurate notations of the steps, phrases, and AwHuis from a Lahu dancer's point of view (see Figure 3). Grim-Feinberg's work with Saenghong involved

  • notating alternative versions of the dance steps

  • notating the versions of steps performed on video that Saenghong identified as correct

  • eliminating movements transcribed from video that Saenghong identified as mistakes

  • correcting misinterpretations derived from the distortions of video recordings

  • representing counts, measures, and other elements of timing in the ways that a Lahu dancer hears and feels them

  • distinguishing movements considered by a Lahu dancer to be different steps and connecting movements considered to be part of the same step

  • notating all aspects of the movement considered important by a Lahu dancer.

Figure 3
Figure 3. Kate Grim-Feinberg's notations before (left) and after (right) working with Saenghong.

     Similarly, Santos began meeting with Saenghong after finishing initial drafts of the dance score created from observation of the archival footage. In these meetings, Santos and Saenghong reconstructed and performed the movements by reading Santos's initial notations. Saenghong identified and clarified the series of movements that comprise each movement phrase, which ends with a slight bend-extend movement in the knees after the feet "step together." This information would guide how Santos's analysis of the movements proceeded. Santos discarded the counting system she was using originally and relied solely on time codes indicating specific points in time in the video to synchronize male and female movements. Her analysis subsequently focused on the phrases and patterns performed by male and female dancers and gave more attention to possible variations of phrases performed at particular moments of the dance. The final Labanotation score for each video clip contained sets of staves for male and female dancers that represented the phrases in the AwHui.

     Working together, indigenous dancer (Saenghong) and anthropologist (Santos) identified five distinct phrases from the video of the Lahu dancing and six from the video of the (neighboring) Lisu dancing. Three AwHui, showing different sequences of movement phrases, were also identified in each video as shown here.7

Lisu (video label: E1303)

AwHui 1: Li PATTERN Af||: LiP3f | LiP1f | LiP2f | LiP1f :||

AwHui 2: Li PATTERN Bf–||: LiP1f | LiP4f | LiP5f | LiP2f | LiP1f | LiP2f :||

AwHui 3: Li PATTERN Cf–||: LiP5f | LiP6f | LiP5f | LiP2f :||

Lahu (video label: E1239)

AwHui 1: La PATTERN Af–||: LaP1f | LaP2f :||

AwHui 2: La PATTERN Bf–||: LaP3f | LaP1f | LaP3f | LaP4f :||

AwHui 3: La PATTERN Cf (?)–||: LaP1f | LaP2f | LaP5f | LaP2f :||

Saenghong and Santos then compared their analysis of the archival footage to Grim-Feinberg's transcriptions from contemporary videos. They found that all the Lahu phrases and sequences from the historical video are still performed and that the Lisu (a neighboring group) used phrases and sequences either identical or very close to contemporary Lahu phrases and sequences (see Table 1). The results of this comparative analysis show that a) for at least the past four decades, the Lahu have been using the same phrases and sequences in this dance and b) the Lahu dance today contains AwHui that were also performed by the neighboring Lisu in 1965. These initial findings have broader implications for understanding cultural continuity, as well as ethnic identity and ethnic relations.8

  Village of LAHU

Notation by Santos
Village of LISU

Notation by Santos
Village of LAHU

Notation by Grim-Feinberg
PHRASES LaP1f LiP2f j (version 1 and 2)
LaP2f LiP5f g
LaP3f LiP1f a
LaP4f LiP3f possible variation of b
LaP5f   h (version 3)
  LiP4f possible variation of h

(version 1)
  LiP6f j
SEQUENCES (AwHuis) LaPATTERN Af   AwHui J (repeats

  LiPATTERN Bf very close to AwHui H
  LiPATTERN Cf very close to AwHui G

Table 1. Comparative Analysis of Lisu and Lahu New Year's Dance

     These patterns or AwHui are based on sequences of weight-bearing steps and musical phrases. We notated upper-body positions, particularly for the female role, although these remain largely uniform throughout the dance. The dance is accompanied by live music played by male dancing musicians who move around in an anticlockwise direction in an outer circle with the other male dancers, while female dancers move in the same direction with smaller steps in an inner circle. The whole dance is comprised of a series of AwHui, and dancers listen to cues in the music to know which AwHui they will perform next. Figure 3 shows an example of a complete AwHui.

     As mentioned previously, the purpose of this research is to contribute to the community's efforts to conserve an important part of their expressive culture. In late summer of 2009, Hill and Saenghong visited the village and had the opportunity to show Grim-Feinberg's notation to NaDuLui, an expert female dancer.9 After explaining how the dance steps and movement directions were iconically represented with the graphic signs, NaDuLui quickly grasped the idea of how the dance movements and choreographic structure were represented in the color-coded Labanotation10, 11 (see Figure 4).

Figure 4
Figure 4. Labanotation score using colored symbols.

     NaDuLui emphasized that, for teaching the dances, both the video recording of the dancing and audio recording of the music would be needed alongside the Labanotation score. She felt that the video footage and Labanotation could be understood better than written words and learned readily by villagers like her who could not read or write a spoken language. This interview confirmed that the movement transcription, along with visual and auditory representations, could indeed be meaningful and useful to learners who did not have the opportunity to learn from experts in context.

     Over the course of this multiyear collaborative project, the use of Labanotation allowed us to address key arenas of academic discourse in the social sciences (particularly cultural and linguistic anthropology), to create an accurate and detailed historical record of an important cultural practice, and to begin creating pedagogical tools that can be used by the Lahu people to maintain social cohesion through continued participation in this important cultural practice in a changing society.

Example 2: Ballet Dancing in the Philippines

The second example emerged from Santos's dissertation research (in progress) on ballet dancing in the Philippines. Ballet dancing is often perceived as "universal," especially since it is practiced in many different parts of the world12 and its practitioners use the same French ballet vocabulary (spoken terms that refer to distinct action signs). However, as Joann Kealiinohomoku (1980) argues, the ballet, like any other dance form, is "ethnic dance." It is a European theatrical dance form that "reflects the cultural traditions within which [it] developed" (ibid., 83). And like any other cultural practice that travels across time and space (for example, national borders), it often goes through various forms of localizing processes.13 In her larger study, Santos (2015) examines how local practitioners of ballet in the Philippines attach meaning to ballet dancing and its attendant social and cultural practices.

     Labanotation proved particularly useful to Santos when taking field notes during a teacher's workshop on the Philippine Ballet Syllabus. The three-day workshop involved demonstration and detailed examination of all the exercises in the workbook, marking corrections in the texts and answering questions that teachers might have about the way particular movements should be performed. Although Santos trained in classical ballet until her college years, she was less fluent than she thought and found it necessary to refamiliarize herself with the movement vocabulary of ballet and its French word glosses. Her knowledge of Labanotation enabled her to write down steps in the syllabus that were glossed using ballet French. Movement writing became a useful memory device in this context, reminding her of precisely how particular movements should be performed in the context of ballet training with the Philippine Ballet Syllabus.

     As shown in Figure 5, the syllabus is written primarily in ballet French. In some cases, however, these word glosses produce ambiguity in the way movements can be, or should be, performed. Santos was able to document different ways of performing the "same" movement, which helped clarify which variation of a particular exercise was preferred and sanctioned as "correct" by the workshop instructor.

Figure 5
Figure 5. Excerpt from Philippine Ballet Syllabus.

     In this particular example, the instructor points out the difference between a glissade and a posé, both of which involve a shift of weight from one leg to another, ending with the two legs together. Both steps begin with one leg bent and the other extended to the side with a pointed foot, with the toes touching the floor. The weight shifts from the bent leg to the extended leg and ends with the previously bent leg straightening and joining the extended leg, with both legs now bearing weight. Differences in the identity of the two action signs lie in a minor difference in the movement: a glissade involves a slight slide of the toe on the floor before the transfer of weight to the extended leg.

     In this exercise, the instructor draws attention to what seems like a minor difference to make sure that the teachers understand how the two steps should be performed by students. These clarifications are important since students will be asked to perform these exercises in their exams, where they are evaluated based on their correct execution of steps, as well as their knowledge of the spoken vocabulary of classical ballet.

     As this example shows, Labanotation provided a resource for documenting the articulation of embodied knowledge about ballet movements in the context of ballet training. The use of Labanotation symbols facilitated Santos's note taking and provided a more accurate and succinct description of the difference between the two steps than the use of word glosses.

     Although the standard action signs of classical ballet have been written in Labanotation and made available in published form,14 the informal notations described here highlight the significance of movement variations in processes of standardization in a "universally" recognized and practiced dance form within the context of training practices in the Philippines.

Example 3: Children's Learning in Peru

In the third example, Grim-Feinberg approaches the question of how, after recent internal armed conflict, educational policy and practice can shape children into peaceful, democratic citizens. She examines how policy documents shaped by international development organizations influence, or fail to influence, classroom practice and learning among schoolchildren in a bilingual (Quechua-Spanish) Andean agricultural community. The study focuses on primary-school students, aged six to ten, who live in a small town in southern Ayacucho, Peru. In the 1980s–1990s, the town was devastated by the violence of Shining Path militants and state counterinsurgency troops. Ayacucho is one of many postconflict towns in Peru that continue to be targeted by state interventions and discourses of counterinsurgency and reconciliation.

     This doctoral research (Grim-Feinberg 2013) was based on fourteen months of ethnographic fieldwork with children and their families, in which Grim-Feinberg engaged in all realms of the children's lives. She used video and audio recording, photography, and Labanotation to document and analyze the communicative functions of children's spatial relations, bodily postures, gestures, and speech, among other semiotic modalities. These methods allowed her to explore tensions between policy and practice that influence access to citizenship rights in a variety of realms and allowed her to identify locally rooted models of interpersonal relations, upon which, she argues, educators can draw to promote democracy, cultural inclusion, and human rights effectively at school.

Figure 6 and 7
Figure 6 (left). Photograph of a school formation. (Photo by Thomas A Riddle)

Figure 7 (right). The ideal school formation.

     Figures 6 and 7 depict an actual and ideal morning lineup of students at a primary school in Peru. In the Labanotation diagram (Figure 7), solid circles represent males, and open circles represent females. The line coming out of each circle shows the direction that each person faces. The diagram is drawn from the students' point of view, with the first graders on their left and sixth graders on their right. Numbers indicate the grade level of each row. The back row of students, depicted at the bottom here, are the "Brigadiers" and "School Police," the two primary student authorities in each classroom, appointed by their teachers to help keep their classmates in line. The number of students in each row is approximate and varies according to school enrollment and attendance. Students who arrive on time line up in order of height, with the shortest in front and the tallest in back (with the exception of Brigadiers and Police, who stand in a separate line across the back). Students who arrive late stand behind their classmates, and if they arrive very late they form a separate "battalion" outside the gates or in a back corner of the school yard, to be reprimanded by teachers once the others have gone into their classrooms. At the front of the formation (top of the diagram) is the main Brigadier General (BG), standing by the flag and facing her schoolmates. In front, but off to the side, is the teacher in charge (T), and behind the students, observing from outside of the formation, are the remaining teachers (T). The teachers' positions in this diagram are flexible; they can roam about as they please. Generally, one remains in front of the formation, and the others stand behind. The Brigadier Generals and School Police may move as necessary to discipline their classmates and then return to their places. Throughout the formation, the main Brigadier General and teacher call students to the front to lead activities, at which point the main Brigadier General may move slightly to the side but remains facing her schoolmates.

     This diagram (Figure 7) and its accompanying description of ideal behaviors15 and positions during the morning lineup at school derive from countless observations, field jottings, videos, and photographs like the one in Figure 6. Viewed in juxtaposition with the photograph, the diagram draws attention to particular aspects of spatial organization that might not be apparent or emphasized in photographs and video clips. Movement notation allows a researcher to document important moments that did not make it into photographs, to highlight aspects of spatial organization and body position that photographs distort and obscure, and to portray what happened beyond the frame of a photograph or video. In Figures 6 and 7, the photograph shows the context, but the diagram makes explicit the ideal spatial formations for which students are supposed to strive. The diagram clarifies relations that look confusing and are obscured in photographs.

     The process of using Labanotation to create an analytical representation of ideal behaviors allows a researcher to ask detailed questions and make focused observations in order to identify precisely what kinds of behaviors are considered "ideal" from a local perspective. Furthermore, the visual representation of the ideal serves as a model from which to analyze when, why, and how children depart from the ideal in their actual behavior. By comparing this ideal representation with photographs, videos, observations, field notes, and interviews, Grim-Feinberg was able to ask a number of important questions about children's learning of social norms, including

  • Do different participants in and observers of a given situation have different understandings of what behaviors are appropriate and desired? If so, what factors influence those understandings (for example age, gender, participant role)?

  • How do social relationships among participants in a given situation influence children's adherence to norms?

  • Which participants regularly adhere to social norms, and which regularly violate social norms? What factors might explain these behaviors?

  • How do different participants and observers explain or justify ideal behavior?

  • To what extent is ideal behavior actually expected? Is it expected more for some participants than others?

  • Which ideal behaviors are enforced? How, when, why, and by whom?

These questions served as points of departure for complex analyses of the cultural norms and values that guide expectations for children's behavior in different social situations, and the factors that influence children's adherence or lack of adherence to these norms.

Concluding Remarks

Our examples show that ethnographers studying movement systems and performance repertoires of a particular society can usefully employ movement writing at various stages of data collection, analysis, and presentation.

     When collecting movement data, for example, Labanotation offers a means of writing field notes with graphic signs that represent the movement itself, a necessary prerequisite to any rigorous analysis of its cultural significance. In the examples presented here, we used Labanotation to document more accurately culture- or system-specific preferred ways of performing the actions. Even when there are words that correspond to specific actions, as in the case of ballet dancing in the Philippines, there are times when dynamically embodied knowledge itself, rather than word glosses, has to be taken into account, as Santos has shown.

     In Grim-Feinberg's Peruvian example, movement writing facilitated unobtrusive collection of precise data using written field jottings rather than a camera. This proved advantageous in situations where video recording was deemed inappropriate to an occasion, including the early stages of research during which direct researcher-participant interactions unmediated by a camera were essential for gaining rapport. It was also an important tool for comparing children's movements on and off camera. Movement writing also allowed Grim-Feinberg to engage fully in participant observation, by participating in an activity and then writing her own movements in relation to those around her.

     Using Labanotation also facilitated our analyses and interpretations of movement data; that is, it provided a vital means to understanding the cultural and social significance of particular movements. In the Lahu project, for example, we were able to transcribe recorded movement and then analyze the transcripts to reveal the structural components of the dance. This process, in turn, allowed us to compare performances by different ethnic groups and to trace changes and consistencies in the structure of the dance through historical time. In Grim-Feinberg's work, Labanotation provided a strategy for elicitation and further observation and interpretation of ideal and actual activities of school children in Ayacucho, Peru.

     Lastly, Labanotation provided us with a means to present our findings, both to other researchers and to the communities who participated in our research. This was especially true of the Lahu, who, although unable to read or write spoken languages, approved the new technology of a movement score as a useful contribution to their cultural preservation projects. In the Peruvian project, also, Labanotation allowed Grim-Feinberg to illustrate crucial spatial relations that were not apparent from photographs albeit key to conveying the contradictions between prescribed policy-mandated activities and how democratic processes are actually enacted by children on the ground.


1 Another ethnographic study that used a form of movement writing in its analysis of a Philippine dance form is Ness (1992). She used Laban Movement Analysis, which shares some graphic signs with Labanotation but takes a different approach to analysis. In Labanotation, the meaning of movements is derived from the point of view of the moving person. With Laban Movement Analysis, movements are described and analyzed primarily from observations, using a set of (universalized) predetermined qualities and assumed corresponding emotional and semantic content (Farnell 1992). Farnell (1992) outlines the implications of such an approach for anthropological studies of human movement in her review of Ness's book.

2 These include Benesh, Eshkol-Wachmann, and Beauchamps-Feuillet, among others. See Farnell (1996) and Hutchinson Guest (2005) for further information on other movement writing systems.

3 Labanotation uses a vertical staff that represents the right and left sides of the body. See Farnell (1994) for a more detailed explanation of how the staff represents the person's moving body.

4 The transcriber achieves this by selecting from alternative combinations of the graphic signs, then writing a particular action according to what would best depict the mover's conception or interpretation of it.

5 This footage was produced by IWF Films-Göttingen and is stored at the German National Library of Science and Technology.

6 The video footage of the dancing that Santos analyzed is silent. The counting system she devised was intended to synchronize the movements of the female and male dancers in the scores.

7 Saenghong and Santos devised a labeling system for the older videos of the Lahu and Lisu New Year's Dance as follows:

Li–Lisu / La–Lahu / P–Phrase / PATTERN–Pattern (AwHui) / f or m–pattern performed by either female or male dancer.

Note: variations in the general pattern is indicated by "-x"

Thus, a particular phrase can be labeled as "LaP1f," which mean Lahu phrase #1 performed by female dancer. Variations of this pattern are labeled using "a" and "b," and so forth: LaP1f-a, LaP1f-b, and so on. A particular AwHui can be labeled La PATTERN Af, which means, Lahu pattern A performed by female dancers.

8 The codes in this table are analytical labels created by the researchers to distinguish dance phrases and sequences (AwHuis). Santos and Grim-Feinberg each devised a different labeling system because they were working on the project at different times and were analyzing different material. In Grim-Feinberg's analysis of contemporary Lahu footage, she labeled each AwHui and phrase alphabetically in the order in which she and Saenghong identified it, with AwHui A representing the first AwHui that the researchers identified, and phrase a representing the first phrase that they identified. Table 1 demonstrates that there are a number of overlapping phrases and sequences among the contemporary and historical footage of the Lahu and Lisu. For example, phrase LaP1f, phrase LiP2f, and phrase j (version 1 and 2) are all the same phrase, even though we gave them different labels analytically.

9 We would like to note that Grim-Feinberg's notation deviates from ICKL/DNB standards in certain respects in order to accommodate her readers. Relying on the iconicity of the spatial direction symbols in Labanotation, she created notation that would be useful for Lahu community members who are untrained in Labanotation or any other kind of writing system. She created the simplest representations possible, eliminating any symbols that would cause confusion or be illegible to the untrained eye or to readers unfamiliar with Western theatrical dances. This is not unprecedented in anthropological research (for example, Farnell's transcriptions of Plains Indian Sign Language, 1995) and is best understood as utilizing the flexibility of the Laban system rather than criticized as being "ungrammatical" from a Western point of view.

10 The use of colors was helpful in explaining to NaDuLui how to read the Labanotation score. The colors indicate different kinds of movements. Symbols in blue denote weight-bearing steps and facing. Symbols in orange marks movements that create an audible cadence, as well as the counts that derive from that cadence. Stylistic elements, as identified by Saenghong, are drawn in green. These can be found in the female staff only because they come from direct work with Saenghong who performs the women's dance expertly but cannot confidently execute men's dancing with the correct stylistic elements. The green symbols in the women's leg gesture columns draw attention to how quickly women bend and straighten their knees, an action that causes their costumes to swing back and forth in unison. This aesthetic element is of prime importance to Lahu Na Shehleh dancers. While we were able to learn much about men's steps from watching and imitating videos, we could not ascertain stylistic preferences without the interpretive assistance of a male dancer. The original handwritten version of the score can be viewed at

11 A video clip showing NaDuLui learning Labanotation can be accessed at

12 For example, Helena Wulff (2008) provides a brief account of how, in the 1920s, Russian dancers settled in different parts of the world (including the Philippines) and instituted their own ballet schools.

13 Villaruz (2006) suggests that distinct "ballet cultures" have developed in different parts of the world, as exemplified in the different syllabi, training methods, and performance repertoires that have developed locally.

14 See The Gail Grant Dictionary of Classical Ballet in Labanotation by Allan Miles (1976).

15 I use the word "behavior" here in the sense of ‘socially prescribed and sanctioned conduct,' not in the sense used by B. F. Skinner and other "behaviorists" for whom it becomes something "that can be identified prior to and independent of human intentions, beliefs and sociolinguistic contexts" (Williams 2004: 202–3).

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