Eshkol-Wachman movement notation

Eshkol-Wachman logo

Logo of The Movement Notation Society.

Eshkol-Wachman movement notation is a notation system for recording movement on paper or computer screen. The system was created in Israel by dance theorist Noa Eshkol and Avraham Wachman, a professor of architecture at the Technion.[1] The system is used in many fields, including dance, physical therapy, animal behavior and early diagnosis of autism.[1]

The Movement Notation Society, located in Holon, Israel, is the official organization devoted to Eshkol-Wachman movement notation.


Eshkol-Wachman movement notation is a system to record movement on paper or computer screen, developed by choreographer Noa Eshkol (daughter of Levi Eshkol) and architect Abraham Wachman.[2] It was originally developed for dance to enable choreographers to write a dance down on paper that dancers could later reconstruct in its entirety, much as composers write a musical score that musicians can later play.

In comparison to most dance notation systems, Eshkol-Wachman movement notation was intended to notate any manner of movement, not only dance. As such, it is not limited to particular dance styles or even to the human form. It has been used to analyze animal behaviour as well as dance (Golani 1976).

Stick figure

Eshkol-Wachman movement notation treats the body as a sort of stick figure. The body is divided at its skeletal joints, and each pair of joints defines a line segment (a "limb"). For example, the foot is a limb bounded by the ankle and the end of the toe.

The relationship of those segments in three-dimensional space using a spherical coordinate system. If one end of a line segment is held in a fixed position, that point is the center of a sphere whose radius is the length of the line segment. Positions of the free end of the segment can be defined by two coordinate values on the surface of that sphere, analogous to latitude and longitude on a globe.

Limb positions are written somewhat like fractions, with the vertical number written over the horizontal number. The horizontal component (the lower) is read first. These two numbers are enclosed in brackets or parentheses to indicate whether the position in being described relative to an adjacent limb or to external reference points, such as a stage.

Eshkol-Wachman scores are written on grids, where each horizontal row represents the position and movement of a single limb, and each vertical column represents a unit of time. Movements are shown as transitions between initial and end coordinates.


Noa Eshkol (1924–2007) and Abraham Wachman (1931–2010) created the Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation, (EWMN) for recording movement. The original book presenting the system was published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson in 1958.[3] EWMN is a movement notation, not a dance notation. Its user therefore can write down any form of human or animal movement without limiting oneself to any particular style (classical ballet for example). It gives the notator the freedom to use this system wherever movement occurs.

EWMN offers a new and original way of thinking about, observing and analyzing movement. Eshkol was a revolutionary thinker herself and she believed that movement notation could open a lot of new doors in fields where movement is involved. Using EWMN, she composed five dance suites (Publication) all of them to be performed without music. (When performed without music, the audience and the dancers are forced to focus on how movement by itself can evoke emotions within and set the mood of a choreographed dance.) When asked to address her viewpoint, Eshkol used the example that someone does not swell their chest to express strength but instead the action of swelling the chest causes the feeling of strength. (This is somewhat parallel to the James-Lange theory of emotion.) Eshkol stated that by analyzing movement we might begin to understand how one movement evokes a certain emotion while another movement produces an entirely different feeling. The use of movement notation can also lead to the discovery of new laws of composition in particular dance styles, similar to those found in music or other types of art where aesthetic rules are implemented.

Structure: basic elements of EWMN

The following are the basic concepts of EWMN;[4]

The body

Law of heavy and light limbs

To establish one general form that will stand conceptually for all bodies, an abstract body, similar to a ‘stick figure’ image is proposed: a ‘man without qualities’. Each limb is reduced to its longitudinal axis - an imaginary straight line of unchanging length. A limb, in EW, is considered to be any part of the body, which lies between two adjacent joints or a joint and a free extremity.

Law of ‘light’ and ‘heavy’ limbs

Law of heavy and light limbs

When a person walks his legs move but the rest of his body (i.e. the torso, the arm, and the head) is being carried along by the movement of the legs. EWMN labels this phenomenon "the law of light and heavy limbs". The structure of the body is dealt with as a branching linkage. The base is conceived as the ‘heaviest’ segment of the body. When a ‘heavy’ limb moves it carries all adjacent ‘lighter’ limbs passively along.

When standing upright the feet, considered as the base of the body, are the heaviest limb. The legs are lighter (than the base), the torso lighter than the legs, etc.

Manuscript page

Manuscript page

EWMN is written, not drawn. Movements are written on a horizontally ruled notation page (resembling a spreadsheet) which represents the body. Vertical lines divide the page into columns, denoting units of time. The symbols for movements are written in order, from left to right. The standard (default) distribution of the limb groups is shown.

The set-up of the notation page in EW is very flexible. It allows the user to divide the body into as many (or as few) parts as necessary to adequately define the movement to be notated. Movements written in EWMN can be set to music. However music is not required, since EWMN focuses on the recording of movement alone.

System of reference (SoR)

System of reference

EWMN describes movement using a geometrical model that allows the user to observe and notate movement in an objective way, free of verbal ambiguity and emotional attachment. The notation utilizes a spherical system of coordinates, similar to latitude and longitude on a globe. Since the movement of a single axis of constant length free to move about one fixed end, will all be enclosed by a sphere, the free end will always describe a curved path on the surface of this sphere. Every limb in the body can be regarded as such an axis.

Constructing the SoR: One direction on the horizontal plane of the sphere is selected as the starting position for all measurements. This direction is labeled zero (0). By measuring off intervals of 45 degrees, eight positions are obtained (Fig. 6). Four vertical planes intersect the horizontal circle, they are perpendicular to it.

Positions and movement

The position of a limb is defined by identifying it with the coordinates of the SoR. Movements of limbs are also defined, oriented and measured in relation to the SoR.

To document transitions between static positions the system takes into consideration the type of movement, amount of movement, spatial orientation and sense (clockwise or anti clockwise), of the movement.

Types of movement

Three types of movement are defined: Rotatory movement, when the limb rotates around its axis without changing its place in space. An example of such movement is turning a door knob. Plane movement, the shortest distance traveled by a limb between any two positions on the SoR. “Jumping jacks” exercise is an example for Plane movement. Conical movement, can be seen in the waist when doing the hula hoop.

System of reference, example 1
System of reference, example 2
System of reference, example 3


The flexibility and utility of EWMN allows it to be applied in a wide variety of fields. It has been used to record movements and forms of the hands and fingers in sign language;[5][6] in the composition of dances,[7] and the recording of folk dances;[8] it has been used in the fields of medicine,[9] the Feldenkrais Method[10] and sports.[11] The notation has also been used to record the courting behavior of jackals,[12] and other ethological research.[13] It was used in the field of graphic and kinetic visual art,[14] and a computer system has been written to plot any movement that can be recorded in EWMN.[15] The notation can easily lend itself to applications in the fields of robotics, animation or motion picture. The system was successfully used to detect the very first movement patterns which are a precursor to the development of Autism. The research carried out by Prof. Philip Teitelbaum and Osnat Teitelbaum at the University of Florida was based entirely on the use of EW to study infant movements. It shows that specific movement patterns appearing in the first few months of life can be a reliable predictor of the later development of Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.[16]

See also


  1. 1 2 Co-founder of movement notation system dies at 79
  2. Perpetual Motion: Noa Eshkol Haaretz
  3. Eshkol, N.; Wachman, A. Movement notation. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson; 1958. The original exposition of the system by N. Eshkol and A. Wachman.
  4. Eshkol, N.; Harries, J. G., EWMN Part I. Israel: The Movement Notation Society; 2001.
  5. Cohen, E.; Namir, L., Schlesinger, I. M. Paris. A new dictionary of sign language. The Hague: The Mouton.
  6. Eshkol, N.; Harries J.G., Zeidel, S., Shoshani, M. The hand book. Israel: The Movement Notation Society; 1972
  7. Eshkol, N. Right Angled Curves (Dance suite). Israel: The Movement Notation Society & Tel Aviv University; 1975.
  8. Eshkol, N.; Bone, O., Harries, J.G., Kopit, Z., Nul, R., Sella, R., Shoshani, M. Debka. Israel: The Movement Notation Society & Tel Aviv University; 1974. Twenty- four notated Arab folk dances and Ten Israeli dances based on the debka.
  9. Teitelbaum P.; Maurer R.G., Fryman J., Teitelbaum O.B., Vilensky J., Creedon M.P. Dimensions of disintegration in the stereotyped locomotion characteristic in Parkinsonism. American Psychological Association. 1994.
  10. Eshkol, N. et al. 50 lessons by Dr. M. Feldenkrais. Israel: The Movement Notation Society; 1980. An extended notated record of work in the Feldenkrais method of body awareness.
  11. Arad, M.; Sonnenfeld, M., Eshkol, N. Physical training. Israel: Israel Music Institute; 1969. Notated exercises, displays, track and field events and swimming.
  12. Golani, I. Homeostatic motor processes in mammalian interaction: A Choreography of Display. Perspectives in Ethology. 2: 1976.
  13. Pellis, S. M. A description of social play by the Australian magpie gymnorhina tibicen based on Eshkol-Wachman notation. Bird Behaviour. 3:61-79; 1981
  14. Harries, J. G. A proposed notation for visual fine art. Leonardo. 8:295-300; 1975. Exposition of the use of EW notation in visual art composition.
  15. Eshkol, N.; Melvin, P., Michl, J., Von Foerster, H.,Wachman, A. Notation of movement. USA: Biological Computer Laboratory. Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Illinois; 1970. Report on computer-assisted research carried out at the University of Illinois.
  16. Teitelbaum O, Benton T, Shah PK, Prince A, Kelly JL, Teitelbaum P (2004). "Eshkol–Wachman movement notation in diagnosis: The early detection of Asperger's syndrome". Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 101 (32): 11909–14. doi:10.1073/pnas.0403919101. PMC 511073Freely accessible. PMID 15282371.

Further reading

movement. USA: Biological Computer Laboratory. Dept, of Electrical Engineering, University of Illinois; 1970.

Composition in EWMN

University; 1979.

Academy of Music and Dance; 2001.

Classical forms of dance

Composition and graphic- kinetic art

& Tel Aviv University; 1983.

Physical education

Society; 1980.

Movement Notation Society; 1989.

Studies in animal behavior

Notated record of studies in animal behavior carried out by Dr. Ilan Golani at the Zoology Department, Tel-Aviv University.

Folk dances

Israel: The Movement Notation Society & Tel Aviv University; 1974.

Society & Tel Aviv University; 1986.


Education: teaching EWMN

Moving Writing Reading. Israel: The Movement Notation Society & Tel Aviv University; 1973.

Aviv University; 1987.

Ministry of Education and Culture; 1990.

Education and Culture;1999.

Comparative analysis of movement notatations

Eshkol, N.; Shoshani, M., Dagan, M. Movement notations (Part I). Israel: The Movement Notation Society & Tel Aviv University. 1979. Eshkol, N.; Shoshani, M. Movement Notation (Part Two). Israel. The Movement Notation Society & Tel Aviv University, 1982. A comparative study of Labanotation and Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation.

Hutchinson-Guest, A. Choreo Graphics. New York: Gordon and Breach; 1989.

Eshkol, N.; Shoshani, M., Harries, J. G. Tavim Leriqud – CMDN. Israel: The Movement Notation Society & Tel Aviv University; 1991. Hebrew translation of the English textbook of a Chinese dance notation method.

Sign language

Cohen, E.; Namir, L., Schlesinger, I. M. Paris: A new dictionary of sign language. The Mouton, The Hague; 1977. A dictionary of sign language.

Eshkol, N.; Harries J.G., Zeidel, S., Shoshani, M. The hand book. Israel: The Movement Notation Society; 1972.

Martial arts

Eshkol, N.; Harries, J.G., Sella, R., Sapir, T. The quest for T’ai Chi Chuan. Israel: The Movement Notation Society & Tel Aviv University; 1986. An EW reader and study of Cheng’s short form of this martial art.

Eshkol, N.; Sapir, T., Sella, R., Harries, J.G., Shoshani, M. The quest for T’ai Chi Chuan. Israel: The Movement Notation Society & Tel Aviv University; 1988. Second and expanded edition. Includes three styles of the solo exercise of this martial art form.

Appel, A. Karate. Israel: Minimol Publisher, 1990.


Yanai, Z. Notation for the liberation of movement. Journal of IBM. 34-35; 1974. A general article about EWMN.

Yanai, Z. Notacion para la liberacion de movimiento. “Ariel” Revista Trimestral des Artes a Letras de Israel. 31:114-130; 1974.

Harries, J. G. A proposed notation for visual fine art. Leonardo. 8:295-300; 1975.

Yanai, Z. Eine schrift für freie bewegnung .“Ariel” Berichte zur Kunst und Bildung in Israel. 22:114-130; 1975.

Yanai, Z. Un systeme de notation pour la liberation de mouvement. “Ariel” Revue trimestrielle des arts et letters en israel. 33:114-130; 1975.

Kleinmann, S. Movement notation systems: An Introduction. Quest monograph XXIII. Winter Issue, January: 33-56; 1975.

Harries, J.G.; Richmond, G. A language of movement. New Dance. 22:14-17; 1982. General article about EWMN. Yanai, Z. Notation for the liberation of movement. Contact Quarterly. 82(7):7-15; 1982.

Drewes, H. Transformationen: Bewegung im Notation und digitaler Verarbeitung. PhD Dissertation. Die Blaue Eule: Essen; 2003.

Composition and graphic-kinetic art

Harries, J. G. A proposed notation for visual fine art. Leonardo. 8:295-300; 1975. Exposition of the use of EW notation in visual art composition.

Harries, J. G. A proposed notation for visual fine art. Visual Art Mathematics and Computers. Malina, F. J., Ed. New York: Pergamon Press. 69-74; 1978.

Harries, J.G. Personal computers and notated visual art. Leonardo. 14(4):299-310; 1981. Article on the combination of EW and computer technology in the composition and production of visual art.

Harries, J.G. Symmetry and notation: regularity and symmetry in notated computer graphics. Computer and Math with Applications (GB), Hargittai, Ed. New York: Pergamon Press. 12b(1-2): 303-314; 1986.

Harries, J.G. Symmetry in the Movements of T’ai Chi Chuan. Computers, Mathematics and Applications. 17(406):827-835; 1989.

Harries, J. G. Reflections on Rotations. Symmetry: Culture and Science. 8 (3-4):115- 332; 1997.

Animal behavior

Golani, I. Homeostatic motor processes in mammalian interaction: A Choreography of Display. Perspectives in Ethology. 2: 1976.

Ganor, I.; Golani, I. Coordination and integration in the hindleg steps cycle of the rat: Kinematic Synergies. Brain Research 164; 1980.

Moran, G.; Fentress, J.C., Golani I. A description of the relational patterns of movement during ritualized fighting in wolves. Animal Behavior. 29:1146-1165; 1981.

Pellis, S. M. A description of social play by the Australian magpie gymnorhina tibicen based on Eshkol-Wachman notation. Bird Behaviour. 3:61-79; 1981

Pellis, S. M. An analysis of courtship and mating in the Cape Barren goose Cereopsis novaehollandiae latham based on Eshkol-Wachman movement notation. Bird Behaviour. 4:30-41; 1982.

Pellis, S. M. Development of head and foot coordination in the Australian Magpie gymnorhina tibicen, and the function of play. Bird Be haviour. 4: 57-62; 1983.

Pellis, S. M. What is "fixed" in a fixed action pattern? A problem of methodology. Bird Behaviour. 6: 10-15; 1985.

Whishaw, I. Q.; Kolb, B. The mating movements of male decorticate rats: evidence for subcortically generated movements by the male but regulation of approaches by the female. Behavioural Brain Research. 17: 171-191; 1985.

Pellis, S. M.; Officer, R. C. E. An analysis of some predatory behaviour patterns in four species of carnivorous marsupials (Dasyuridae), with comparative notes on the eutherian cat Felis catus. Ethology. 75: 177-196;1987.

Pellis, S. M.; Pellis, V. C., Chesire, R. M., Rowland, N. E., Teitelbaum, P. Abnormal gait sequence in the locomotion released by atropine in catecholamine deficient akinetic rats. Proc. of the National Academy of Sciences. 84: 8750-8753;1987.

Yaniv, Y.; Golani, I. Superiority and inferiority: A morphological analysis of free and stimulus bounds behavior in honey badger (Mellivora capensis) interactions. Ethology. 74:89-116 ; 1987.

Eilam, D.; Golani, G. The ontology of exploratory behavior in the house (Rattus Rattus): The mobility gradient. Developmental Psychobiology. 21(7):679-710; 1988.

Pellis, S. M.; O'Brien, D. P, Pellis, V. C., Teitelbaum, P., Wolgin, D. L., Kennedy, S. Escalation of feline predation along a gradient from avoidance through "play" to killing. Behavioral Neuroscience. 102:760-777; 1988.

Faulkes, Z. Sand crab digging: The neuroethology and evolution of a “new” behavior. B.Sc, University of Lethbridge. 1988.

Pellis, S. M. Fighting: the problem of selecting appropriate behavior patterns. Blanchard, R. J.; Brain, P. F., Blanchard, D. C., Parmigiani, S., Eds. Ethoexperimental Approaches to the Study of Behavior. 361-374; 1989.

Teitelbaum, P.; Pellis, S. M., DeVietti, T. L. Disintegration into stereotypy induced by drugs or brain damage: A micro-descriptive behavioral analysis. Cooper, S.J.; Dourish, C. T., Eds. Neurobiology of Behavioral Stereotypy. 169-199; 1990.

Whishaw, I. Q.; Pellis, S. M. The structure of skilled forelimb reaching in the rat: A proximally driven stereotyped movement with a single rotatory component. Behavioral Brain Research. 41: 49-59;1990.

Whishaw, I. Q.; Pellis, S. M., Gorny, B. P., Pellis, V. C. The impairments in reaching and the movements of compensation in rats with motor cortex lesions: A videorecording and movement notation analysis. Behavioural Brain Research. 42: 77-91; 1991.

Golani, I. A Mobility Gradient in the Organization of Vertebrate Movement: The Perception of Movement Through Symbolic Language. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. Vol 15(2): 249-308; 1992.

Whishaw, I. Q.; Pellis, S. M., Gorny, B. P. Skilled reaching in rats and humans: Evidence for parallel development or homology. Behavioural Brain Research. 47: 59- 70; 1992.

34. Whishaw, I. Q.; Dringenberg, H. C., Pellis, S. M. Forelimb use in free feeding by rats: Motor cortex aids limb and digit positioning. Behavioural Brain Research. 48: 113-125; 192.

Whishaw, I. Q.; Pellis, S. M., Gorny, B. P. Medial frontal cortex lesions impair the aiming component of rat reaching. Behavioural Brain Research. 50: 93-104;1992.

Whishaw, I. Q.; Pellis, S. M., Pellis, V. C. A behavioral study of the contributions of cells and fibers of passage in the red nucleus of the rat to postural righting, skilled movements, and learning. Behavioural Brain Research. 52: 29-44; 1992.

Whishaw, I. Q.; Pellis, S. M., Gorny, B., Kolb, B., Tetzlaff, W. Proximal and distal impairments in rat forelimb use in reaching following pyramidal tract lesions. Behavioural Brain Research. 56:59-76; 1993.

Whishaw, I. Q.; Gorny, B., Tran-Nguyen, L. T. L., Castañeda, E., Miklyaeva, E. I., Pellis, S. M. Doing two things at once: Impairments in movement and posture underlie the adult skilled reaching deficit of neonatally dopamine-depleted rats. Behavioural Brain Research. 61: 65-77; 1994.

Field, E. F.; Whishaw, I. Q., Pellis, S. M. An analysis of sex differences in the movement patterns used during the food wrenching and dodging paradigm. Journal of Comparative Psychology. 110: 298-306; 1996.

Ivanco, T. L.; Pellis, S. M., Whishaw, I. Q. Skilled movements in prey catching and in reaching by rats (Rattus norvegicus ) and opossums (Monodelphis domestica ): Relations to anatomical differences in motor systems. Behavioural Brain Research. 79: 163-182; 1996.

Pellis, S. M. Righting and the modular organization of motor programs. Ossenkopp, K.P.; Kavaliers, M., Sanberg, P.R., Eds. Measuring Movement and Locomotion: From Invertebrates to Humans. 115-133; 1996.

Faulkes, Z.; Paul, D. H. Digging in sand crabs (Decapoda, Anomura, Hippoidea): Interleg coordination. Journal of Experimental Biology. 200: 793-805;1997.

Field, E. F.; Whishaw, I. Q., Pellis, S. M. The organization of sex-typical patterns of defense during food protection in the rat: The role of the opponent’s sex. Aggressive Behavior. 23: 197-214; 1997.

Field, E. F.; Whishaw, I. Q., Pellis, S. M. A kinematic analysis of sex-typical movement patterns used during evasive dodging to protect a food item: The role of gonadal androgens. Behavioral Neuroscience. 111: 808-815; 1997.

Iwaniuk, A. N.; Nelson, J. E., Ivanco, T. L., Pellis, S. M., Whishaw, I Q. Reaching, grasping and manip ulation of food objects by two tree kangaroo species, Dendrolagus lumholtzi and Dendrolagus matschiei. Australian Journal of Zoology. 46: 235-248; 1998.

Whishaw, I. Q.; Woodward, N. C., Miklyaeva, E., Pellis, S. M. Analysis of limb use by control rats and unilateral DA-depleted rats in the Montoya staircase test: Movements, impairments and compensatory strategies. Behavioural Brain Research. 89:167-177; 1998

Whishaw, I. Q.; Sarna, J., Pellis, S. M. Evidence for rodent-common and species-typical limb and digit use in eating derived from a comparative analysis of ten rodent species. Behavioural Brain Research. 96:79-91; 1998.

Iwaniuk, A. N.; Whishaw, I. Q. How skilled are the skilled limb movements of the raccoon (Prycyon lotor). Behavioural Brain Research. 99:35-44; 1999.

Pasztor, T. J.; Smith, L. K., MacDonald, N. L., Michener, G. R., Pellis, S. M. Sexual and aggressive play fighting of sibling Richardson’s ground squirrels. Aggressive Behavior. 27: 323-337; 2001.

Whishaw, I. Q.; Gorny, B., Foroud, A., Kleim, J. A. Long-Evans and Sprague-Dawley rats have similar skilled reaching success and limb representations in motor cortex but different movements: some cautionary insights into the selection of rat strains for neurobiological motor research. Behavioural Brain Research. 145: 221-232; 2003.

Gharbawie, O. A.; Whsiahw, P. A., Whishaw, I. Q. The topography of three-dimensional exploration: a new quantification of vertical and horizontal exploration, postural support, and exploratory bouts in the cylinder test. Behavioural Brain Research. 151:125-135; 2004.

Neurological syndromes

Cohen, E.; Sekeles, C. Integrated treatment of Down’s Syndrome children through music and movement. Proceeding of the Fourth International Conferences of DACI. 2:1988.

Teitelbaum P.; Maurer R.G., Fryman J., Teitelbaum O.B., Vilensky J., Creedon M.P. Dimensions of disintegration in the stereotyped locomotion characteristic in Parkinsonism. American Psychological Association. 1994.

Teitelbaum P.; Behrman A., Fryman J., Cauraugh J., Maurer R.G., Teitelbaum O.B., Principles for the design of walking robots derived from the study of people with Parkinson’s Disease. Paper submitted to the Conference on Simulation of Animal Behavior, Brighton, England, August 8–12. 1994.

Teitelbaum, P.; Teitelbaum, O.B., Nye J., Fryman, J., Maurer, R.G. Movement analysis in infancy may be useful for early diagnosis of Autism. Proc. National Academy of Science. 95:13982-13987; 1998.

Whishaw, I. Q.; Suchowersky, O., Davis, L., Sarna, J., Metz, G. A., Pellis, S. M. A qualitative analysis of reaching-to-grasp movements in human Parkinson’s disease (PD) reveals impairments in coordination and rotational movements of pronation and supination: a comparison to deficits in animal models of PD. Behavioural Brain Research. 133:165-176; 2002.

Teaching EWMN

Cohen, E. On teaching Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation to academic students. Proceedings of the Second International Congress on Movement Notation, Hong Kong. 1990.

Shoshani, M. An Analysis of the use of Eshkol Wachman Movement Notation for dance composition. Dance Study Dep. Surrey University, UK. 1994.

External links

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