Vladimir Ivanovich Stepanov
Vladimir Ivanovich Stepanov (1866 - 1896), was a dancer at the Imperial Ballet in Saint Petersburg. His book, L'Alphabet des Mouvements du Corps Humain, was the first music system ever made, and he published it in 1892. This Alphabet of Movements of the Human Body is a notation that encodes dance movements with musical notes and not with pictographs or newly invented abstract symbols. Stepanov breaks complex movements down to elementary moves which single parts of the body can make. These basic moves are then enciphered as musical signs. It was through this method of dance notation, as perfected by Alexander Gorsky, that many of the great choreographer Marius Petipa's ballets were notated. Today this method is preserved in the Harvard University Library Theatre Collection and is known as the Sergeyev Collection.
He wrote his book from an anatomical angle. The movements were written in terms of joints of the body, along with flexion extension, rotation, direction and adduction were also featured. Stepanov was a dancer at the Mariinsky theater in St. Petersburg. He took an anatomy course and continued his studies in paris. That is where his book was published, and it was published in French. Once it was adopted by the St. Petersburg school he was given the title, Instructor in Movement Analysis and Notation. Sadly stepanov died at the early age of 29. But even after his death his system still developed, and can also be seen in the Sergeyev Collection
After stepanov death a colleague, Alexander Gorsky, printed Table of Signs in Stepanov Notation, and it was published in Russian. This publication was a slightly developed version of Stepanov original work. And after that many other variations of Stepanov notation were made. For example, there is also Conte notation and Nicholas notation.
Stepanov Notation Advantages Stepanov’s system is really simplistic and does not have that many sign you need to learn to understand it. Using his system it is possible to show more than one movement going on. It is a great approach from the anatomical point of view to write down movement.
Stepanov Notation Disadvantages Trying to figure out which direction the body is facing can be difficult for some people since you just have to completely memorize what the meaning ‘greater than’ or ‘less than mean in terms of which way your body is facing. Some might also call the translation from some manuscripts for ballet steps where in a way crude. Overall it is very hard to really get all the details in one movement down on paper.
How Stepanov’s Notation Works Alexander Gorsky published Stepanov’s method and in that publication he said, “Poses or Movement lasting two units of time we notate with signs called halves (½) as they are made up of two quarters. Poses or movements lasting four units are notated with two half notes connected by arches.” This quote is just Alexander explaining his colleagues notation. In Stepanovs notation he was able to write down turns. The way he would do it would be in terms of numbers, he would but all the different numbers of turns (in order) and line the up the way we wanted the dancer to turn them. For example, if there was a line that had 1,2, and 3 on it in a straight line then the dancer would turn three time in that straight line. If there was a circle with 0 at the top and going clockwise with 1,2,3,4,5,6, and 7 then the dancer would know that he had to do 7 turns and do those turns while moving in that circle. There would be a space on the paper indicating where the audience is as well. With Stepanov you could also annotate arm movements. You would do this by looking at what looks like music notes that had streaks around them, those streaks resemble the arm and how the dancer is supposed to move them and the notes are there because on different beats the arms change.
It was through this method of dance notation, as perfected by Alexander Gorsky, that many of the great choreographer Marius Petipa's ballets were notated. Today this method is preserved in the Harvard University Library Theatre Collection and is known as the Sergeyev Collection.
- Fifteenth Century to the Present. N.p.: n.p., n.d.Google Books. Web.
- Guest, Ann Hutchinson. Choreographics: A Comparison of Dance Notation Systems from the
- Gorsky, Alexander. Two Essays on Stepanov Dance Notation (Translated from Russian into English by Roland John Wiley). New York 1978.
- Stepanov, Vladimir Ivanovich. Alphabet of Movements of the Human Body (Translated from French into English by Raymond Lister, 1892). Cambridge 1958.