You be the judge. . .

Philosophical Problems of Dance Criticism

by Julie Charlotte Van Camp (Ph.D. Dissertation, 1981)

Off the Ground: First Steps to a Philosophical Consideration of the Dance

by Francis Sparshott (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988)

A Measured Pace: Toward a Philosophical Understanding of the Arts of Dance

by Francis Sparshott (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995)


Off the Ground: First Steps to a Philosophical Consideration of the Dance, by Francis Sparshott (1988) Philosophical Problems of Dance Criticism, by Julie Van Camp (1981)
Metatheory: On the Philosophy of Dance

Ch. 1. Why the Aesthetics of Dance Has Been Neglected

Ch. 2. Dance as Metaphor: World as Dance

Ch. 3. Contexts for Dance Theory

Ch. 1. Introduction: Philosophy and Dance Criticism

A. Philosophical Work on Dance: Why So Little Has Been Done

B. Philosophical Problems of Dance Criticism

Theory: On Dance

Ch. 4. Some Dimensions of Dance Meaning

Ch. 5. On What Is and What Is Not Dance

[including Necessary and Sufficient Conditions]

Ch. 6. On What Is and What Is Not the Art of Dance

Ch. 7. Dance and Its Neighbors

[Dance and Labor, Ritual, Disciplines of Meditation, Sport, Athletics, Parades and Spectacles, Theater and Drama]

Ch. 8. What Dance Is

Ch. 9. Conclusion

Ch. II. The Definition of "Dance"

A. Necessary and Sufficient Conditions

B. Distinguishing Dance from Other Human Phenomena [gymnastics, acrobatics, figure skating, circus, Broadway shows, religious ritual]

C. Distinguishing Dance from Other Performing Arts

[opera, theater, mime]

A Measured Pace, By Francis Sparshott (1995)
Part One: Kinds of Dance

2. The Problem of Classification

3. Classification by Context

4. Mimesis

5. Expression

6. Formal Principles of Movement

7. Anatomy

8. Units and Systems

9. Rhythm

10. One and Many

11. Modes of Dance Organization

Part Two: Dance and Related Fields

12. Dance and Music

13. Dance and Language

14. Dance and Theatre

C. Distinguishing Dance from Other Performing Arts

[opera, theater, mime]

Ch. III. The Multiple Media of Dance

A. The Media of Dance

B. Evaluation of the Mixed Media of Dance

Part Three: Aspects of Dance

15. Dance Values

16. Dance and Spectator

17. Learning to Dance

18. Dance and Choreography

19. The Identity of a Dance

20. Recording Dance

21. Conclusion

Ch. IV. The Identity of Works of Art in Dance

A. Actual Practices in Establishing Identity of Dance Works

B. Philosophical Theories of Identity in Dance

C. The Lay Observer Test of Substantial Similarity in Copyright Infringement

Ch. V .The Proper Object of Criticism, Skills, and Production Factors

A. Evaluation of the Creative and Interpretive Aspects of Dance performances

B. Production Factors and the Evaluation of Performances

A Measured Pace, Francis Sparshott (1995) Philosophical Problems of Dance Criticism, Julie Van Camp (1981)

All references are to this dissertation, unless noted specifically following the quotation


This is the second of two books on a somewhat neglected topic: the philosophy of the art of dance. Their purpose is not to present a general theory of dance, or to recommend a specific philosophical approach to it, but to indicate the general character of the topic -- and, incidentally, to explain why it has been neglected. (p. xv) Aestheticians have typically ignored the problems of dance criticism, or given them only the most cursory treatment . . . As the philosophy of dance criticism is largely undeveloped, it would be premature to attempt a comprehensive theory here. (p. 1) "Philosophical Work on Dance: Why So Little Has Been Done" (p. 2)
The salient themes of this enquiry do not suffice to ground any general conclusion. My endeavours, though as much philosophical as they are anything, and intended to exemplify a way of philosophizing, have after all been merely propaedeutic to a philosophy of dance. I have assembled and discussed problems and considerations which, in my view, philosophers of dance should be cognizant of, if they are not to risk going astray by sheer inadvertence. (p. 454) "Conclusion": Numerous questions have not been addressed here . Hopefully, however, the need has been demonstrated for a re-orientation of philosophical work on dance to accurately reflect and explain the character of the artform itself, first and foremost. (p. 261)
My concern with the philosophy of dance arose from my being rebuked for saying so little about dance in my general works. Reflecting on the justice of this rebuke soon led me to the realization that dance as a fine art is anomalous and that my major task would be to deal with this anomaly. (p. xvi) This dissertation identifies several of these philosophical problems concerning the object of criticism in dance, many suggested or implied, although not always systematically examined, by aestheticians . . . . They are important problems, in part because they involve special characteristics of dance not shared by such major artforms as painting, music, and theater, and thus are less likely to have been addressed adequately by aesthetic theories explaining other artforms. (p. 2)

The philosophical issues of dance addressed in this dissertation concern the object of criticism and are basic to further philosophical analysis, especially because they involve unusual features of dance which might render philosophical work regarding other artforms suspect or less than obviously valid when applied to dance. (p. 10)

[Philosophers] try to deepen their understanding of things as they are. So the philosophy of dance consists basically of attempts to make sense of dance -- to explain how dancing is something it makes sense to do, or why it does not. (p. 3) . . . philosophical analysis must explain the artform as it is actually practiced, appreciated, and evaluated. Consistency with philosophical theories regarding other artforms is important, but less so than explanatory adequacy. (p. 12)


What kinds of dance are there? Debates about the right way, the best way, the only way to dance presuppose agreement about what the relevant ways of dancing are, among which choice is possible. (p. 7) The development of definitions has also been an important part of the reasoning in dance criticism. They are offered not merely as descriptions of what dance is, but of what dance and dance performances ought to be. (p. 11)

A third reason for defining "dance" is that it lays important groundwork for specifying what critics are, or should be, evaluating. (pp. 20-21)

Understanding the phenomenon of dance from a descriptive perspective should assist in those normative inquiries, especially for an artform about which so little is understood. (p. 21)

A fourth reason why definitions of dance are of philosophical interest is that in much extant writing on dance, "mere" definition is really a statement of normative critical principles. . . (p. 21)

By what standards and values are dancing and dances to be judged? What makes them good or bad? . . .To explain the values that govern a practice, then, all one has to do, and all one can do, is give a good description of the practice itself. (p. 301) What is the work that is the object of criticism? How do critics evaluate what is shown in a dance program with regard to the work claimed to be shown? . . . In addressing these questions, philosophical analysis must explain the art form as it is actually practiced, appreciated, and evaluated. (p. 12)

The bedrock principle applied throughout in this dissertation is that philosophical problems must be addressed in terms of the artform as it is actually practiced, appreciated, and evaluated. (p. 257)

. . . some true dances are impure, combining (and contaminating or compromising) the values of dance with extraneous values: showmanship, spectacle, narrative, music, or whatever it may be. Pure dances, however rare and however unpopular, have a special place in the hearts and minds of true lovers of dance. Third (the converse of the second, in effect), some dances puristically confine themselves to what dance alone can achieve. But such dances do not attain the full richness of dance as we know and love it, in which an engrossing and affecting story, brilliantly danced, is embellished with sumptuous costumes, dramatic lighting, and spectacular athleticism. It is by the range and splendour of such opulent shows that the full potentialities of dance are revealed and it is against them that niggardly dance forms are to be judged. (p. 45) Aestheticians are most experienced with the pure, single medium artforms, both in theory and in appreciation. . . . philosophical problems must be addressed in terms of the artform as it is actually practiced, appreciated, and evaluated. Thus, in considering definitions of dance, it is essential to recognize the considerable range of phenomena within the artform, over an historical period of several centuries and also with regard to current diversity in dance. The essential roles for music and also drama, expression of emotion, costumes, scenery, and lighting must be recognized in addition to the obvious role of movement. The emergence of dance in the twentieth-century as an autonomous artform, distinct from the theater, is also significant. (p. 257)
Not all art forms contribute to the development of the possibilities of their art. Dance that widens the horizons of dance has a privileged position at the cutting edge of the art. (p. 46) The former view can be criticized for misplaced emphasis on the dramatic element, at the expense of exploring the full potential of human movement in the independent artform of dance. (p. 135)

. . . the key factors are the extent to which human movement is central in the performance, the full potential of that movement is developed, and dance is recognized as an independent artform. (p. 136)

The more comprehensively a movement phenomenon addresses the complexity and universality of the human condition, both mental and physical, the more nearly is it an artform. (p. 66)

One fundamental principle according to which critical trends have evolved is that dance uses, above all, human movement, and thus, that anything which lessens the potential of that movement, or is used as a crutch to develop that potential, detracts from the value of the performance. (p. 77-78)

Generally, critics who approve of such physical assistance [as toe shoes or wires] usually claim it enhances the artistic or dramatic potential of dance, while critics who disapprove often claim such measures reduce dance to athletics. (pp. 234-235)


Sparshott Van Camp
. . . it is the activity of the choreographer rather than that of the dancers that is at the centre of dancing as nowadays considered to be among the fine arts. (p. 8) While critics of previous centuries emphasized such performing aspects as displays by the dancers of dramatic ability and technical virtuosity, to the neglect of the creative aspects, the twentieth century has seen an increasing emphasis on creative aspects, especially the quality of the choreography itself. (p. 229)

Interest in choreography per se has also increased steadily in classical ballet, due in part to the choreographic genius of Fokine, Balanchine, and others. Critics and audiences now view the choreography itself with great interest, even when not particularly well-performed. Some difference in emphasis remains. Balanchine's New York city Ballet emphasizes choreography above everything, while others, such as American Ballet Theatre, stress the performing ability of individual dancers. Still, choreography is of overwhelming interest today in dance, especially in contrast with music and opera, where interest is mainly with the performing aspects. (p. 230)

Dances may be classified extrinsically, by the contexts they are referred to, or intrinsically, by the kinds of movement that make them up and the ways those movements are put together. This contrast between the contextual and the inherent is straightforward, but not so sharp as it sounds. Contexts are imputed rather than observed -- they are not merely what happens to be in the neighbourhood, but what there is in the surrounds that we find it meaningful to relate things to. (p. 61) When I perceive an artwork, whether to appreciate it or to evaluate it, I often have no knowledge of the artist's acts of "christening" or of some theorist's subsuming of the object under a theory or of the artist's activities. I might make inferences about those things by the fact that the work has ended up in a situation in which I can raise the question of whether this is a work of art, but I cannot and need not be certain about those things. What is important in my appreciation and evaluation is what activities, theories, and criteria for evaluation I can bring to the work. (p. 38).


Sparshott Van Camp
I have been writing as though the music came first and the dance then took up a relation to it. This is not always the case. (p. 224)

The dance may come first and the music follow on, or both may be worked out together. The relationships are probably symmetrical. If a dance can be danced in any named relationship to a music piece, it seems likely that a musical piece could be composed or performed in the same named relation to a dance. . . . I see no reason why the differences should be of any great interest. (p. 224)

. . . although choreographers now usually use music previously and independently composed, this was not always the case. (p. 239)

Tchaikovsky's music for the ballets of Marius Petipa . . . was written after the choreography had been completed . . . . George Balanchine used this method . . . although he is most noted for choreography using previously-written music. (p. 239). . . Beaumont. . . accepts without question the composition of music either before or after the choreography is created. . . . Critics today rarely discuss and do not seem very interested in the manner in which music was composed. (p. 240)

Dance without music is not only possible but quite common. In such dances, however, at least in our public theatre practice, the absence of music is not merely incidental, but pointed; it tends to strike us as artificial or uncanny. . . either one feels that the dance really has music . . . but it is being suppressed, or, if we are persuaded that there really is no music for the dance, it is as if it were being danced instead to an inherently inaudible music, like the music of the spheres. (p. 218) Every dance either includes music or auditory images (percussion or other rhythmic noises), or uses clearly developed rhythms in the movement, exploiting the audience's familiarity with music in other works. The vast majority of dances centrally use music, and the handful of experimental works which do not themselves audibly use music can be included as examples of dance because of this parasitic or dependent role. Works which have no such relationship to music (its presence or its rhythm) do not count as dance. (p. 121)
How can dance fit music, since the ways they are put together are so different? . . . the deep answer to how dance and music can fit together, in the end, is that both are profound exercises of the integrating powers of the nervous system. But it is not an interesting answer, since it is only through such exercises that the powers in question are accessible. The conundrum of relating a dance intelligibly to its music is like the more familiar one about how words and music are related in a song. . . We are left wondering why the two things fit together as well as they do. (pp. 226-7)

If you are a real choreographer, someone who makes dances as other artists make things in their own arts, then, if you make a dance that seems to you (as a dance-maker) in your best judgment right for the music you are setting it to, it is bound to have a rightness, the rightness you with your trained experience and sharpened sensitivity see and feel in it. (pp. 228-9)

Both in theory and in critical practice, there is thus considerable disagreement over what constitutes "appropriateness." Even if there is agreement on synonyms for "appropriateness" ("unity," "consistency," "balance"), applications of that understanding vary widely, as critics disagree about which phenomena warrant those characterizations. This problem, true of all artforms, is especially apparent in a multi-media one. (pp. 128-9)

The standard of "appropriateness" between the media, and the use of different standards resulting in different overall judgments thus also has a special importance in view of the multi-media character of dance. (p. 259


Sparshott Van Camp
. . . the operatic and balletic substitutes for 'acting' are quite different from each other. In a sense, the dancers never stop dancing, even when miming; but the opera performers may stop singing altogether. Opera performers tend to be motionless (or nearly so) in formal passages, while in the narrative episodes they fall into a quasi-acting that might be taken for (may even be) inept hamming. (p. 276) The standards for evaluating those elements differ in opera and ballet. Opera audiences are not as concerned with stilted acting and miming as with singing ability, but dance audiences consider acting ability absolutely essential for a first-rank dancer. (p. 71)


Sparshott Van Camp
The choreographed component may constitute what could be a satisfactory work on its own; but so may the costumes, or the sculpted scenery, or the music. (p. 284) . . . others, such as the lavishly decorated costumes for The Firebird, are (speaking colloquially) works of art in themselves and constitute a visual dimension quite distinct from the perception of the human movement. Some scenery, especially by such artists as Picasso and Chagall, constitutes a separate artistic medium presented on the same stage and as part of the same performance with the movement and music. These are characterized as secondary media, because an instance of dance could exist without them. . . . (p. 122)
. . . We do not have to choose among oversimplifications. In any complex presentation, it is as proper and easy to consider elements and aspects in isolation as to consider them in interaction, to consider totalities as wholes as to consider them as ensembles, to distinguish artistic failures from mechanical failures as to consider the overall effect. (p. 284) It is not the case that the contributions of individual media should "stand on their own" as separate works of art. It is also not the case, however, that the components must constitute an absolute fusion of those parts, for they can be and are separately identified, analyzed, and compared. (p. 123)

Even though a dance performance is, in a sense, a "whole" or "unity," it consists of distinct perceptual phenomena appealing to several senses. It is difficult to specify the unity of a given performance, without reference to the component parts and thus without drawing a conclusion about the value of the very component in question. (P. 126)

As several media are involved in dance, analysis of only one of those media does not completely explain dance, nor do analyses of single-medium or pure artforms necessarily explain the mixed or impure artform of dance without distortion of either the theory of the artform. (p. 103)

What to emphasize and what to omit, what to combine and what to separate -- it is in finding specific solutions to these questions that critics show their skill and audiences show their fitness. (p. 284) Problems will then be considered which arise for the critic and the philosopher of criticism from this multi-media character of dance. Evaluation of the individual media in a given performance need not necessarily be the same as if each medium were evaluated separately in the context of the artform using only that medium. (p. 103)
Such questions are always difficult, and always worth discussing, not because there are rules for giving right answers but because there are none. (p. 284) The multiplicity of media makes dance more difficult to understand, but there is nothing inferior about complexity, other things being unequal. My proposal, although not as neat and simple as competitors, seems more suited to understanding dance as it is actually created and performed, the ultimate test of the adequacy of any theory. (p. 123)


Sparshott Van Camp
What, in general, is criticism? . . . the idea is that the critic starts from a description of what is done, then provides an explanation and interpretation that shows how that description supports an evaluation with which the critic concludes. . . And how is the initial description arrived at? Is a description ever anything other than the justification offered for an interpretation? (p. 337)

. . . critics fulfil the needed function of intermediary. They tell us about the tradition a work belongs to, about the ideologies that go with the tradition, how it relates to other traditions. They tell us what to look for, so that we can see the design in the work and discern the relation between work and performance. They tell us how a work relates to its own tradition, exemplifying, advancing, or denying. They may discern for us what in the work is part of the design, what is unconsciously betrayed as subtext, what is accident; they may tell us things about the background which explain how it came to be the way it is. All of these things do help. They help us to appreciate the work as we experience it. (p. 339)

But criticism is not a neutral description of events. Critics make choices about which works to describe and discuss and the properties on which they focus. Thus the weight given to their assessments must take into account the situation and perspective of the writer. (essay-review of Denby, Croce, Siegel, DRJ 24/2, Fall 1992, p. 41)

There are three main elements in good criticism. First, the work must be described. This provides a common experience for all readers, whether or not they have seen the work. . . . Second, good criticism should put a work into context. This includes both historic and stylistic contexts, . . . the purpose of this contextual analysis is to help educate the audience. It should learn how a work fits into the broad landscape of dance in its many varieties in order to better appreciate it. Performances do not exist in isolation, but emerge from a long history of many genres. The well-informed critic should be able to make these categorizations easily. The contextual analysis also provides a basis for evaluation of the work . . . Third, and by far the most difficult aspect of criticism, is the evaluation or judgment of a work. . . . An evaluation builds upon the elements of description and context . . . ("The Humanities and Dance Criticism," Federation Review 9/1, 1986, p. 15-16)

Critics try to help that audience focus on things worth thinking about in dance. The critic should crystallize gut reactions and intuitions that audience members form about a performance. The critic should educate an audience about what to look at and provide a historic and stylistic context enhancing the appreciation and understanding of a particular performance. ("The Humanities and Dance Criticism," Federation Review 9/1, 1986, p. 15)

Like other masters of her craft, Croce uses words to capture a sense of what it was like to be in the audience. She places works within an historical and social context -- their relationship to earlier works in similar genres, the influences of other art forms, the expression of generational attitudes. (essay-review of Denby, Croce, Siegel, DRJ 24/2, Fall 1992, p. 42)

Criticism also provides an historical and social

Criticism is not a discipline. There is no tradition or skill of criticism in which one could be trained, no accrediting body for dance critics; in fact, one cannot conceive how such an accrediting body could gain authority. (p. 338) Dance history is more advanced as a discipline than dance criticism in that it enjoys an increasingly refined methodology, an expanding body of literature, and a growing number of scholars with advanced academic training. . . . things are not so promising for dance criticism. There is little formal training in dance criticism. . . . ("The Humanities and Dance Criticism," Federation Review 9/1, 1986, p. 14)
. . . dance criticism can indeed be contrasted with other sorts of writing. Criticism is not sociology, is not history, is not theory; reviewing is or is not really criticism, depending on context. But none of these contrasts can be detached from particular contexts: almost all critics will on occasion do biography, or history, or sociology, or aesthetics, or ethics, as part of their criticism. (p. 338) The humanities . . . include the history, theory, and criticism of the arts. . . . Admittedly, the line is sometimes difficult to draw precisely, but generally the humanities center on verbal analysis of the phenomenon of art, using the methodology and content of various humanities disciplines, such as history and philosophy. . . . the line between "reviews" and "criticism" is difficult to draw for any art form. Much of the evaluation published in newspapers and magazines . . . is criticism in the best sense. ("The Humanities and Dance Criticism," Federation Review 9/1, 1986, p. 14)
Within institutionalized criticism, there is a variety of functions. Some critics keep up with all the latest happenings in the newest studios. Some confine themselves to one tradition and demonstrate the appreciation of its finest points. Some -- the reviewers -- act as truffle hounds, discerning which of all the stuff on offer will most or least repay the public's scanty supply of available attention and purchasing power. (p. 339) The "reviews" are familiar nowadays from the proliferation of all-purpose local television critics. Many offer only a gut reaction, cute banter, and seemingly arbitrary emotings of their own eccentric tastes, without the reasoning and analysis found in good criticism. ("The Humanities and Dance Criticism," Federation Review 9/1, 1986, p. 15)
The best critics are good writers -- they have to be, for their task demands large resources of observation and language. They create imaginative experiences in powerful and evocative words. Sometimes their creative power detracts from their usefulness as intermediaries, but not often, because it is the sharpness of their vision and the depth of their love, without which they would not have become critics, that lend their language power. (p. 340) The first qualification of a good dance critic is the ability to write well. The critic must be able to communicate clearly and succinctly, to adapt to the particular readership of the publication . . . . a broad educational background that gives one a cultural understanding that gives one a cultural understanding that can be brought to bear on particular dance performances is also important. This might be training in history, philosophy, or literature generally, especially since degree programs in dance criticism are virtually nonexistent. "The Humanities and Dance Criticism," Federation Review 9/1, 1986, p. 15)
Like those of literary critics, the writings of dance critics are freely read by people unacquainted with the works criticized. With literary criticism, one can perhaps propose or pretend that some day one may read the books; but the performances are gone for ever. Why do so many people find it worth while to read the collected critiques of a Denby, a Jowitt, a Siegel? (p. 340) Dance criticism is often enjoyed by the reader who never has and never will personally experience the work as an audience member. This interest in criticism of a work, sans an experience of the work itself, is the subject of outrage and controversy in literary circles, yet in dance it is an obvious necessity. (essay-review of Denby, Croce, Siegel, DRJ 24/2, Fall 1992, p. 41)


Sparshott Van Camp
Dancers are beset by perils and promises of age, fatigue, injury, illness, enthusiasm, inspiration, dejection, and luck; occasions are beset by good and bad audiences, resilient or slippery floors, efficient or inadequate or ill-times lighting, goodness knows what accidents of costuming; and the choreography of a dance is hedged around with a haze of expedients, emergencies, fallbacks, and options, as well as stylistic alternatives that the necessary variability of human affairs dictates. A choreographer can seldom be sure that the dance will always be danced by the same dancer (injuries cannot always lead to cancellations) and can never be sure just what the conditions of the dancers or the circumstances of the performance will be; whether consciously or not, every choreography must have variability built in. To know what 'the same again' will be in a dance, we must have the same sort of sense that the choreographer had of the ideals of repeatability and the limits of variability. (p. 398) Several kinds of production factors, with different importance to critical evaluation, can be distinguished. Physical performance factors are not directly perceivable in a performance, but help or hinder the ordinary physical capabilities of a normal human being. Examples are a springy floor that enables a dancer to jump higher and perform more effectively than he would otherwise be able to, toe shoes that enable a dancer to accomplish movements and positions she would not be able to achieve without such shoes, and invisible wires and off-stage catapults that once were used to enable dancers to achieve higher and more sustained elevation than otherwise possible. Physical injury and old age are physical performance factors which diminish ordinary physical capabilities. (p. 231)

The difficulty results from the dance world's tolerance of considerable variation from the original choreographic design, the lack of completely standardized dance vocabularies, and the blurred "division of labor" or responsibility between creation and interpretation. Especially because human physical limitations and variations are uniquely important to dance among the arts, it is often acceptable for dancers to show off individual strengths by substituting different movements or adding major variations on the original materials, or for an injured dancer to simplify the choreography to perform even a semblance of it. Aspects usually regarded as interpretive (a certain turn of the head, facial expression, or phrasing of the arms) could (p. 220) have been planned by the choreographer or an unseen coach.

Another physical performance factor is the nature and quality of the stage. An untreated oak floor with a bit of spring is a favorite of dancers, and is an important form of physical assistance, while slippery, hard surfaces can present serious problems. (p. 235)

I have introduced the term 'performance' in a special sense, to mean what is done by the agent of an action in the doing of that very thing. . . Such a performance is the proper object of criticism. When critics of art or literature criticize something, they implicitly single out from all other phenomena a set of answers to a single possible intention, which, for purposes of their criticism, they take to be that which the criticized performers achieved or failed to achieve. All other actions and happenings, including irrelevant actions of the persons performing, are deemed extraneous, to be taken into account, if at all, only as disturbing or concealing or accidentally enhancing factors. (p. 399) CHAPTER V. THE PROPER OBJECT OF CRITICISM, SKILLS, AND PRODUCTION FACTORS. Dance critics often use information external to a performance to identify and separately evaluate the creative aspects of dance (composition of music and choreography; design of scenery and costumes) and interpretive aspects (performances by dancers and musicians; execution of scenery and costume designs). Their evaluation may also take into account production factors not directly perceivable in a performance, including the type of floor, rehearsal time, illness, and injury. These critical practices are problematic for an anti-geneticist theory of aesthetic value, the best-known of which is Monroe Beardsley's. (p. 219)

Beardsley's view that perceptibility is a necessary though not sufficient condition for specifying the aesthetic object, the project object of criticism, eliminates much of the information needed to make these distinctions (p. 225)


Sparshott Van Camp
Granted that many dance-makers do think of their creations as meaningful in this sort of way, can the meanings be made obtrusively visible, with the metaphors evidently carrying reference to such meanings, or do the audience have to read the dance-maker's manifesto in a programme note? And sup (p. P. 95) pose we do have to read the manifesto, will the alleged meaning be one that we have to take on faith or one that we can see when it is pointed out to us but would effectively have appreciated the dance just as well without. . . .? (p. 96)

The contemporary dance groups that visit my town often insert in their programmes statements about the deep human or cosmic meaning of their work. The statements are invariably jejune and banal, but the dances are often brilliant and original. One wants to say, 'Shut up and dance!' (p. 477 n. 15)

A third type [of production factor] is quasi-performance factors, which are not perceivable on stage by the audience, but are perceivable in some manner by that audience during the time of the performance, such as program notes, the decor of the theater, and the clothing worn by the orchestra. (p. 232)

Among quasi-performance factors, the third category, the program notes typically provided at dance performances are of most interest. As program notes are such a well-established practice, and since the audience is expected to read them prior to the performance on stage, it could be argued that they are an integral part of the performance itself, and thus relevant to the overall assessment of the performance. Most critics do not subscribe to this extreme (p. 240) view, but they occasionally refer to program notes, for additional justification of a negative assessment of a performance. Critics also use program notes as a source of information about a choreographer's aspirations, especially when they do not seem to have been met. These limited uses can best be understood as ways of assessing a choreographer's skill at realizing his ambitions, but not for evaluating the performance itself. References to program notes are infrequent, perhaps because the printed word seems so clearly a crutch for explaining or making sense of the performance on stage, instead of a legitimate way of enhancing its quality. (p. 241)

Clive Barnes seems to argue, in a generally favorable review of John Neumeier's Trilogy, that the program notes detract from the overall quality of the ballet. . . . (p. 255, n. 54)

[examples quoted from Anna Kisselgoff, Clive Barnes, and Jack Anderson]. . . In each of these examples, it seems that the criticism of the ballet rests solely on the inadequacies of the perceivable performance; the program notes provided confirmation that a goal was not met, but they were not themselves used as evidence justifying the assessment of the value of the perceivable performances. (p. 255, n. 55)

An example of a choreographer who has recognized this distinction is Judith Snyder Jaffe who, writing under the supervision of Rudolf Arnheim, said: "The audience should be able to understand the dance without realizing what I was specifically thinking of."


Sparshott Van Camp
At the other extreme are the actual dances as danced by the dancers. Between these two lies the domain of choreography, the specification of what movements or actions shall flesh out the scenario and be danced by the dancers. It is not necessary that these three functions shall be performed by three separate groups of people. Nor are the three functions sharply distinguished from each other, either in theory or in practice, except that only the dancers at the moment of performance can actually perform the dance, and what they actually do is neither scenario nor choreography but dance. (p. 373)

On this basis the creative choreographer devises the dances, specifying (or completing the specification of) what is to be danced. The essential specification, as given to the dancers, may be a demand for movements of a certain scale and character; may specify steps or expression (or both); may call for movements of a certain formal sort; or may call for danced actions (on the part of the dancer, or on the part of the character whom the dancer is dancing . . .). (p. 374)

In whatever form and at whatever level of specificity the instructions are given, the dancers will have to supply any missing parts or specifications -- expressive character, stylistic shape, formal realization, mimetic significance -- in the light of the scenario, or in the light of the known stylistic parameters shared by those engaged in the enterprise as participants or as public. In whatever system of choices prevails, each dancer has at every moment to do something definite, if only default, because choice and failure to choose will alike be construed as choice within the actual dance context. (p. 374)

And in ballet, as in other dance styles, choreographies may be tight, specifying every least movement, or loose, allowing much leeway in details, or quite open, leaving extensive areas open to the decision of the dancer, or even in places randomizing; and this may be just a matter of how the choreographer happens to go about things, or it may answer to deeply thought ideas about the choreographic process itself. A choreography may permit, or may require, ornamentation; may permit, or require, variation; may permit, or require

Aspects usually regarded as interpretive (a certain turn of the head, facial expression, or phrasing of the arms) could have been planned by the choreographer or an unseen coach. A critic very familiar with the choreography for a certain dance will recognize these changes, but might still be uncertain who to credit, the choreographer, the dancer, or coach. (pp. 220-221)

The choreographer can provide more or less of the design details through individual coaching. Every dancer necessarily "creates" when he adds details not designed in advance by the choreographer. (p. 223)

No system of notation or fixation can record every movement of every muscle, so the dancer must supply remaining details (whether from conscious deliberation or the reflex of previous training) to perform the design at all. Even if the choreographer does not indicate placement of the head or the fingers or the mouth, the dancer must choose their placement consciously or unreflectively. When a dancer substitutes his own complete movement design for a certain passage instead of just adding details to the choreographer's design, the dancer is even more clearly creating as the creator of the movement, though this still misleadingly might be considered interpretation. (p. 223)

. . . the criteria for distinguishing between "creative" and "interpretive" aspects are not clear. Creative aspects might be defined as designs in advance of performance by someone other than the performer, while interpretive aspects are contributions by the performer during performance, but this distinction is unsatisfactory. Facial expressions, for example, are usually contributed by the dancers and considered "interpretation," but they might in fact be planned by choreographer (or the dancer or his coach) in advance of his performance. Changes in the original movement designs could have been planned by a (p. 222) choreographer or the dancer in advance of performance or could be changed spontaneous because of an emergency during performance. A critic who recognizes the changes might still be uncertain who to credit -- the choreographer, the dancer, or the coach. (p. 223)More fundamentally, the criteria for distinguishing between "creative" and


Sparshott Van Camp
The other evening, I saw a dancer support himself momentarily by an outthrust hand. The gesture was in keeping with the choreography, but I supposed he had landed a bit off centre and was restoring his balance. A few minutes later the same movement was repeated without the outthrust hand, and I was reasonably sure. But, of course, I was not quite sure; I would have been quite sure if I had come back another night and seen him to do it without the outthrust hand, or if I had been a more expert dance-viewer and had known for certain that a choreographer of that competence would never invent a move like that. (p. 529 n. 3) [NO citation is given of time, place, work, performer, or choreographer] A performance of a standardized movement, such as a series of multiple pirouettes, can be compared with what the critic knows such a movement should look like. But a choreographer may alter that standard movement by having the dancer perform it off center with a strange finish, as Twyla Tharp did in Mikhail Baryshnikov's solos in Push comes to Shove; a critic would not know solely from the performance whether this movement was designed by Tharp or was an intentional embellishment or an unintentional mistake in performance by Baryshnikov. The conclusion that it was planned by Tharp uses external knowledge about Baryshnikov's skill as a performer, Tharp's style of choreography and the difficulty of performing the unusual movement (and thus the unlikelihood of its unintentional performance). (p. 22)


Sparshott Van Camp
. . . what is it that the choreographer creates? What are the identity conditions of dances? -- a perennially debated topic, in practical application as well as in theory, in all performance arts. (p. 9) How is the identity of a work of art in dance established? What is the work that is the object of criticism? (p. 12)

Another metaphysical issue is the identity of a dance. . . What are the criteria by which such an identification is made? . . . What aspects of a ballet simply cannot be changed without changing its identity as Ballet X? (p. 8)

If some one system of dance notation became canonical, dance would still not be a notational art unless the notated score became the sole authority for what did and what did not constitute a performance of the dance in question, which would mean substituting the score's analysis for the system of steps through which dances are learned, remembered, and taught. Within a dance tradition, a sequence is typically described by a series of names of positions and steps plus spatial and dancer-to-dancer orientations, together with descriptions or reminders ('then three of those') of such movements and positions as are not named in the system. (pp. 139-140) Notation plays an important, but not the only, role in establishing identity. It provides a standard against which acceptable variations can be assessed. It reflects growing standardization in dance with regard to characterizing movements, although the standard for an entire work consists of both a notation (either actual or constructable) against which deviations can be assessed following ordinary observer guidelines. (p. 190)

. . . the classical ballet vocabulary of standardized movements, with specific verbal descriptions (e.g., demi-plie in first position) existed long before contemporary notational systems were developed. (p. 158)

. . . the ways in which dance is recorded, ways that have been rapidly and decisively changing in recent decades, promise or threaten to change our understanding of what constitutes sameness and differences of dances. . . . (p. 299) The issues remaining are, first, what annotation or fixation is necessary to establish identity, in view of the unusual characteristics and recently-changed circumstances of dance, and second, how much and what sort of compliance with those notations, fixations, or other standards is needed to constitute identity of a work in practice. (p. 170)
And that leads us, finally, to the question of how whatever is created is recorded and preserved, and how different ways of doing that may alter our ideas about what it is that is preserved. (p. 9) The issues remaining are, first, what notation or fixation is necessary to establish identity, in view of the unusual characteristics and recently-changed circumstances of dances, and second, how much and what sort of compliance with those notations, fixations, or other standards is needed to constitute identity of a work in practice. (p. 170)
Dance traditions vary greatly in their tolerance of novel, unnamed, and unrepeated elements. The fact that all or almost all ways of dancing that consist of discrete elements dispose of a repertoire of standard movement elements ('steps') related to each other in standard ways does not mean that such dances can be completely analysed into those steps. They may, or they may not. (pp. 139-140) In sharp contrast [to the nineteenth-century "story-ballets"] are works choreographed by George Balanchine of the new York city Ballet, especially his neoclassical works which embody music in choreography. The music is performed to meticulously follow the original composition by the composer, even in tempo. The original choreography by Balanchine is adhered to precisely, both specific movements and interpretive aspects designed by Balanchine. (p. 151) Balanchine ballets are the extreme case, but other contemporary or recent choreographic masterpieces receive similar deference. (p. 152)

More common among avant-garde choreographers is the use of non-formalized movements, in the sense of both "everyday" movements and random movements. Many depart from established dance vocabularies to explore the simplest of ordinary movements, such as walking, skipping, and running. Although traditional ballets sometimes incorporate a few "everyday" movements into the formalized, ballet vocabulary, they are usually still stylized and exaggerated. Avant-garde experiments use such everyday movements exclusively and without stylization. (pp. 30-31)

This two-pronged proposal explains why, although both Giselle and a Balanchine ballet can be notated, the variation tolerated from those notations is so different. The acceptable variation is a reflection of different ordinary observer guidelines. The guidelines for nineteenth-century classics emphasize consistency with dramatic mood and plot with great tolerance for variations in steps. Those for a work by Balanchine emphasize close adherence to the notated steps. There is a trend toward the latter, reflecting growing interest in the creative aspects of choreographic designs as opposed to the interpretive aspects of individual performers. But many of these genres still co-exist in dance, with different identity standards. (pp. 190-191)

There is seldom a score, and if there is it may not be used. Not all dancers can read notation, and of course one cannot read a dance at sight and dance it as one reads . . . (p. 379) But only a handful of people can actually read existing notational systems, and, because of their extreme complexity, this is not likely to change. (p. 158)
In short, what a composer typically works on is the score, which, together with its copies, will be the score for all performances. What a choreographer typically works on is the prime instance of the dance itself. (p. 379) . . . the version approved by the choreographer has a better claim to being considered the prime notation, . . . this is generally the case, as with ballets by Balanchine. (p. 156)

. . . in practice they [prime instances] serve as important "devices for controlling the enumeration of tokens for a given megatype." (p. 157)

A group dance can be developed out of a solo, and other such transformations are possible; but I suspect that the new dance would not be considered identical with the old. (P. 381) Choreography for more than one person could provide grounds for a finding of substantial similarity. An ensemble might perform the same combination of steps (perhaps not unusual in themselves, or in combination), but at different times, to create a striking visual pattern of movement. Analysis of a movement design should not focus only on each dancer in isolation, anymore than a symphonic musical work should be considered only one instrument at a time. (p. 180)
Because dances regularly begin as tailored to a specific set of dancers, it is quite usual, when a dance is revived, for the choreography to be adapted to the new bodies and spaces. No one thinks anything of it, unless the revival is done with antiquarian rather than artistic intent. (P. 381) Notation reconstructor Rochelle Zide-Booth . . . treats sanguinely alterations in steps if beyond the capacity of the dancers. The aspect which must be preserved is the "quality" of the work, she says, which is not a matter of strict adherence to notation. She also distinguishes works "which must be reconstructed as closely as possible to their original productions in order to be valid, and . . . those which need some changes in order to make them acceptable to today's audiences," including full-length classics from previous centuries. (p. 153)

Only Balanchine himself alters the choreography, something he often does to tailor roles to specific dancers. (pp. 151-152)

This dual test of identity accommodates a built-in limit on absolute identity in dance, namely, the nonuniformity of the human instrument in the artform. It also accommodates the numerous variations possible because the many media in dance can be combined with different emphasis on particular media in different dance genre. (p. 191)

Choreography is seldom sacrosanct in the way that (at least in some people's minds) the letter of a musical score may be. Though music history abounds with adaptations of scores, cuts, and re-orchestrations, these are felt to be aberrant in a way that much more radical changes in choreography are not. In both cases, of course, actual audiences seldom know, and are even more seldom told; but among those who are conversant with what is being done, I think the prevailing attitudes do show this difference. (p. 381)

But in choreography things are often changed without too much regard for the original detail, even if anyone can quite recall what it was, because that detail is felt to be appropriate to the original company rather than to a timeless entity, the repeatable dance. It follows that the conditions of identity of a particular named dance are not strict in the way that obtains in music, a matter to which we return in the next chapter. (p. 382)

The dance world tolerates astonishing variation in the performance of dance works without loss of identity. . . . Audiences, critics, and artists like usually find such practices quite acceptable, in sharp contrast with the unthinkability of major (intentional) changes in, say, the score for Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. (p. 149)

The difficulty results from the dance world's tolerance of considerable variation from the original choreographic design, the lack of completely standardized dance vocabularies, and the blurred "division of labor" or responsibility between creation and interpretation. (p. 220)

Because of established conventions in music, a music critic who has not before heard a particular piece of music or seen the score can be reasonably certain that a musical performance is in accordance with the score . . . . In dance, it is difficult to determine exactly which movements in a performance are the design of the choreographer and which are strictly the interpretation of a particular rehearsal director, ballet master, or dancer. (p. 221)

Improvisation is the complement of composition. What the choreographer does not specify the dancer must supply. The relation, as I remarked, may be anything. In many sorts of case, the dancer makes the decisions that the choreographer does not make, so that the dance as finally performed is fully choreographed, but in collaboration between the choreographer who does no dancing and the dancer who has done some of the choreography. In other cases, the dancer leaves the complements to ad hoc decisions, made for the occasion, so that audiences on successive nights will see rather different dances, though each will in a sense be fully choreographed. But a dancer may simply leave it to the spur of the moment to do whatever comes to mind and body. (p. 392) Dance has no standard "division of labor." The choreographer can provide more or less of the design details through individual coaching. Every dancer necessarily "creates" when he adds details not designed in advance by the choreographer. No system of notation or fixation can record every movement of every muscle, so the dancer must supply remaining details (whether from conscious deliberation or the reflex of previous training) to perform the design at all. Even if the choreographer does not indicate placement of the head or the fingers or the mouth, the dancer must choose their placement consciously or unreflectively. When a dancer substitutes his own complete movement design for a certain passage instead of just adding details to the choreographer's design, the dancer is even more clearly acting as the creator of the movement, though this still misleadingly might be considered interpretation. (p. 223)
What makes Swan Lake Swan Lake is the way its unity is a recognized within a dancing, dance-making, and dance-going community that understands itself, for practical purposes, fairly well, and which has an extensive but not infinite tolerance for distortion and perversion. (p. 406)

[re: Swan Lake] After a while, a pattern in dance and music became more or less established but was still subject to unlimited alteration and variation . . . We end up with a set of strongly diagnostic features: a basic story line, certain key moments and dances for which the ballet is famous, a musical score of which some passages have become cynosures, and a problematic ending. But though these are severally and jointly very strongly diagnostic they are not, strictly, necessary and sufficient conditions of Swan Lake's being performed. Just as important is the informed intention by those putting on the dance to do that (p. 407) familiar ballet and to orientate themselves by it and not by anything alternative to it. (p. 408)

Identity practices correlate more closely with conventions for appreciating and evaluating dance, than with the availability of notation. . . .In the nineteenth century, the performances of particular dancers were more important than the choreography itself, and changes in the choreography were tolerated almost without limitation. (p. 152)

In the nineteenth century, the performances of particular dancers were more important than the choreography itself, and changes in the choreography were tolerated almost without limitation. (p. 152)

Significantly, although a notational system for music has been available for centuries, identity requirements for the music in dance vary considerably. The strict identity of the concert hall is demanded for some, while identity with only general melodic themes is acceptable for others. Plots can be written down in words, to preserve with some precision the events to be portrayed, yet faithfulness to original plots has been limited. (p. 153)

The identity of an artistic dance cannot be determined, as is standard practice in other arts, with reference to its origin. The choreography of the original production can usually not be recovered, and, in the absence of a notated score, cannot be known to be recovered. (p. 408)

The necessity of practical modification means that the original choreography, even if it be allowed authority, exists only as remembered, and individual memories are fallible. (p. 408)

And think of how little we know about the important work of the nineteenth century. Dance works have been handed down through generations of dancers, but we have nao way to check them against the originals. ("The Humanities and Dance Criticism," Federation Review 9/1, 1986, p. 17)

. . . in practice they [prime instances including definitive performances of a particular role] serve as important "devices for controlling the numeration of tokens for a given megatype," if they are retained in the memory of dancers and audiences or if the performance was recorded on film, in photographs, or verbal description (p. 157)

Identity becomes more a matter of proximity to the prime instance of the dance as done by the originating company. Reviving or reconstructing such a dance successfully must be rather like painting a portrait: the criterion of success is not the number of warts portrayed, but the acceptability of the outcome as a good likeness by those who are in the best position (by acquaintance, or by authority) to say. This contrast, however, is fading as ballet companies loosen up and contemporary companies stabilize their techniques and procedures. (p. 412)

There may be a difference between the ways dances tend to be identified in ballet and in more recently developed dance styles. In ballet, with its elaborate formal vocabulary and fixed training procedures, a choreography may approximate to a selection among a set of pre-existing possibilities. In contemporary styles, a creation is more likely to be inseparable from its dancing by a particular group, whose leader and trainer is the choreographer; in such cases, neither the system of training nor the range of available alternatives has any definite existence in advance of the generation of the particular dance. (p. 412)

Another factor that gives rise to a need for notation is a shift in emphasis in the identity of a dance work. In considering the conditions of dance identity, we noted that the criterion might lie in the scenario and the music rather than in the choreography. In the days when ballet technique was highly conventional, a ballet could be sufficiently identified by its scenario and general tenor and choreographic scheme, with only a limited number of set pieces, high points at which the precise (p. 433) sequence of steps really counted. And these set pieces, it may be thought, could easily be memorized. It is unlikely that anyone cared precisely how Giselle or even . . . Swan Lake was originally danced. The general effect, and such details as anyone might remember, would suffice. (p. 434)

[Stephen] Pepper could be claiming here that a notational scheme like musical notation could be constructed from the memories of dancers of particular works. But he could also be claiming that the memory of a dance is like the memory of a painting and is transmitted as completely as the frailty of human memory permits. (p. 154)

. . . the shift in understanding of the artform from one primarily concerned with the performances of individuals to one recognizing a collection of works performed in various ways by individuals. (p. 162)

This two-pronged proposal explains why, although both Giselle and a Balanchine ballet can be notated, the variation tolerated from those notations is so different. The acceptable variation is a reflection of different ordinary observer guidelines. The guidelines for nineteenth-century classics emphasize consistency with dramatic mood and plot with great tolerance for variations in steps. Those for a work by Balanchine emphasize close adherence to the notated steps. There is a trend toward the latter, reflecting growing interest in the creative aspects of choreographic designs as opposed to the interpretive aspects of individual performers. But many of these genres still co-exist in dance, with different identity standards. (pp. 190-191)

What counts to the public, and to all whose interest in the dance is practical, is what the dance is valued for. And this, we have seen, varies from dance to dance. But it also varies from individual to individual, and from group to group. It is to explain the warrantability of these variations that we have to invoke the history of the dance, even though historical justifiability as such is not a dance value. (p. 417) Identity practices correlate more closely with conventions for appreciating and evaluating dance, than with the availability of notation. Identity standards for Balanchine ballets reflect the view that contemporary dance is primarily movement which expresses or embodies music. In the nineteenth century, the performances of particular dancers were more important than the choreography itself, and changes in the choreography were tolerated almost without limitation. In the twentieth century, with increasing emphasis on choreography more than individual performances, changes tolerated in the choreography, even in the story-ballets, are more limited. (p. 152)

. . . audiences and dancers alike continue to rely primarily on human memory to make identifications, with assistance from films and videotapes . . . and verbal descriptions. (p. 158)

The lack of any reliable and generally accessible way of recording dance has given it a fugitive nature. It has rendered dances unstable, depending on generations of dancers whose uncertain memories are associated with their own styles and body habits. It has also made dance hard to study, because knowledge of specific dances cannot be widely diffused; very few people can grasp from their own experience the range of the art or arts of dance, even in their own time. (p. 420) This chapter briefly surveys examples of the variation tolerated without loss of identity, and the differences among dance genre in the importance of different media (movement, music, etc.) in establishing identity and in the degree of variation tolerated. The inadequacy of identity theories relying primarily or exclusively on notational systems to explain identity in dance is discussed in terms of these practices. (p. 149)

For the few writers and scholars defying these discouragements, limited research materials and methodologies present practical obstacles. Until recently . . . source material was very scarce and inaccessible. Even now, the valuable resource of film and videotapes of actual performances are often non-existent or unavailable to the scholar because of viewing restrictions imposed by choreographers. Dance works of previous centuries are even more inaccessible because they were preserved, if at all, in crude notational systems, written notes, and sketches, and the memories of dancers. Limited opportunities for advanced study of the theoretical aspects of dance have also contributed to the dearth of scholarship. (p. 5)

The difficulty of using criticism as data for dance history is compounded by the simple fact that a particular critic can only see so much. . . How reliable are such doubly filtered records of dance? Croce offers a detailed analysis of Balanchine's Symphonie Concertante based on the reconstruction from notation by American Ballet Theatre in 1983. But she never saw the original, which was given only a few performances in 1945. (Essay-Review, DRJ 24/2, 1992, p. 42)

In the case of dance, there must be a demand, distant from the point of origin in place or in time, for the precise replication of a specific dance. For there to be such a demand, the idea of a determinate dance, identified with a precisely specified choreography, and a habit of esteem for such determinate dances, must be established. (p. 433)

What makes notation essential is an attitude to choreography in which each step is considered and composed for its unique contribution. It is not that choreographers should actually consider each step to be essential, for no one denies that accommodations must continually be made for the specificities of bodies and temperaments. (p. 434)

However, the former, performance in accord with a notation, could be all that is needed for identity of the work, while the latter [seizing the expressive qualities somehow conveys by those movements] could be a separate matter of good performance of the work. (p. 160)

Notational systems are also important for Margolis because their existence reflects a standardization of the materials of an artform. Sameness or identity can be established only when recognizable elements in different performances can be compared to determine identity with the megatype; the emergence of a notational systems reflects that standardization of elements. (p. 158)

Nelson Goodman . . . argued that when an art became notational (that is, habitually recorded in an authoritative notation) the very concept of the art must be altered, because the conditions of identity of every work would be changed. A work would now be defined by what the notation could capture -- the work is the score together with its compliance class. Everything not defined by the score would become, from the point of view of identifying the work, secondary. And this would necessarily change the way the art was thought of, because the logic of notational systems is unique.

Does this mean that the use of notation will really cause the art of dance to change, and change differently according to which system of notation comes to prevail? Not necessarily. Goodman's thesis, as he keeps saying, is not meant to reflect the actual conditions under which any art operates. No art is notational, as Goodman defines that term, nor should it be. Notationality is defined not by the way scores and notations are actually prepared and used but in terms of the logical relations and conditions of identity that Goodman specifies. And the sole function of strict notationality, as he conceives it, is to ensure that a performance can be derived from a score, and a score derived from that performance, and so on in perpetuity, without any loss of identity. But that is an entirely useless function. Even in music, which comes closest of the arts to being what Goodman would call a notational art, what is acceptable as a performance of a work is notoriously more variable than he stipulates. It is not necessary that a score be complied with precisely; nor is it sufficient, for a performance may be literally 'correct,' in the sense that it complies precisely with the score, and yet be musically 'impossible.' The entrenchment of staff notation in musical practice has done nothing to eliminate these acceptabilities. (p. 439)

[in discussion of Goodman]: Further, it is simply not the case that the availability of notational systems has affected identity standards in dance so that no variations are permitted from the score and all other variations are permitted. Certainly notation of dance is possible, and useful for theoretical analysis of an artform, but its availability does little to explain how audiences actually make comparisons for the purpose of establishing identity either before the emergence of notation nor once notation exists. (p. 164)

The problem with Goodman's approach is somewhat different. As few if any actual performances meet his standard of absolute compliance with a score, his theory is useless for understanding identity of actual works and performances without analysis of how much noncompliance with movement and musical notation can be tolerated in practice without loss of identity. (pp. 167-168)

A philosophical identity theory should explain what happens in the artform. This should not be merely a descriptive account devoid of theory, but nor should it be a theory devoid of clarification of what actually happens. (pp. 164-165)

Goodman has not reconciled his demand for strict compliance with what is realistically possible in actually complying with this standard. (p. 169)

The dances they [choreographers] design are integral to a stage setting, the general nature of which they work into the dance, because human movements are necessarily performed in relation to physical reality anyway, and it would be hopelessly irresponsible to take the specific setting for granted. (p. 445) The choice of performing space might be a distinctive and integral part of a work and grounds for substantial similarity. The choice of location for movement is certainly a deliberate part of the design. . . . (p. 180)
A notation, if widely adopted, must shift the whole nature of dance within the dance community that takes it up. (p. 451) [Margolis] has said that, as notations are increasingly available concert dances will be identified according to them. (p. 157)


Sparshott Van Camp
The conceptual question has to do with the circumstances in which, and the reasons for which, one dance is properly described as 'the same as' another (same dance, same version, same production, and so on); the artistic question has to do with whatever is artistically or aesthetically relevant to the integrity of authorship and authenticity, however that relevance may be determined. The legal question has to do with the legitimate use or the appropriation of another's labour and depends essentially on a practical way of identifying creative work. Recent revisions of copyright legislation in the United States were supported by numerous briefs solicited from experts in the productive arts, which had previously been inadequately if at all protected by legislation. (p. 411)

Specifically, in the case of an artistic dance, two radically different interests are involved. On the one side, there is the proprietary interest of those who invent, mount, and perform the dance, the moral and legal interest of copyright. Like other property rights, these are a necessary condition of the production of goods and services; those who undertake the labour and expense of producing works of art must have their expenses defrayed somehow or other. On the other side, there are the interests people take in various aspects of the experience of the dance (p. 418) once created. These two sets of interests are obviously both legitimate, but they do not coincide, and no one way of harmonizing them imposes itself. (p. 419)

Chapter 19 mentioned another factor that calls for a complete and precise system of notation, adequate to specify a dance and distinguish it from any other. This is the introduction and spreading recognition of international copyright. In a thoroughly organized international economy, property rights have to be systematically established, and that includes rights in artistic property. However highminded we like to be about it, so long as art takes work to produce and present and so long as there is property, art is going to be property. So property rights must be estab (p. 434) lished, and that means that criteria of identity for all forms of art must be set up. To the extent that the criteria of identity for dance are choreographic, that

In attempting to understand how identity is established in practice, it is useful to consider the practices in the area of copyright infringement, an increasingly important application of identity theory. Determinations of copyright infringement use both notation to fix an absolute standard of identity and a lay observer test of substantial similarity to measure degrees of compliance with that notation. (p. 170)

Legal determinations of identity directly involve the issues of philosophical identity, and illustrate the viability of a two-pronged test of identity using both notation (or fixation) to set an ideal for absolute identity and a lay observer test to apply that ideal and specify actual identity of specific performances. How much and what sort of compliance with that fixation and how this compliance is determined is an important question in infringement theory, but one not addressed clearly in the context of philosophical identity. (p. 171)

The ultimate issue in copyright law is copying, not similarity. (p. 177)

The philosophical problem of definition arises in copyright considerations. (p. 172)

In summary, infringement and identity theories share several important characteristics. In both, the aesthetic, economic, or other value of a work is irrelevant in determinations of similarity. . . Both involve a search for tests of sameness. In both, the choreographer makes decisions about what constitutes the work. For example, in copyright, the choreographer must decide what notation and/or film is submitted to the copyright office. For performances, he or she must decide what work is presented, initially and often in reconstructions of the work. In both spheres, the reconstructions of others might also be found similar to the choreographer's intended versions. (p. 186)

Infringement and identity theories also differ in significant ways. Only in infringement theory is actual copying and access relevant. Even so, this does not affect a finding of substantial similarity, but only the degree of similarity which must be proven. That is, the history of production (whether or not there was access) is not relevant to the finding of substantial similarity by a jury. In contrast, some identity


Sparshott Van Camp
. . . questions of identity may be changing. First, in these days of film and video, a choreography can be fixed and recorded from the beginning, or at any stage. A film or a tape is not a perfect record, and it does not contain anything to show what exactly it is a record of; but, so far as it goes, it is determinate. Similarly the development of detailed notations, and of sophisticated ways of using them, means that a firm decision about what a choreography is to be can be recorded unambiguously. (p. 411) Films of different dancers in the same work permit distinctions to be made between the choreographic design and the interpretations of individual dancers. The development and increasing availability of notational systems, understood as standards of identity, do not satisfactorily account for historical shifts in identity standards nor for present practices. (p. 158)
In principle, there should be two ways of making a record of a dance. One is to make a moving likeness of it, the inspection of which is like inspecting the original dance itself. The other is to make a symbolic description of it, so that anyone who consults and understands the description has enough information to reconstruct the dance. Both these methods have become fully available for the first time within the last century, in the form of film or video and of effective notational systems, respectively. (p. 421) Choreographic works can be fixed through films, videotape, or a written notational system. Detailed verbal descriptions using standard ballet vocabulary would also seem acceptable. Fixation through film or videotape records every element of a performance, including the interpretation of particular dancers, resulting in a copyrighted work considerably more detailed than written notation could provide. (pp. 183-184)
A notational record gives information but does not show what the dance is like. A film seems to show what a dance is like but does not in itself say what it is that it shows: it does not distinguish between choreographer's intention and dancer's execution, or between correct and incorrect practice. A notated score may be authoritative, but I doubt if it is possible for a film to be so. (p. 422)

If a film cannot be authoritative, that is because, like a recording of an opera, it is prima facie a 'historical record of what was then done, and nothing more. The score constitutes the real work and every artist will wish to go back to it' (Benesh and Benesh 1977, 121) what you see on the film is a performance, and even a perfect performance cannot be authoritative. But the score enshrines the work that is antecedent to any performance of it. However, neither musical score nor dance notation is inherently authoritative, unless it is similarly antecedent; otherwise it, too, merely records the performances on which it was based . . . I suppose a dance-maker could compose a dance in notation, or make a film of a dance, and in either case could assign authoritative status (for authorial, rather than critical, purposes) to the product. In a sense, it would be possible to say definitely that a notated score had or had not been complied with, whereas with a pictorial record it would always be a matter of judgment whether a performance was 'sufficiently' like the paradigm in all 'relevant' respects; but realistically, it would equally be a matter for judgment whether a performance had complied with the score in an artistically responsible manner. (p. 422)

. . . the interpretations of individual performers which would be recorded on film or videotape have traditionally been excluded from [copyright] protection, although some courts have included these interpretations in the protected work if recorded in some way. It could thus be argued that all interpretive aspects of a performance fixed on film or videotape are protected. If such interpretive elements are not included in the protected work, it would often be impossible to identify which aspects were part of the choreographic work and which were the interpretive contributions of the performers. May interpretive elements could conceivably be the work of either the performer or the choreographer (e.g., a certain turn of the head, facial expression or phrasing of the steps). Another problem is whether the choreographer should be considered the "author" (and thus eligible for copyright protection) of those interpretive elements recorded on film, but contributed by the performer. (p. 184)

Another problem resulting from the possibility of multiple fixation is determination of what constitutes the choreographic work protected by copyright when there are discrepancies between the visual recording and written notation, when both fixations have been deposited with the Copyright Office. Should the protected work consist only of those elements shared by both forms of fixation? Should the film be seen as a supplement to the more skeletal written notation? The distinctive elements captured on film might be precisely the characteristics best showing substantial similarity or originality in an infringement suit. It could be argued, however, that the discrepancies constitute, prima facie, the interpretive and unprotected elements of the work, that is, the nonessential characteristics for the purpose of identity. (p. 185)

In both [infringement and identity], the choreographer makes decisions about what constitutes the work. For example, in copyright, the choreographer must decide what notation and/or film is submitted to the copyright office. For performances, he or she must decide what work is presented, initially and often in reconstructions of the work. (p. 186)

The historical and cultural relation between written notations and pictorial records of dance is very unlike what obtains in music. But the differences in the way they can be used have much in common. Notation releases structure, pictures release appearance. But no film of a complex dance can show everything; an image that gives the overall appearance cannot comprehensively cover every detail. . . . A dance score is, and seems likely to remain, cumbrous and expensive. And a person can hardly dance to a score while reading it . . . ; the blessed musical accomplishment of playing or singing at sight, which is at the heart of musical enjoyment, has no likely analogue in dance. (p. 426-427)

It is still true that a dance cannot be fully reconstructed from a single film, and the compilation of a comprehensive filmed record is seldom practicable. (p. 440)

Despite these numerous significant issues involving the method of fixation, the initial response under the new statute by choreographers seems motivated mainly by economic considerations, with preference for substantially less expensive videotape over notation. (p. 186)


Sparshott Van Camp
If the art of dance is based on, and essentially consists of, the movements of the human body, an analysis of the ways the body moves must ground a relevant classification of dances (and hence a delineation of the nature of dance). (p. 102)

A choreographer can provide for it in the dance movements and stillnesses devised. . . . (p. 384)

I would suggest that the medium of dance be understood, in part, as patterns of physical movement and stasis by a human body capable of such movement. (p. 112)

Are dances made up of movements? Not if a dance is an action, something people do. (p. 134)

All proper parts of action can be broken down into smaller actions. If I am changing a car tire, that action can be broken down into smaller actions: jacking up the car, unscrewing the bolts, taking the wheel off, and so on. But the movements of the muscles in my fingers as I unscrew the bolts are not the things I do, and are not parts of the action as such. (p. 134)

Similarly, as I perform a dance, the parts of my action will all be things I do in dancing: my turns, lifts, and so forth, and not the ways my limbs move as I perform these actions. . . (p. 134)

And there is nothing in my dancing but the way my body moves; the movements of the body are the medium of the dance. Analyses of dance movements are, in a sense, not about dance; but they are about what we see happening in a dance. (p. 134)

[Monroe Beardsley, "What is Going on in a Dance?" (1982), page nos. from reprint in Dickie]

. . . dancing consists not in . . . movements -- that is motions -- but in actions generated by them. (p. 637)

. . . actions build upon, or grow out of, each other in certain definable ways. The wielding of a hammer, say, can become, in capable hands, the driving of a nail, and that in turn a step in the building of a house. One action, in a technical sense, is said to "generate" another action that is it fruition or even its aim. (p. 636)

My thesis is that all these terms [jete, glissade, demi-plie, sissone ferme, pas de bourree] refer to movings as such, not to the motions that generate them. (p. 638)

I think it is a mistake . . . to divide bodily motions from actions: they are actions of a certain kind, though in themselves generally not as interesting as the actions they generate. (pp 637) [end of Beardsley source]

"Philosophy of Dance" (Essay-Review)

Philosophical Problems of Dance Criticism

Chronology of Publications on Philosophy and Dance: Coincidence?

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Last updated: August 19, 1997