What is Benesh Movement Notation?


how notation works

how notation works


Rudolph and Joan Benesh

Rudolph and Joan Benesh

Ballets have to be recorded accurately so that they can be passed on from generation to generation. Written descriptions are cumbersome and easy to misinterpret. Video can be very useful, but even video can only show a dance in two dimensions, and is not completely reliable. In addition video gives one particular interpretation of a ballet rather than a record of the choreographer’s intent. Dance notation is one tool that can be used to help dancers learn a ballet more quickly and accurately.

Benesh Movement Notation, or BMN for short, has been in use by the company since its creation by Joan and Rudolf Benesh (the former a dancer with Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet, the latter, her husband, a mathematician and artist) in the 1950s. It enables company repertoire, from Ashton and MacMillan to McGregor and Wheeldon, to be preserved on paper so that when a production comes to be remounted it can be easily retaught to the dancers of today.

Benesh Notators who have two main roles in a Company. The first is to notate ballets, acting as assistants to the choreographer and recording ballets as they are created or taught. This involves attending all the rehearsals and keeping track of any changes that are made. From this work a definitive score will be produced that is kept for future reference. The notators’ other main role is to remount ballets using an existing score. This involves teaching ballets to new dancers, making sure that the choreography is exactly as the choreographer intended.

How the notation system works

This notation system uses the base of a music stave to record movement.

The “in stave” information will dictate what the performer is doing

The “above the stave “ will tell us when this movement is done and with what quality of movement

The ‘below stave information” tell us where this action takes place and the relationship between the dancers.

Please click here if you want to find out in more depth how BMN works

Example how Notation works:  Where you see the body and limbs are shown in a stave

Example of how Notation works:
Where you find the body and limbs in a stave

Benesh notators may come from many different backgrounds, but in order to work with a ballet company a benesh notator has usually had professional dance training in addition to completing a course in dance notation either with the Benesh institute or at the conservatoire in Paris




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