Tap Dance, Notation, and the Archive: The Possibilities are Plural
Feck, M. Candace
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Series/Report no.:2015 Edward F. Hayes Graduate Research Forum. 29th
While processing the archives of American bandleader Ted Lewis, jazz expert Joseph Rubin discovered notations for nine tap dances. The scores were composed on a typewriter sometime in the mid-20th century. In this paper I explore the process of deciphering and (re)embodying the notated movements and presenting them onstage in Rubin’s project “The Ted Lewis Orchestra: Rhythm Rhapsody Revue,” a concert co-sponsored by the Canton Comic Opera Company and the Ted Lewis Museum. The Lewis notations are, like all tap dance scores, unique to their writer. In her book Inside Tap, Anita Feldman presents one system of tap notation; Marshall and Jean Stearns offer Labanotated scores of tap dances at the end of their book Jazz Dance. However, no widely used, codified systems of tap dance notation exist; there seem to be as many systems as there are teachers, choreographers, and dancers. Each of us creates our own abbreviations and codes to document our work, as evidently did the author of the Lewis notations. How do these translate to other tap dancers? What happens when a score of “vintage” tap dance choreography resurfaces? How does a tap dancer today interpret choreography scored by a stranger more than 70 years ago? In this presentation I pursue these questions through an analysis of the process and performance of Rhythm Rhapsody Revue, which I argue enables us to think more broadly about movement archives, historical shifts of moves considered standard, and the way all notation scores are simultaneously historical and personal.
The Arts: 1st Place (The Ohio State University Edward F. Hayes Graduate Research Forum)
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