Notation Project Preserves Historic Dance Work

  • CDC Pursued notation (photo: Warren Woo)
    CDC Pursued notation: Leslie Rottman (photo: Warren Woo)
  • CDC Pursued notation (photo: Warren Woo)
    CDC Pursued notation: Leslie Rottman (photo: Warren Woo)
  • CDC Pursued notation (photo: Warren Woo)
    L to R: Notator Leslie Rottman, director Hannah Wiley, Brian Lawson (1st year grad) Mathew Henley stager (MFA ’09) Photo by Warren Woo
  • CDC Pursued notation (photo: Warren Woo)
    L to R: Catherine Cabeen stager (MFA ’08), Brian Lawson, Lucie Baker, 2nd year grad, photo: Warren Woo)

In July, certified notator Leslie Rottman worked with the Chamber Dance Company to notate Joseph Gifford's The Pursued. The notation project was made possible with a generous grant by Lois Rathvon, making it possible to have the dance notated and preserved forever. The work will be performed in the Chamber Dance Company’s October concert. The Pursued was staged by artists Catherine Cabeen and Matthew Henley upon whom Mr. Gifford set the work in 2009.

In her over twenty years of dedication to the Dance Notation Bureau in New York City, Ms. Rottman has served as director of staging, artistic advisory committee chairperson, and professional staff. She has created twenty-five Labanotation scores that are permanently housed in the collections of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and The Ohio State University Dance Notation Bureau. 

One of the primary educational missions of the CDC is to produce, record, and archive significant works of the modern dance canon. Of the over one hundred works dating back to 1895 in the CDC archive, ten percent have been staged from Labanotation with invaluable assistance from the Dance Notation Bureau. Notating The Pursued and housing it at the Bureau, will insure that this important work from a vital artistic period will live in perpetuity.

Born in 1920, Joseph Gifford began his performing career as a member of the Humphrey/Weidman company; taught for many years at the New Dance Group Studio; formed his own company; and, performed in Broadway musicals. Created in 1947, The Pursued profoundly reflects the humanistic aspirations of the New Dance Group, and is perhaps Gifford’s most significant work. He choreographed The Pursued in reaction to Picasso’s Guernica, which was a stunning reflection on the Nazi aerial bombing of a Basque town of the same name during the Spanish Civil War in 1937. The attack was highly controversial because it involved the annihilation of innocent civilians. Gifford’s male/female duet embodies the universal sense of dislocation, devastation and dehumanization that war wreaks on the powerless. Doris Humphrey was Gifford’s advisor on the original choreography and Mary Anthony performed it with him.

In 2009 at the age of eighty-eight, Gifford staged the work on the UW’s Chamber Dance Company (CDC), which is directed by Hannah Wiley. Gifford approved CDC’s 2009 performance, and Wiley made a DVD documentary about the process and performance, which he also endorsed. After Joseph Gifford passed away last October, Wiley approached his two surviving grand-nieces for permission for CDC to perform the work again as a tribute to him in October 2018. The nieces enthusiastically gave their consent.