One week in July, Professor of Dance Julie Brodie, along with six current and former Kenyon students, traveled to Seoul for the International Council of Kinetography Laban (ICKL) conference, where they presented their work with dance notation.
“Labanotation and Kinetography Laban are the American and European systems for analyzing and recording movement in symbolic form, analogous to notation for music,” writes Brodie. The Kenyon group, which included two summer scholars, had a strong presence at the conference, making up seven of the 47 attendees. Here, several of the Kenyon group reflect on the experience.
Professor of Dance Julie Brodie
It was an honor and a joy to be joined by six current and former Kenyon students at the 23rd ICKL conference in Seoul this July. All of these representatives of Kenyon participated fully, presenting their work with dance notation in a wide range of projects to an international audience, including the work of two additional Kenyon alums who were not able to attend. ICKL conferences provide an opportunity to share our research and to discuss the history of current notation orthography practices (including differences between approaches used in different countries) to determine how to most accurately convey specific movements.
I was incredibly fortunate to be able to work with two Kenyon Summer Scholars, Eve Currens ’25 and Cat Mori ’25, who assisted me with both presenting sessions and chairing the research panel at the conference. There, we led a session in which participants read two scores for Latvian folk dances. Notation issues specific to these dances were also discussed as a vehicle for theoretical research. In determining which versions of each dance to notate, we worked with historical records, archives, videos, interviews, and Latvian folk dance scholar peers to explore the variations of each dance. This research considers the differences and similarities between presentational and participatory versions of the dances and their unique roles in Latvia’s folk dance legacy. We identified and then notated movements defining each dance’s unique character and then provided documentation of significant variations.
Claire Goldberger ‘23 did similar research with me last summer and assisted with researching and presenting the historical context for the dances presented at this conference, as well as acting as score checker for our work. As part of this role, Eve, Cat, Claire and I taught an Appalachian folk dance for participants to notate and compared our notation solution with solutions arrived at by other professional notators before sharing it with ICKL constituents.
The week at ICKL was fulfilling, both professionally and personally. We attended presentations, contemporary and traditional performances, visited the Seoul Tower, palaces and shopping markets, and enjoyed Korean food and hospitality.
Of course the highlight of this ICKL conference was spending time with current and former Kenyon students, sharing our work and ongoing love of dance and notation. Kenyon has established quite a legacy: at least one Kenyon student has attended every ICKL conference since 2015. Many of these students wove notation into their thesis work, and many have been supported in their research through the Summer Scholars program. I am proud to work with such dedicated and talented students and to be part of an institution that values student-faculty collaborative research in the fine arts. Colleagues from around the world notice and comment on the active engagement of our students and envy the support we receive from Kenyon.
Hannah Russ ’18
My first ICKL conference with Julie was in Beijing, China, in 2017. That year, it was just the two of us representing Kenyon College, me as her summer scholar and research assistant. Five years and three conferences later, we represented as a group of 7! To bring together one professor, two current students and four alumni at an international conference speaks volumes of the ability of the Summer Scholars program and the Dance Department to recognize student talent and cultivate future scholars and contributors to academia. Through this program and working with Julie, I grew into a more than capable independent researcher, applying the skills I learned on a Fulbright grant in China and later as I began a career in law. I have continued to pursue dance research outside of my career because of such opportunities, encouragement and guidance from Julie.
At this conference, I presented on the early stages of a collaborative project I am working on with another Kenyon alum, Laura David ’18. Laura and I became entranced with choreographer and dancer Mary Wigman in our modern dance history course at Kenyon College when we learned about the period of German expressionism. Back then, we declared that we would one day re-stage her dance, Hexentanz. This dream is now being realized. In addition to recreating the work through historical research and the reading of the Labanotation score, we are taking this project a step further by utilizing the knowledge gleaned from research, both material and embodied, to create an educational tool that makes learning dance notation more accessible.
My work in dance has brought about many fruitful and meaningful experiences. Among the most profound of these experiences was this past conference in Seoul. Reconnecting with (and meeting for the first time) fellow Kenyon students and dancers, sharing and collaborating with them, and exploring a new city together is something I will cherish forever. Five years after graduating, I feel so connected to my alma mater because of this experience and because of the close-knit, unbelievably talented and remarkably driven Kenyon dance majors and professors.
Sofia Wilson ’23
I had never participated in a conference of any sort before, so I was definitely nervous going into it. Everyone at the conference held so much knowledge and excitement about labanotation and dance, that I wanted to make sure to impress everyone, and also contribute to the larger conversation about labanotation’s wide range and importance in the dance field.
Three days into the conference, it was my time to present and perform my collaborative senior thesis in dance, with my dear friend Erika Abe ‘23, who sadly could not attend. I presented on our project in restaging the solo, “Two Ecstatic Themes,” originally choreographed by Doris Humphrey, first performed in 1931. As I was presenting on this project, which truly means so much to me and my growth as a student, dancer, and person, I felt all of the conference attendees attentively listening and thinking about what I was saying. I especially noticed the support from my Kenyon peers, Professor Julie Brodie, Eve, Cat, Claire, Willow and Hannah. I heard Julie laugh at one of my jokes, all five of them snuck some pictures of me presenting, and they all had smiles on their faces the whole time. This moment for me speaks to the supportive and uplifting nature of the Kenyon community. It makes me feel less scared to enter the post-college world, with my Kenyon peers, professors and staff on my side.
Catherine Mori ’25
Along with my fellow summer scholar Eve Currens, I embarked on a week-long journey to Seoul, South Korea, filled with anticipation and excitement to meet with past dance summer scholars like myself. Upon arriving in Seoul, my heart raced excitedly to reunite with Kenyon alums. I had a close bond with Claire Goldberger and Sofia Wilson during their time at Kenyon and was eager to reconnect with them. Additionally, I was thrilled to finally meet Hannah Russ '18 and Willow Green '21, who I had heard about from other Kenyon students and faculty.
The conference was an unforgettable experience. Engaging in discussions, attending workshops and witnessing different dance styles from around the world left us inspired and motivated. The opportunity to share our common interests with international peers strengthened the global dance community.
After the conference, we embraced the vibrant city of Seoul. Exploring its streets, we indulged in mouthwatering Korean BBQ and relished dinners from convenience stores. Our evenings were filled with laughter and joy as we sang our hearts out at karaoke bars and explored the city's shopping districts together.
As the week ended, bidding farewell to the alums was bittersweet. With the memories we created together in Seoul, I left with a heart filled with gratitude and cherished moments. The trip enriched my knowledge of dance and expanded my horizons, reminding me of the beauty of cultural exchange and the universality of art. Korea's allure will forever hold a special place in my heart.