The circle & axis - an Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation (EWMN) perspective
Dr. Nira Al-dor
EWMN was invented in Israel by the dancer-choreographer Prof. Noa Eshkol, together with the architect Prof. Abraham Wachman, and was first published in 1958. It is considered as one of the four movement notation methods accepted in the world today. The other methods are Benesh notation, Labanotation and CMDN, which was developed in China. EWMN refers to the formal elements of the human body and proposes a limited system of graphical symbols that represent basic values, through which the movement of the human body can be described in space and time. it enables to describe only the movement of a visible axis of a limb and to define it in varied levels of complexity.
EWMN has been employed for movement and dance genres analysis, documentation, composition and also as the basis for philosophical discussions regarding phenomena and structures of movement and behavior. The EWMN publications include documentations of dance genres, gymnastics, animal’s movements, Tai chi, Eshkol dances, graphic kinetics, sign language, teaching and comparative analyses between EWMN and Labanotation.
This method refers to the moving body which is built as a chain of limbs that are connected to one another by joints. This structure enables circular movements of the limbs around their joints. The movement occurs in a spherical space (like a `private` globe) and the joint is located in the center and functions as an axis for the moving limb which itself functions as the radius of the circle. Because of the anatomical structure of the joints each limb can rarely perform a full circle, so it usually performs a part of a circle.
 Benesh notation was published in 1955 in England. It is a visual-graphic notation, based on ballet positions. The manuscript represents five limbs: feet, knees, waist, shoulders and head. It`s a general and effective notation and is used in rehearsals of dance companies.
 Labanotation was first published in Germany in 1928. It is the most common notation in the western world. A visual-graphic notation which generalizes movement process more than details such as: accurate limbs` positions, limbs` classification etc.
 CMDN is very similar to EWMN. It is more detailed comparing to Benesh and Labanotation and representing the body values' time and space through letters and the musical tempo.
A scheme of the human body as a chain of limbs and joints
By performing a "straight" movement we refer actually to 2D and 3D movement paths in space. Indeed, movements of a single limb in relation to its adjacent limb will be always circular but some simultaneous movements of adjacent group of limbs can also outline a straight line path in space (it can be seen in the dance Four Seasons by Eshkol.
If the movement of the body limbs is circular, we can observe the locations of the joints (axes of the circles) and their spatial relations that enable their limbs to create parallel circles. For example: the hip joints are parallel in the horizontal plane, while the right hip joint and the right shoulder are parallel in the vertical plane. The location of the circles` axes in our body has implication on understanding the body movement and its direction in space – the parallelism of the circles` axes creates parallel movement of the limbs which are connected to those axes when they perform the same spatial direction. It means that our body movement creates parallel paths according to the limbs which are participating and in relation to their axes.
There is a connection between the space orientation and the body movement orientation. Space is represeted in EWMN as a spherical globe. The human body is `located` in the center from which the direction of its limbs can be defined in various body positions or the steps direction, while transfering wight to a new location in space. The spherical space is divided to sectors (division of 45° is common in EWMN) in four verticle planes and crossed by one horizontal plane (the system of reference). This devision enables defining 26 different directions (positions) fron the center of the globe to its perimeter.
In the same way, each joint constitutes a center of a "private globe" from which its limb direction can be defined. Private globes are connected to the moving limbs as a whole so their directions can be specified in spatcewise orientation and in bodywise orientation.
The relations between the axis of limbs (AL) and the axis of movement (AM) enables classifing all circular movements to three types: Rotatory movement in which AM rotates around the LA and becomes unified; Plane movement in which MA is 90° in relation to the LA and creates a flat 2D path in space; and Conical movement in which AM is between 0° and 90° in relation to AL so a chain of limbs can create 3D paths in space while the edges of the chains (hands, feet and head) outline flat circular paths in various magnitudes (see examples of Eshkol dances that demonstrate it in the following links).
EWMN exposes a mutual connection between the definitions of the spherical space and the circular body movements, that derives from the circle and its axis geometrical and biomechanical implications. The movement of a single limb in relation to its adjacent limb is circular and its axis is located in the center of the imaginary circle – the joint. The absolute space is spherical and the moving body is located in its center. Unlimited combinations between movement paths of single limbs and movement paths that occur in the absolute space are varied in their complexity levels according to the choreographer sense of creativity and the professionalism of the dancer.
Benesh, R. & Benesh, J. (1956). An Introduction to Benesh Dance Notation. London: Adam & Charles Black.
Eshkol, N. (1975). Right Angled Curves. Holon: The Movement Notation Society, the Research Center for Movement Notation, Faculty of Fine Arts, Tel Aviv University.
Eshkol, N. (1990). Angles & Angles. Holon: The Movement Notation Society, the Research Center for Movement Notation, Faculty of Fine Arts, Tel Aviv University.
Eshkol, N. & Harries, J. (1998). Eshkol-Wachman movement notation: A survey. Israel: The Movement Notation Society.
Eshkol, N. & Wachman, A. (1958). Movement Notation. Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
Hogan, N. & Flash, T. (1987). Moving gracefully: Quantitative theories of motor coordination. Trends in Neuroscience, 10(4): 170-174.
Laban, R. (1956) (2nd ed. 1975). Laban`s Principles of Dance and Movement Notation. Boston: Plays.
Woo Gi Mai, Gao Choon Lin. (1991). CMDN – Dance Notation. Tel Aviv: The Center for Movement Notation Exploring, the Art Faculty, Tel Aviv University. (Hebrew).
Babel by John Harris - graphical kinetics.
Dr. Nira Al-Dor is a teacher, dancer and researcher, specialized in Eshkol-Wachman movement notation. Teaching in the School of Arts, Tel-Aviv and in the Kibbuzim College of Education. Published books and articles about learning, teaching, EWMN and coordination. Presented her work with children and adults in Israel and abroad.