bartenieff blue background "The skills of symbolic notation require highly precise and refined observation – at its best, a reflection of extraordinary movement experience empathy."
(Irmgard Bartenieff from her book with Dori Lewis Body Movement: Coping with the Environment)

Motif writing is a graphical form of notating movement developed by Valerie Preston-Dunlop and Ann Hutchinson Guest based on Effort/Shape and Labanotation symbols. Unlike Labanotation, Motif uses no staff, but is more free-form and can be written vertically or horizontally. Movement phrasing can be demonstrated through the use of Action Strokes and/or Phrase Bows. At times, individual motifs of an Effort or Shape component can be used for an overall pattern without the need to link movements and/or symbols. Motif Writing also includes a set of symbols representing the Body and body parts, as well as symbols that offer common actions (e.g. jumps, turns, etc) and physical location (e.g. for a stage performance). The purpose of Motif Writing is to offer a graphic depiction of the Essence of a single movement or a group of movements, without the specificity required with Labanotation. 

Handwritten notebook page containing Robert Frost's poem 'A Cabin in the Clearing', written in red ink, with Motif characterizations

second page from notebook containing handwritten notes and text from Robert Frost's poem 'Cabin in the Clearing', with Labanotation symbols for a Volute Study at the top

Poetry in Motion

These handwritten pages from one of Barteniteff's notebooks demonstrate her use of Motif to characterize poetry. Using Robert Frost's poem 'A Cabin in the Clearing', Bartenieff captured the essence of Effort components, and in one instance, Shape. The second page includes  Space symbols for a Volute study.