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2. a. Motif Writing

Dance notation is a vocabulary of tangible symbols that can be used to create, communicate, and document thoughts and ideas through movements. Notation provides a mental exchange between concept and creation. In addition to teacher education, preparation, and organization of lessons, Motif Writing, a simplified from of Labanotation, displays the components of dance composition that can be sequenced, revised, analyzed, and documented. Research in the areas of symbolic representation addresses writing and analyzing dance in similar ways to notating music.


Good teaching in dance requires an analysis of movement. When Motif Writing is used as a tool for movement analysis and dance composition, the notation presents a language that we can use to articulate concisely the basis of movement and thus offer a means of learning to think in terms of movement rather than develop choreography through improvisation. Consequently, a teacher can ask students to create a dance score in one lesson and revise and complete it in future lessons. A person can see the effectiveness of Motif Writing by integrating the raw materials of movement, the physical experience, the visual symbols, and the act of writing scores. Symbol systems, like Motif Writing, can guide the development of intelligence, present children with numerous choices for communicating, and greatly expand children’s capabilities to think, recall, and interpret information (Parrish, 2005). My research identified the acquisition and development of symbolic modes of representation using Motif Writing as a foundation for intellectual perception. (Parrish, 2014, Parrish, 2005; Venable & Parrish 2002; Parrish, 2000; Parrish, 1997).


My work in dance notation’s symbol system considers how learning and using dance notation may increase teacher competencies in dance. By transcribing movement into notation, reading notation, and creating movement, a teacher will be better able to analyze and instruct movement material. My ongoing work in graduate and undergraduate teacher education supports Motif Writing’s strong impact in the field of dance education in curricula development as well as pre-service and in-service teacher training (Parrish, 2014; Parrish, 2005; Parrish, 2000, Parrish, 1997).


For the last few years, I have implemented critical thinking activities centered on Motif Writing within Laban Movement Analysis and dance certification coursework. My pedagogical investigation presents a compelling argument for incorporating Motif Writing in the choreographic process as a means of encouraging artistic discernment, valuing sequential analysis, and increasing complexity and originality in the creative process (Parrish, 2014).  Recently, Motif Writing has become a foundation for my Moving Inventors and Dance Together parent-child movement classes offered in the DC program. I continue to be encouraged when seeing students as young as three years of age easily use Motif Writing to organize, read, share, and remember dance ideas, thereby uniting the expression of the body with communication and creation. Curricula plans from Moving Inventors and Dance Together are posted at

Motif Writing Publication

List of Research Presentations

Motif Writing & Dance Making

Guest Teacher

Mindful Dancing. University of North Carolina, Greensboro. (June, 2018).

Limitless, Accessible, and Inclusive: A Laban-based, Universal Design Approach

for Dance Education  

Presenters: Dr. Mila Parrish and Dr. Marissa Nesbit

NDEO Conference. Cultivating Equity and Access Dance Education for All.

San Antonio Texas. Adjudicated. (November, 2017).

Dance Movement Literacy

Presenter: Dr. Mila Parrish

ArtsR4Life conference: Rekindle, Reflect, Reconnect, and Renew

Raleigh, NC by the Public schools of North Carolina. (September, 2017).

Illuminating Laban’s Elements of Dance Workshop Session                          

Presenter: Dr. Mila Parrish

North Carolina Dance Education Organization Dance Across the State:

Engage, Educate and Empower, Greensboro, NC. (January, 2017).


Literacy in Action

Keynote Address                                                                                                                         

Utah Dance Education Organization Provo, Utah. (November, 2014).

Constructivism in Action:  Motif Writing for dance.                                            

Lead Presenter: Dr. Mila Parrish with ASU dance education students Sara Anderson,

Amanda Kinnaird, and Amy Lang

National Dance Education Organization Conference.

Lansing, MI. Adjudicated. (October, 2005).

Constructivism in Action: Motif Writing and K-12 teacher preparation.  

Presenter: Dr. Mila Parrish

Motif Symposium II. Champaign Ill. (July, 2004).

Constructivism in Action: Motif Writing and K-12 teacher preparation.

Presenter: Dr. Mila Parrish

Laban Institute of Movement Studies LIMS Biennial Conference.

Irvine, California. (June, 2004).


Motif writing: notation systems for movement analysis & performance coaching.

Guest Teacher.

University of North Texas - Invited Master Class. (January, 2004).

Motif Writing and curriculum integration.

Presenter: Dr. Mila Parrish

Arizona Dance Arts Alliance Tempe, Arizona. (October, 2002).

Lecture Demonstration

Topic: Dance notation and Motif Writing           

Lecture Demonstration

Ohio State University, Dance Department-. Columbus, Ohio. (June, 2001).

Motif Writing and Technology for Dance Education.  

International Conference of Kinetography Laban (ICKL)

Columbus Ohio. Adjudicated. (August, 2001).

Motif Writing in dance education.                                                                    

Symposium on Instructional Technology in Physical Education

Hong Kong University, in Hong Kong. Adjudicated. (March, 1999).

Motif Writing, Laban Movement Analysis and Dance Technology                

Presenter: Dr. Mila Parrish

The Ohio State University Motif Writing Intensive Course

Columbus, Ohio. (June, 1998).

Dance and Curricula: Motif Writing in the classroom.                                         

Presenters: Dr. Mila Parrish and Barbara Bashaw

National Dance Association: Focus on Dance.

Minneapolis, MN. (October, 1996).

Sharing the Common Language of Movement                                      

Presenters: Dr. Mila Parrish and Barbara Bashaw

NYSAHPERD conference Syracuse, New York. (November, 1995).

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