Benesh Dance Notation

Scope and Content

This collection contains duplicate copies of Benesh Dance Notation scores, the originals of which are lodged with the Royal Academy of Dance Library.

In addition the collection features some introductory material relating to the development of Benesh Dance Notation and the history of the Benesh Institute of Choreology including leaflets, publications, examination syllabus, progress report (1967), newsletters (1978-1979) and a bibliography.

Administrative / Biographical History

Originally an accountant, Rudolf Benesh and his wife, Joan Benesh (formerly Rothwell, a soloist with the Sadler's Wells Ballet), founded the Benesh Movement Notation (BMN) system in 1955. BMN is a system by which movements may be transcribed into written form, and is used by dancers, choreographers, archivists, and also clinicians studying human movement. One reason for its success is that over twenty-five major dance companies utilised BMN and its use of the musical five-line staff, which made matching up movement to accompaniment straightforward. BMN is useful not only for remembering past works and re-staging them, but also for movement therapy, and as a way to protect choreographers' copyright. He also coined the term "choreology" which he defined as "the aesthetic and scientific study of all forms of human movement by movement notation". In 1962 the Benesh Institute of Choreology was founded, with Sir Frederick Ashton as president, Rudolf Benesh as director and his wife, Joan as principal. The Institute aimed to promote, develop and offer education in BMN and to assist in the preservation of dance heritage and in the protection of choreographic copyright.

In 1997 the Benesh Institute was incorporated within the Royal Academy of Dance, which deposits copies of its notational scores at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Institute acts as an educational centre, training choreologists at varying levels, and also as a library for movement scores and a body for defending copyrights.

Access Information

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only.Full details of access arrangements may be found here: .

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Acquisition Information

Royal Academy of Dance, gift.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here: .

Appraisal Information

Appraised in accordance with collection policy. This included the removal of a number of issues of The Choreologist dating from 1978/79 and their integration into the department's core library collections.


Accruals likely.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance. Material may be found in several collections, including the biographical, productions, company and photographs files.

Please ask for details.

Location of Originals

Original collection is held by the Library at the Royal Academy of Dance.