The Early Years: 1966-1974
comes from DanceWriting. It stems from
a "movement notation system".
It was not invented from a prior knowledge
of signs or signed languages. Nor is it
connected to any one signed language,
but instead records them all with the
In other words, you do not have to know
what signs mean to write them, since the
system records "body movement".
With SignWriting, signers can not only
record their own signed languages, but
foreign signed languages as well.
Of course, as SignWriting is used by more
and more people, certain "linguistically
based" writing conventions are developing.
But from the historic perspective, DanceWriting
was the "forerunner" to SignWriting.
Now SignWriting far exceeds DanceWriting
in the number of users.
Other dance notation systems have recorded
the movements of signed languages in the
past (as experiments), but SignWriting
is different, because it is used by hundreds
of people, mostly Deaf, all over the world.
In 1997, SignWriting is becoming the "written
form" for signed languages in 14
Below you will find a brief listing of
some of the more important events in the
early history of Dance Writing, which
lead to the invention of SignWriting...
Valerie Sutton, an American, at age 15,
was in professional ballet training. She
invented a stick figure notation system
for recording ballet steps, for her own
Records Historic Danish Ballet Steps
Sutton moved to Copenhagen, Denmark, at
age 19, to train with teachers of the Royal
Danish Ballet. At that time, the world-renowned,
historic ballet steps of the Royal Danish
Ballet, called "the Bournonville Schools",
were being forgotten for lack of recording.
Sutton used her personal dance notation
system to record and preserve these historic
dances. The project stimulated the improvement
of the writing system.
Sutton Movement Shorthand, The
Classical Ballet Key, Key One
by Valerie Sutton. This was the first
DanceWriting textbook. It is an historic
record of how the system was originally
invented. Within one year after publication,
this first text was out-of-date because
of improvements in the system. No longer
DanceWriting Taught To The Royal Danish
Eight week course taught to 30 dancers,
by special invitation from Ballet Master,
Danish Newspaper Articles About DanceWriting
Sign Language researchers at the University
of Copenhagen read about the system and
asked to see a demonstration. See next page...