RTL Labanotation Project | Pilates History Research

The images shared here are research photos taken by Elaine Ewing at the Library for the Performing Arts.

In 1960, Carola Trier had the idea to document Joseph Pilates’ book, Return to Life, in Labanotation. She presented the book as a gift to Joe at a Testimonial Dinner thrown for him by his friends and students in December, 1960.  In this section of the Pilates History Research Archive™, we will follow along through the process of creating this special gift.

What is Labanotation?

In short, Labanotation is a dance notation system for recording and analyzing human movement that was derived from the work of Rudolf Laban. The Dance Notation Bureau, which is the bureau involved in Carola’s project, has been using Labanotation to document dances since 1940, holding the largest collection of Labanotation scores in the world.

On Joseph Pilates birthday, December 9, Sean Gallagher and Elaine Ewing presented this information for the first time to the pilates community through a special Instagram live. Watch it here.

Some sample pages from the original rough draft of the Labanotation book before it went to print, including the glossary Images first shared on 2/26/22.

Return to Life Reviews Pilates History Archives Article
Return to Life Reviews Pilates History Archives Article
Return to Life Reviews Pilates History Archives Article

The letter in which Carola introduced the idea of putting Return to Life into Labanotation to Joseph Pilates. Images first shared on 2/26/22.

"Return to Life" Book review pilates archive article
"Return to Life" book review pilates archive article
Return to Life Reviews Pilates History Archives Article

The opening pages of the book during the editing process. Notably, we can see the fixed mistake in the draft where it credits her for notating Return to Life. She changed the word “by” to “for,” so that proper credit would be given to Susan Kaufman and Ann Hutchinson for notation. Images first shared on 2/26/22.

"Return to Life" Book review pilates archive article
"Return to Life" book review pilates archive article
Return to Life Reviews Pilates History Archives Article
Return to Life Reviews Pilates History Archives Article

Samples of the first pages of the book after editing was complete. Images first shared on 2/26/22.

"Return to Life" Book review pilates archive article
"Return to Life" book review pilates archive article

A letter along with the contract between Carola and the Dance Notation Bureau. Images first shared on 2/26/22.

"Return to Life" Book review pilates archive article
"Return to Life" book review pilates archive article
Return to Life Reviews Pilates History Archives Article
Return to Life Reviews Pilates History Archives Article

Letters from Ann Hutchinson to Carola Trier during the notation process. Images first shared on 2/26/22.

"Return to Life" Book review pilates archive article
"Return to Life" book review pilates archive article

A letter from Carola to Joe and Clara, dated October 19. We can see that Clara replied on the same day, and that she signed for Joe, stating that he asked her to since he didn’t have his glasses. Images first shared on 2/26/22.

"Return to Life" book review pilates archive article
"Return to Life" book review pilates archive article
Return to Life Reviews Pilates History Archives Article

In a letter from Carola to Joe and Clara, she follows the directions from the C.J. Craugh letter and informs them that other people will be mentioned in the acknowledgements in the book. Images first shared on 2/26/22.

"Return to Life" book review pilates archive article

Notes Carola made during the notation process. Elements of these notes can be traced back through the paperwork she kept and that is posted here as well. Images first shared on 2/26/22.

"Return to Life" book review pilates archive article
"Return to Life" book review pilates archive article
Return to Life Reviews Pilates History Archives Article

A letter Carola wrote to a copyright expert after realizing that she should retain the copyright for the notated book of Return to Life after another person grew interested in gaining the rights. It seems as though Colby was friends with Joe and Clara because she mentions that it was a shame that he couldn’t join them for the Testimonial Dinner for Joe. Images first shared on 2/26/22.

"Return to Life" Book review pilates archive article
"Return to Life" book review pilates archive article
"Return to Life" book review pilates archive article
"Return to Life" book review pilates archive article

The reply to Carola in regards to obtaining copyright. With this letter he also sent her the paperwork in which to do so, which she signed and followed through with, obtaining the copyright to the Labanotation of Return to Life. Images first shared on 2/26/22.

"Return to Life" book review pilates archive article

Six years later, the Dance Notation Bureau obtained permission from Joe Pilates to rent copies of the book out to students. They mention that the book has been on the shelf ever since it was completed six years earlier. Notably, Joe signed for it.Images first shared on 2/26/22.

"Return to Life" book review pilates archive article
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