Joan and Rudolf Benesh in 1972 Photo: Helen Seymer

Joan Benesh


One of the pioneers of dance notation, Joan Benesh, has died at the age of 94. Born Joan Rothwell, she trained in ballet, and was a member of Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet before joining the staff of the Royal Ballet School. Devised by Joan and her husband Rudolf Benesh, Benesh Movement Notation is a written system of recording dance movement, which is used by dance companies and organisations all over the world. The Benesh Institute was founded in 1962 and is now incorporated with the Royal Academy of Dance. Over 1,750 BMN scores have been written and are used in research, teaching dances from the repertoire and for analysing movement. The set exercises and dances in the RAD syllabi are published in BMN, enabling teachers to study the work in a common language and in more detail than is possible from word notes or videos alone.

Sir Peter Wright CBE, President of the Benesh Institute, says: “Joan Benesh, with her husband Rudolf, revolutionised the way dance and all other forms of movement can be notated, analysed, and reproduced. Joan gave her life to this work from which thousands of choreographers, dancers, teachers and sportsmen and women, have benefited. May she rest peacefully after a life of such tireless devotion”. JR