The American Folklife Center is very grateful to April Rodriguez, one of this year’s 36 Library of Congress Junior Fellow Summer Interns. April has been working with Alan Lomax’s choreometrics materials, a lesser-known but crucial aspect of his research. Her work has revealed aspects of the collection our own staff didn’t know about, and will continue to benefit both the staff and future researchers indefinitely. As April prepares to conclude her internship, we thank her and wish her the best!
April recently received a master’s degree in library information studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She also has a background in sound engineering and film archiving, and she was able to expand her skills in those areas while interning at the Library.
April also recently wrote a blog post for the Library of Congress blog on Lomax’s choreometrics project. Below find an excerpt and a link to the full post. Thanks, April–we’ll miss you!
April’s Words begin here:
Hypothesis of a Culture
What is culture? What elements of expression make each culture unique?
These were the major questions for folklorist Alan Lomax. In the late 1960s while taking courses from anthropologist Ray Birdwhistell, Lomax became inspired to build upon Birdwhistell’s study of body movement as a form of communication. Moving from analysis of song style, previously carried out in his cantometrics project, Lomax used a process that involved examining the “dynamics of body communication.”
This means of study by Lomax is known as choreometrics. The name is intuitive, a combination of the words choreography and metrics/measurement. Lomax defined choreometrics in “Choreometrics and Ethnographic Filmmaking” as “the measure of dance or dance as a measure of man.”
The choreometrics project developed into a large undertaking supported by grants, contributions of cultural dance footage from around the world and collaborations with movement analysis experts Irmgard Bartenieff and Forrestine Paulay.
In 2004 the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress acquired Alan Lomax’s materials. Lomax had worked for the Library of Congress between 1933 and 1942. My project at the American Folklife Center has been to advance the digitization work of the films used in the analysis and teaching of choreometrics in order to provide access. For me, it has been a journey of discovery.