International Council for Traditional Music

A Non-Governmental Organization in Formal Consultative Relations with UNESCO


Obituary for William C. Reynolds, submitted by Elsie Ivancich Dunin

(1945 –2004)

William (called Bill by his friends and colleagues) was mostly known through 
the world as the Editor of the ICTM\'s Study Group of Ethnochoreology Dance 
Research Newsletter. Although I knew Bill in earlier years as a \"folk dancer\" 
from California, my working relationship with him began at the ICTM 1987 
conference in Berlin, when he proposed the idea for a Study Group Newsletter, 
and I offered to compile dance research listings of the membership to be 
included in the Newsletter. Little did we realize that first the Newsletter 
and later the Dance Research for the members of the Study Group would become 
foundational international publications in the growing field of 

Bill\'s dance involvment did not start until he was a young adult. He was an 
undergraduate student 1963-1969 during the turbulent \"flower years\" at the 
University of California at Berkeley (UCB), one of the centers of student 
strikes for social equality and curricular changes toward those goals. But it 
was also at Berkeley that Bill discovered dancing, particularly 
recreational \"folk dancing\" (one of the faculty being Sunni Bloland). During 
the 1960s non-partner circular form dances were the rage in the 
California \"Bay\" area where he lived, studied and later worked as a High 
School teacher, taught folk dancing to a student and community group in 
Berkeley, and became an administrator of the Berkeley Folk Dance Festival. 
Although his Bachelor of Arts degree was in experimental psychology, and 
additional studies were in philosophy, engineering and music, his passion for 
dancing led him to Europe to seek out additional instruction. He became a 
student in character, ethnic and historical dance at the Folkwang Hochschule 
in Essen-Werden BRD (1972-1974), earning a Certificate in Dance. While in the 
school, he translated a piece, \"Foundations for the analysis of the structure 
and form of folk dance: a syllabus,\" for the Yearbook of the International 
Folk Music Council, volume 6. Here he began his contact with the 
International Folk Music Council (the former name of the ICTM). He also 
became a tutorial student under Albrecht Knust, at that time a leading 
authority on the Knust-Labanotation system. This was a major turning point in 
his life. With a knowledge of both German and English, and a hunger to master 
the notation system, Bill was the ideal person to be employed by Knust to edit 
the English language text of the Dictionary of the Kinetography Laban 
published in 1979. The later titles of his presentations and published 
articles attest to Bill\'s continuing quest to understand dancing through 
notation and structural analysis. 

For three years, and continuing with his notation interest, Bill worked for a 
Radcliffe Trust research project at the Birmingham Polytechnic University, a 
project concerned with human movement notation, and developing criteria for 
evaluating notation systems. This interest engaged him further with 
collaboration in various activities of the Language of Dance Centre in London, 
bringing his Knust editorial knowledge to more advanced study of Labanotation 
with Ann Hutchinson. 

Staying in touch with his dancing interests, Bill became employed with 
Folkraft-Europe, then directed by Ricky Holden and centered in Belgium. The 
company published folk dance records and books, and Bill was engaged in 
teaching recreational folk dance to community groups, schools, and teacher 
training workshops. At one of these seminars held in Hungary 1978, he met a 
young dancer from Denmark, Lilian Larsen, also with dancing and teaching 
experiences. By 1980 Bill married Lilian, taking a major life\'s step to live 
in southern Denmark, and from there continued to expand his knowledge of 
dances and recorded music for these dances through field research with special 
interests in Hungary, and later in Denmark. During the 1980s he continued his 
research on human movement analysis, and used the research project at 
Birmingham Polytechnic to develop a doctoral dissertation at Trondheim 
University in Norway (unfortunately not completed). 

From 1988, he became the founding editor of the Newsletter for research on 
traditional dance, and as editor, a member of the Board of the reconstituted 
Study Group on Ethnochoreology in the ICTM. Although controversial in his 
opinions that did not often coincide with the approaches by fellow 
ethnochoreologists, he nevertheless continued in this editorial role until his 
serious illness brought an early end to his life. 

Among his activities in the mid-1990s Bill served as an external editor for 
the International Encyclopedia of Dance for all papers on European traditional 
dance, and authored the Encyclopedia\'s article: \"European traditional dance.\" 
His other dance research presentations and published works are all listed in 
the Dance research published or publicly presented by members of the Study 
Group on Ethnochoreology, volumes 1989, 1991, 1995 and 1999. 

Thank you Bill for giving the spark in 1987 with both the Newsletter and 
the \"biblio\" project. They are lasting contributions to the field of dance in 
general and more specifically to ethnochoreology. 

* * *

Like life itself
all beautiful things
must die
or could this be 
just another autumn?

People die
nature comes back year after year

by William C. Reynolds (1945-2004)