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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Wed May 20, 1998  8:39 pm
Subject:  Re: Introductions?

> Alright, I stood up and told about myself. How about some of the rest
>of you taking your turns? Maybe Valerie should go next and the rest of
>you would follow suit. It isn't like we can just look around the room
>here or ask a friend to introduce us to each other. So far you all seem
>like charming people INCLUDING you non-prescriptive linguists.
>Ben Karlin / St Louis, MO USA

Good Evening :-)
It is a pleasure to read all of your wonderful posts, and I look forward to
our future discussions about them. This evening I will try to introduce
myself, as Ben so kindly requests above.

My name is Valerie Sutton, and I am a movement notator. There is no
deafness in my family. I never had the good fortune to meet Deaf people in
my childhood...what a shame! I am glad I have Deaf friends now :-)

My father is a retired physicist. My mother is a poet (as a Mother's Day
gift, I designed a web site of my mother's poetry at :-)

My sister, Pam, is a medical doctor who helps people die with dignity. She
ran a feeding camp in Ethiopia during their famine (years ago), and is a
strong and remarkable woman. She lives in Florida. Pam adopted twin boys,
so I have two nephews, Michael and Andrew, who are nine years old :-)

Actually, like all of you, I wear many hats, and in my case, I do other
things besides movement notation. But movement notation is where
SignWriting began...

It started when I entered professional ballet training at age ten. Other
dancers were totally taken up with "dance", but I started to become bored,
even though I was dedicated to dance. I started to think visually, and to
"see visual patterns in space". I became quite mesmerized with recording
what I saw. Other dancers would sit in the dressing rooms and discuss
"other things", like the costumes they wore, or how many pirouettes they
had done, but I was sitting in the corner, writing what I had just learned
in dance class. How was I writing it? Not with words - but with little
drawings- little stick figures.

Actually this was not really new....there are hundreds of known stick
figure notation systems in history. I suspect stick figures are very
natural. Children draw them, and of course, so did cave men. But in my
case, for some reason, I was really serious about it. I kept doing it and
doing it and I became pretty skilled at "movement analysis" just by
training my eye. By age 15, I had developed a "formal" way to record
movement frame by frame, not with a camera....but with pen and paper.

But I never thought anyone else would be interested, so I never showed my
writing to anyone except family and friends...

I moved to Denmark at age 19, alone, to study with the Royal Danish Ballet.
I preserved the Royal Danish Ballet's system of training, called the
Bournonville Schools, and through that work, my invention DanceWriting

In 1974, I started a non-profit organization in Southern California, which
at that time was called The Movement Shorthand Society. Today we are called
the Center For Sutton Movement Writing. We became California tax-exempt in
1976, and federally tax-exempt in 1978.

In 1974 I was invited by Fleming Flindt, the director of the Royal Danish
Ballet, to teach DanceWriting to the company, in Copenhagen. I taught in
Danish to a bunch of skeptical, famous dancers who gave me a hard time! But
it was great for DanceWriting, because through that first teaching
experience I improved the system and made it much better - more usable by
others. Within six months of the publishing of my first textbook on
DanceWriting it was out of date! I still have copies in my garage (my Mom
thinks we should donate some to historic libraries :-)

There were some newspaper articles in Denmark about "this American who came
to teach a new system to the Royal Danish Ballet". Some sign language
researchers at the University of Copenhagen read those articles and called
me at the Royal Theater - this was fall, 1974. I will never forget that
moment - for that truly was the historic beginning of SignWriting - I was
standing in the hallway at the Royal Theater with dancers in tutus and
pointe shoes walking by in makeup etc. - it was a confusing moment - and
someone told me there was someone named Lars von der Lieth on the phone - I
did not know him but I took the call - and he asked if I had ever thought
of writing other body movement other than dance? And I
said..."well...yes... I have written some mime and gesture"...Lars invited
me to come to demonstrate DanceWriting to his "sign language research
group" at the University of Copenhagen, and that is where SignWriting

We can talk about the true development of SignWriting later, which is
important information for this list...Meanwhile, there are history articles
posted on the web that will explain the story from that point on...

SignWriting History Directory

And last, a personal note...There have been some who have written to me
concerned and asking if I have cancer? No, I have never had cancer. I was
born with a rare skin disorder that is related to atopic dermatitis, or
excema, but this is a very rare form. I am the first generation to survive
to adulthood. I was given three days to live when I was born, and I am
still kicking at age 47! In fact, I can still dance, but my skin does not
give me a barrier to infection, so traveling is not my thing at the moment

I feel sorry for the poor doctors...they have no idea what is going on and
I think they are wonderful to try for me...but the truth is I am here for
reasons they do not understand. Everytime a doctor says I have three
months, I write a textbook!! I figure...if I am going to pop off I might as
well leave something behind, which hopefully will make the world a better
place. But I always survive, so then I write more textbooks! It has been
great for SignWriting, I get a lot accomplished that way ...I guess you
could say I have "deadlines"- ha!

So...if you ever go to a conference in San Diego, and you see a bald woman
in the corner reading Goldilocks in SignWriting, I guess you will know who
that might be...and I sure hope you will come up and say "hi" - because I
would love to meet you face to face :-)

Have a wonderful evening :-)

Valerie Sutton :-)

Sutton at the DAC
Deaf Action Committee For SignWriting
Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA
(619)456-0098 voice
(619)456-0010 tty
(619)456-0020 fax

  Replies Author Date
141 Re: Introductions? Penguin Rudd Thu  5/21/1998

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