Books On Books Collection – Toshifumi Kawahara

Dancing Alphabet (1991)

Dancing Alphabet (1991)
Toshifumi Kawahara
Hardback, casebound sewn. H307 x W236 mm, 96 pages. Acquired from Paper Cavalier, 27 July 2021.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.

The tradition of the dancing alphabet goes back to the Greeks. In one of his plays, Kallias the 5th century Greek playwright had his characters each dance a letter of the Ionian alphabet. This may also be an early instance of product placement. At the time, there were a variety of Greek alphabets, and it was the Ionian that won out. The tradition (without the product placement) continued and, in this collection, is represented by Vítězslav Nezval’s Abeceda (1926), Marie Lancelin’s Gestes Alphabétiques (2014) as well as Toshifumi Kawahara’s Dancing Alphabet. Kawahara’s CG animation work contributed significantly to Polygon Pictures, which created the Emmy Award-winning animated series Transformers Prime and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. But this book’s presentation of Kawahara and team’s work on the “In Search of New Axis” series adds a colorful flavor to the dancing alphabet tradition.

The book’s section “Jazz” adds bright notes to the works of five artists in the collection who bring the alphabet, musical notation and artists’ books together: Jeremy Adler, Jim Avignon & Anja Lutz, Bernard Heidsieck and Karl Kempton.

Dancing Alphabet is not an artist’s book, but the notes and moves it adds to the collection may serve as a spark to the next artist looking to the alphabet and book art for inspiration — or the next scholar intrigued by the connections between the alphabet, music and dance.

Further Reading

Abecedaries I (in progress)“. Books On Books Collection.

Jeremy Adler“. 29 October 2022. Books On Books Collection.

Jim Avignon & Anja Lutz“. 29 October 2022. Books On Books Collection.

Bernard Heidsieck“. 29 October 2022. Books On Books Collection.

Karl Kempton“. 29 October 2022. Books On Books Collection.

Firmage, Richard A. 2001. The alphabet. London: Bloomsbury.

Gagné, Renaud. 2013. “Dancing Letters: The Alphabetic Tragedy of Kallias”. In Choral Mediations in Greek Tragedy, ed. R. Gagné and M. Hopman, Cambridge University Press 282-307.

Lawler, Lillian. April 1941. “The Dance of the Alphabet”. The Classical Outlook, 18: 7, pp. 69-71.

Wise, Jennifer. 1998. Dionysus Writes : The Invention of Theatre in Ancient Greece. Ithaca ; London: Cornell UP.

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