Bartenieff Symposium – Many Happy Connections


On November 10th close to 65 Labanites gathered at the Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland, College Park, to celebrate the opening of the Irmgard Bartenieff Archive.


Susan Wiesner, a digital humanist, had organized the event. Here is birds’ eye view of the happy gathering.


– Forrestine Paulay and Martha Davis in conversation about their respective studies and research with Irmgard


– Carol-Lynne Moore – Bartenieff: Icon of Possibilities


– Ann Hutchinson Guest and others –  sharing memories of Irmgard


– Movement sessions led by Peggy Hackney, Tara Francia Stepenberg, and Karen Studd


-Robin Neveu Brown (and husband) – comedic performance piece on giving birth through Laban lenses


-Catherine Eliot – Bartenieff’s Legacy and Occupational Therapy


-Rachell Palnick Tsachor – Movement and Trauma


-Susan Wiesner – film showing of “Schrifftanz Zwei” – a reimagining of Bartenieff’s “Chinese Ballad” choreography, based on archival notes and floor plans


The event closed with a movement choir led by Catherine McCoubrey


This was one of the most satisfying events I’ve been to – a wonderful reconnecting with old friends and new.Read More

Irmgard Bartenieff Archive – A Miracle

Irmgard Barenieff-Archive-Miracle

For years after Bartenieff’s death in 1981, the Laban Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies carefully stored her papers but lacked the funds for full preservation and cataloging. The papers remained, untouched and unseen, in a warehouse in Brooklyn. And then there was a fire in the warehouse.


A cry for help went out to the Laban community, and through crowdfunding, enough money was raised to allow Vincent Novarra, Curator of Special Collections from the University of Maryland Performing Arts Library, to rent a truck, drive to Brooklyn, and see if Bartenieff’s papers had survived.Read More

On Irmgard Bartenieff

Irmgard Bartenieff

In the summer of 1975, I left the Nikolai-Louis Studio, walked across Union Square to the Dance Notation Bureau, and declared I was interested in the Effort/Shape Program.

I was ushered in to see Irmgard Bartenieff, a delicate elderly German lady who had worked directly with Rudolf Laban. She was guiding spirit of the Effort/Shape program. I don’t remember exactly what we talked about, but Irmgard was open and encouraging. I became her student, then her assistant, and eventually a fellow faculty member.Read More

Advancing Laban’s Ideas


I am dedicated to advancing Laban’s thinking – on the printed page, in the real space of the movement studio, and in the virtual space of the internet. I’ll be working in all three areas this autumn.

Irmgard Bartenieff observed that Laban’s life was “one great unfinished symphony.” She wanted her students to understand that Laban’s notation and movement analysis systems did not come about all at once. According to Irmgard, Laban was counting on future generations to carry the study of movement forward.Read More

Body or Soma?


Laban Movement Analysis allows one to approach the body both objectively and subjectively. Labanotation and motif writing provide means to analyze body actions objectively, while the somatic practice of Bartenieff Fundamentals is focused more on internal self-awareness.

Both bodily perspectives are presented in Meaning in Motion. The first section provides a terse illustration of how bodily actions are analyzed and recorded. The second section places the work of Laban and Bartenieff in the broader context of the somatics movement. A third section discusses principles and exercises of Bartenieff Fundamentals.Read More

Laban and Range of Motion

laban dance

Laban’s Choreutic forms both mirror and challenge the natural range of motion of the human body.  As Laban was designing these movement sequences, he drew upon his first career as a visual artist.  It’s clear from his figure drawings that he had studied anatomy.  And he applied this knowledge in theorizing the shapes the moving limbs can trace in space.

As I note in The Harmonic Structure of Movement, Music, and Dance, Laban does not distort the proportion of the body itself. … Read More

Moving in Three Dimensions

laban movement

Human beings have big heads, and biomechanically speaking, this is a headache.  Standing up freed our arms and hands and opened new spatial horizons.  But it also means we must cope with balancing our heavy heads against the constant pull of gravity.

Irmgard Bartenieff always felt that homo sapiens are still working out the possibilities of movement in three-dimensional space.  Evolution has given us greater potential than we have figured out how to use.  And this is where Laban’s Choreutic theories come in.… Read More

The Body


Laban did not neglect the body.  He had to create body part symbols and categorize bodily actions to develop his notation system.  Movement themes in Laban’s Modern Educational Dance address awareness of the body and explorations of various actions of the limbs, while over half of Mastery of Movement is devoted to enumerating bodily actions of all kinds.  Laban’s focus in both these works, however, is primarily expressive.

Elaboration of the BODY category in Laban Movement Analysis is rightfully credited to Irmgard Bartenieff. … Read More

The Iconic Irmgard Bartenieff

Bartenieff-photo (1)

When I first studied Laban Movement Analysis with Irmgard Bartenieff, I was in my early 20s and she was in her mid-70s.  Like all of the other young students, I regarded her with a certain amount of awe.

Irmgard had an extraordinary resume.  Not only had she studied with Rudolf Laban in Germany in the fertile and exciting 1920s, she had gone on to work as a movement professional in an amazing array of fields – dance, physical therapy, visual anthropology, child development research, and dance/movement therapy. … Read More