Movement and Human Needs


“Man moves in order to satisfy a need,” Rudolf Laban writes in the Introduction to Mastery of Movement.  “It is easy to perceive the aim of a person’s movement if it is directed to some tangible object. Yet there also exist intangible values that inspire movement.”

Laban returns to the theme of tangible and intangible motivations several times in Mastery.  In many ways, his notions of the motives that spur human movement echo Abraham Maslow’s theory of a Hierarchy of  Needs.Read More

Living Fully in Three Dimensions


As bipeds with mobile shoulder and hip joints, human beings have a wide range of motion available.  Yet physical challenges, such as the force of gravity and our heavy heads, limit the extent to which we actively tap fully three-dimensional movement. And mental habits can also limit our access to space.


Rudolf Laban succinctly identified two cognitive maps of space. The first is the dimensional cross and the cardinal directions of up and down, right and left, forward and backward.Read More

Shape as Laban Conceived It


Choreutics (space) and Eukinetics (effort) are the two broad categorical headings under which Laban grouped elements of movement. He did not single out shape as a separate category. Initially, shape was a Gestalt concept for Laban, a combination of the lines traced by the body in space and the dynamic qualities observable in these three-dimensional sequences.

Laban’s first career as a visual artist and his familiarity with Art Nouveau and abstract Expressionist theories influenced his initial description of shape as an element of dance and movement.Read More

Laban’s “Language of Space”


In Meaning in Motion, I explain that Laban’s notion of the mover’s space has two aspects: one descriptive and one prescriptive.

To better describe movement, Laban created several “geographies” of space. These give definition to the bubble of territory adjacent to the mover’s body, which Laban called the “kinesphere.” Such geographies created landmarks in the kinesphere and make the systematic description of motion in three dimensions possible.

In addition, Laban designed highly symmetrical sequences of directional change that circle through different areas of the kinesphere.Read More

Teaching Laban’s Effort Theory


Laban’s theory of the dynamics of human movement (effort) is deceptively simple. There are only four motion factors (Weight, Time, Space, and Flow) and eight effort qualities. But the theory becomes much richer because different combinations and sequences of effort qualities express very different states of mind.  

It is difficult to convey this richness in a semester-long course.  And I think that is okay. Students should not believe they have mastered all there is to know about  Laban in only a few weeks.  Read More

Laban’s Alphabet of Human Movement


In the early 20th century, before there were video cameras and smartphones, Laban recognized that dance, like music, needed a notation system to allow choreographies to be recorded.  Developing a movement notation system necessitated two steps. First, the elements that make up the “alphabet of human movement” had to be identified. Secondly, symbols to represent these elements and their combinations and sequences had to be invented.

Like all good theoreticians, Laban wanted to control the number of elements so as to make his notation system as economical as possible.  Read More

Teaching LMA at The College Level


Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) requires thinking as well as moving. Whether one is working with performing arts majors or a more mixed population, most students have never thought about movement and its component parts.  In this month’s series of blogs, I explore how to deal with some of the challenges of teaching LMA at the college level.

Besides providing rich movement experiences that highlight key features of movement (Body, Effort, Space, and Shape), it is vital to help students connect these experiences with meaning.  Read More

Effort and Human Potential


“We live only part of the life we are given,” writes Michael Murphy in The Future of the Body.  “Growing acquaintance with once-foreign cultures, new discoveries about our subliminal depths, and the dawning recognition that each social group reinforces just some human attributes while neglecting or suppressing others … suggests that we harbor a range of capacities that no single philosophy or psychology has fully embraced.”

Rudolf Laban would certainly agree.  “Preference for a few effort combinations only results in a lack of effort balance,” Laban notes.  Read More

Effort Relationships


At its best, human movement flows smoothly and gracefully in organic sequences.  The proportion of our limbs and the structure of our joints determine the way movement sequences unfold in the kinesphere.  As Laban notes, “a movement makes sense only if it progresses organically and this means that phases which follow each other in a natural succession must be chosen.”

Laban was also concerned with the natural succession of effort moods in the dynamosphere.  Exertion obviously requires effort; Laban found that recovery also involves effort.  Read More

Psychological Dimensions of Effort 2


In relation to the psychological aspects of effort, Laban also drew upon C.J. Jung’s theory of personality types. Jung posits four “Functions of Consciousness”  – sensing, thinking, feeling, and intuiting. Sensing tells you that something exists.  Thinking tells you what it is.  Feeling tells you whether it is agreeable or not.  Intuiting tells you whence it comes and where it is going.

Laban hypothesized that these psychological functions are embodied through each of the four motion factors. The motion factor of Weight relates to sensing; Space, to thinking; Flow, to feeling; and Time, to intuiting. Read More