The Mysterious Mobius


The mobius strip, also known as a lemniscate, is a unique shape having only one side and one edge.  The shape was invented almost simultaneously by two German mathematicians in 1858.  It became popular as a prop for magical parlor tricks in the late 19th century, and perhaps this is how Laban encountered it.


You can make one yourself by twisting a strip of paper and joining the ends.  A normal band (think of a rubber band or a simple bracelet) has an inner surface and an outer surface and two edges.  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

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

Psychological Dimensions of Effort 1


Rudolf Laban recognized that the four motion factors (Space, Weight, Time, and Flow) characterize both physical and mental effort.  He associated Space with attention, Weight with intention, Time with decision, and Flow with progression.

Laban saw these mental efforts as both preceding and accompanying “purposive actions.”

Warren Lamb went on to refine these correlations of physical and mental effort in relation to a decision-making process.  He found that through the careful observation of an individual’s movement patterns, a unique decision-making profile can be discerned.Read More

Effort Range: Home Base and New Territory


“A healthy human being can have complete control of his kinesphere and dynamosphere,” according to Rudolf Laban.   This suggests that a wide range of motion is both desirable and achievable.

And yet, each of us has effort and shape preferences that define our way of being in the world. These familiar movement patterns anchor us; they provide a “home base.” 

On the other hand, it’s fun to move beyond this comfort zone and experience novel dynamic moods and places.  This summer, MoveScape Center workshops provide both — a chance to revel in the comfort of home base and/or the opportunity to explore unfamiliar movement landscapes.  Read More

Effort Shape and Individual Difference

effort and shape

Lamb affirmed that “effort goes with shape organically.”  Yet careful study of an individual’s movement pattern will reveal an emphasis on effort more than shape, or vice versa.   Lamb came to feel that this difference was fundamental and significant.

For example, he observed that an emphasis on effort reflected an Assertion-oriented approach to decision making.  Such a person is driven, applying his or her energies, both physical and mental, to make things happen.  This decision-maker gets results by focusing, applying pressure, and setting the pace.… Read More

Lamb and Embodied Cognition

movement pattern analysis

Laban correlated physical efforts with mental efforts, relating Space effort to Attention, Weight to Intention, and Time to Decision.  Warren Lamb added shape to this scheme, noting  that “We cannot move in making an Effort without an accompanying movement of Shaping.”

The paths traced by the moving parts of the body lie predominately in one of three planes – in the horizontal or table plane, in the vertical or door plane, or in the sagittal or wheel plane.  Lamb related these movement patterns to cognitive processes in the following way.… Read More

Testing Movement Pattern Analysis

rudolf laban movement theory

Over the past six years, I have been part of an interdisciplinary research team testing Movement Pattern Analysis (MPA).  The team consists of movement analysts, political scientists, and psychologists.  We have been comparing the Movement Pattern Analysis profiles of a participant group of military officers with their performance on a set of decision-making tasks completed in a laboratory situation.  Our aim is to assess how well their MPA profiles correlate with their decision-making behaviors in the lab.

Existing research has highlighted two dimensions representative of individual differences in decision making – how much information a person needs and how long it takes for the individual to come to a conclusion.  … Read More

Laban’s Dramatic Imagination

rudolf laban

One challenging aspect of Laban’s Mastery of Movement is his description of many dramatic scenes meant to be embodied by the reader.  These scenes involve multiple characters, various dramatic conflicts, and several changes in mood on the part of all the characters involved.

Laban wants the reader to get up and mime these scenes, thinking about how the body would be used, where movement would go in the space around the body, and what kind of efforts would appear and change.  … Read More

Gods, Goddesses, and Demons

movement theory analysis

In Mastery of Movement, Rudolf Laban invokes gods, goddesses, and demons in his discussions of the “chemistry of human effort.”

“Gods as conceived by primitive man were the initiators and instigators of effort in all its configurations,” writes Laban.  “The strange poetry of movement that has found expression in sacred dance enabled man to build up an order of his effort actions, which is valuable and understandable to this day.”

Laban goes on to describe floating and gliding goddesses, divinities of joy that flick and dab, gods that wring, slash, and press, and demons that punch. … Read More