Navigating the World of Movement Analysis

labanby Kathie Debenham

The wonderful world of Laban Movement Analysis and Bartenieff Fundamentals is  “foreign territory” to most university students who encounter it for the first time as dance majors at Utah Valley University where I have taught Introduction to Laban Studies and Bartenieff Fundamentals for 20 years. I am always on the lookout for resources that can help students enter and successfully navigate the world of movement theory and practice. My goal as a teacher is to provide the students with many opportunities to embody the concepts of Body, Effort, Shape and Space and to make meaning and discover personal application of these concepts in both their “dancing life” and the world beyond the dance studio.

When Meaning in Motion became available several years ago, I was excited to find a text that gave not only clear examples of theoretical concepts but also included suggestions for creative exploration that the students could do on their own outside of class. After using the text since it first became available in 2012, I have found it to be an invaluable resource for my classes.

Carol-Lynne writes with clarity about the LMA theory, placing it in both historical and contemporary contexts. Overall the level of writing is accessible to my students and gives them a reference to return to when preparing assignments for class.

Last Spring when we were studying and exploring the Effort category, I asked the students at midterm to fully embody one of the Effort Drives and the surrounding States.  The students approached the assignment in varied ways; some of them used the prompts in the Effort section of Meaning in Motion, others used those prompts to create their own Effort-laden scenarios, others came at it kinesthetically from their own Effort-full exploration and then named the most salient States and Drives.

When the students performed their Effort studies, the rest of the class practiced observing and naming  (and symboling if they could add that layer of complexity!) what they saw. Each student was also assigned to share their observation of a fellow student so that I could “see” what the students were seeing. It was delightful to see the students developing their “Effort chops” both as performers and as observers, and it was clear they were excited to have language to describe what they were seeing.