On Flow, Lamb, and Kestenberg

One of the little known facts of Warren Lamb’s career was his close involvement with Judith Kestenberg and the synergy of ideas generated by their long association. In the early 1950s each had begun to study movement independently. Kestenberg was observing infants in maternity wards, recording their movements with EMG-like tracings.  Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Lamb was observing adults and recording their movements with Laban’s effort and space notation.

The two were introduced by Irmgard Bartenieff in the late 1950s. Both Bartenieff and Kestenberg studied observation with Lamb, and it was Lamb who identified Kestenberg’s tracings as changes in flow, rather than effort as Kestenberg originally believed. Lamb’s insight served as a catalyst for Kestenberg’s subsequent theories of psychophysical development.

MoveScape CenterAt the same time, Lamb’s thinking about adult movement was influenced by his work with Kestenberg.  Lamb had felt for some time that flow did not have equal footing with the other motion factors of weight, time, and space. This conviction grew as Lamb joined Kestenberg’s Child Development Research group, meeting with them on an average of seven times a year for 15 years. His involvement with her longitudinal studies of movement from birth to early adulthood added to his conviction that Flow should be interpreted independently. Lamb described their discovery in the following way: “As babies we compass a full range of Flow variation, then as we grow up this diminishes as we develop Shape and Effort ranges.”

While loss of Flow and gain of Shape/Effort was a trend among adults, Lamb was making other observations.

“In 1963 I had four children between the ages of eight and two. It fascinated me that of the many visitors we had, some were popular with all four while some were treated with indifference. One example was F.C. Lawrence. ‘Pop Pop’ Lawrence, as the children called him, was immensely popular. Others, including some Laban movement people, were not.

“What did Pop Pop Lawrence share with a lot of other popular visitors varying from the young, old, vigorous, decrepid, and with or without children of their own? I tried to observe what was happening….”

To find out what Lamb discovered, and how this influenced his Movement Pattern Analysis profiles of adults, come to the Motus Humanus “Lamb Legacy Lives,” in Golden, Colorado, May 23- 24.