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.

Mysterious-Mobius

 

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.  But the mobius strip has only one surface and one edge. That is, if you start tracing a line on the outer surface, your pencil will move to the inner surface and return to the outer surface without ever lifting the pen.  Similarly, if you start running a finger along one edge and circuit the strip twice, you travel along both edges without interruption.

 

In other words, the outer becomes the inner and the inner becomes the outer.

 

Laban writes about lemniscates in Choreutics and even maps a couple in the kinesphere using direction symbols.  Does Laban mean for this to be taken literally, as a spatial trace-form?  Of is this a symbolic form?  Find out more in the forthcoming MoveScape Center course, “Decoding Choreutics.”

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. Laban relates these movement directions with stability.

Living-Fully-3-Dimensions

 

In contrast, Laban also identified four diagonal lines of motion. Think of these as radiating lines that connect the opposite corners of a cube or rectilinear room. Laban relates these sharply tilted lines with mobility.

 

Then Laban makes an interesting observation. Since most movements are neither completely stable or totally mobile, “the trace-forms of living matter” follow trajectories that lie between the dimensions and diagonals.

 

Laban went on to develop lengthy sequences of movement that follow these deflected pathways. These lines of motion, which are more subtle than normal cognitive maps of space, are mentally challenging.  Moreover, they physically test balance and range of motion.

 

Nevertheless, Laban’s choreutic models encourage living fully in three dimensions.  Find out more in the forthcoming MoveScape Center correspondence course.

Science Catches Up With Laban

The ancient Greeks knew that there were only five three dimensional symmetrical shapes – the tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron, and icosahedron. The first four shapes occur in nature, in various inorganic crystals. But the icosahedron appeared to exist only in mathematicians’ imaginations.

 

Science-Catches-Up-Laban

 

However, as Dr. Eugenia Cheng noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article, once electron microscopes were invented [circa 1930], “we discovered that many viruses, in fact, have icosahedron structures.” Since the latter discovery around 1950, Cheng adds, modern uses for the icosahedral shape have been found, such as geodesic domes and soccer balls.

 

Laban began using the icosahedron as a 3-D longitude and latitude for the human kinesphere in the 1920s. This crystalline shape seems to belong uniquely to the morphology of living organisms. Was Laban prescient?  Why did the icosahedron become his favorite shape for mapping human movement? Find out more in the upcoming correspondence course, “Decoding Choreutics.”

Space: The Final Frontier

Laban’s notions of space are the most difficult to understand and to embody for many movement analysis students.  Laban himself had to perform some mental gymnastics to capture the disappearing trace-forms of natural movement.  Fortunately, he left a guidebook – Choreutics (aka – The Language of Movement).

Space-Final-Frontier

 

Choreutics has always been my favorite book by Laban – but it is not an easy read.  Consequently, I developed an “old school” correspondence course in 2016 –“Decoding Rudolf Laban’s Masterpiece, Choreutics.” Back by popular demand, this course takes readers on a guided tour of this fascinating book.

 

Based on an easy schedule, participants will read the Preface, Introduction, and first 12 chapters of Choreutics.  A set of study questions will be provided for each reading assignment.  When each reading assignment has been completed, participants will receive a commentary that I have prepared, providing background context and elaborating on Laban’s themes.   

 

Think of this as a “great books” course designed to help movement specialists explore space with both body and mind.  Find out more….

Advancing Laban’s Work in Germany

I will be teaching master workshops for Eurolab in Berlin in mid-October. The workshop theme is “Laban as Pattern Maker – Material That Never Gets Taught in the Certificate Program.”

Advancing-Laban’s-Work-Germany

Across three days, we will be exploring patterns in space and effort patterns. In terms of space, I aim to start with concepts that underlie Laban’s Choreutic forms, such as “rhythmic circles,” symmetry operations, and spatial intervals. Practical work will focus on embodying the Primary Scale, along with mixed 7-rings (one of the Choreutic forms that is seldom taught).

We will also explore how Laban applied symmetry and asymmetry in developing effort sequences and patterns. These little known aspects of Laban’s thinking are critical to phrasing effort changes organically and meaningfully.

During the last day of the workshop, we return to spatial themes, learning and working creatively with peripheral and transverse 5-rings, tilted planes, and an open form that Laban’s intriguingly referred to as “snakes!”

Eurolab (European Association for Laban/Bartenieff Movement Studies) has been running Certificate Programs in northern Europe since the late 1980s. By now, there is a healthy community of European Laban Movement Analysts doing very interesting work. I taught and helped run some of the early programs, so I’m very excited to be returning, to reconnect with familiar faces and meet new ones.

Comments on “Decoding Choreutics”

I created the correspondence course, “Decoding Laban’s Choreutics” last year for two reasons: 1) I wanted to push myself to study this seminal book deeply, and 2) now that it is back in print, I wanted to encourage other movement analysts to read it, too.

Decoding-Laban-Choreutics

I’ve read Choreutics more than once, and it has always been my favorite of Laban’s books. I learned a lot by organizing the reading assignments, and re-reading along with fellow movement analysts. Here is what some of them had to say:

“The course provided me with a most satisfying and fulfilling re-engagement with the world of LMA.”

“I gained the chance to digest/redigest this material 30+ years hence my original training – which allowed me to bring MY experience into the mix.”

“The pace was just right. The work load was enough to be engaging but not so much as to be overwhelming.”

“The commentaries are very interesting; they add more information and insight to the writings of Laban.”

“I’m inspired to rethink how I engage my students in the Space Harmony material.”

“Decoding Laban’s Masterpiece Choreutics” starts again in October.  Register now.

Mastery of Movement: Laban’s Other Masterpiece

mastery of movement rudolf labanMastery of Movement is for body and effort what Choreutics is for space and shape – the most comprehensive treatment of Laban’s ideas in English.  The book has an interesting history.

The first edition was published in 1950, after Laban had published Effort and Modern Educational Dance, and after he had written (but not published) Choreutics.  Thus Mastery draws upon Laban’s endeavors in industry, education, and theatre.

The first edition is focused on movement for the stage, but Laban’s observations go well beyond this, addressing broader functions of movement in human life and evolution.

Mastery went out-of-print in the late 1950s, and Laban was planning a new edition, but he died in 1958 before this could be completed.  Lisa Ullmann, who was conversant with changes Laban intended to make, then took on the task of editing each of the three subsequent editions, both adding and rewriting material.

The 4th edition currently available in paperback was originally published in 1980.

Ullmann added Kinetography Laban notations to the two chapters outlining various actions of the body, marginal legends to highlight important points in the textual discussion, and an Appendix on Fundamental Aspects of the Structure of Effort drawn from an unpublished manuscript written by Laban before 1950.

Now that Mastery is back-in-print, I want to encourage Laban Movement Analysts to read or re-read it.  Hence, the upcoming MoveScape Center offering — Mastering Laban’s Mastery of Movement.

Correspondence courses may be “old school,” but having steady assignments, a guide for reading, and reading companions is a great way to study classics.  And Mastery of Movement is a classic.

Find out more…

Snakes in Space?

kinesphereRudolf Laban thought so; he found them in the kinesphere!  “Snakes” are one of the seldom taught space harmony forms that Cate Deicher and I will be exploring in our “Advanced Space Harmony” workshop, December 3-4, in New York City.

Our aim in this workshop is to introduce new Choreutic forms and demonstrate how these can serve as a design source for movement.  Unlike most of the familiar space harmony scales, snakes are not rhythmic circles. That is, they do not begin and end at the same point in the kinesphere.  Instead, they are open forms that lend themselves to development and movement invention.

We promise that Laban’s snakes don’t bite.  Don’t take our word for it — find out for yourselves in the upcoming Ico workshop.

Serving the Laban Community

communitySince 1991, Motus Humanus has been serving the Laban community by providing various services to support movement professionals as they develop their post-certification careers.  These include the following.

Continuing Education for Movement AnalystsMotus Humanus has sponsored 14 advanced seminars addressing topics such as space harmony, effort phrasing, Bartenieff Fundamentals, teaching Laban Movement Analysis, observation and notation, movement psychology for actors, understanding movement patterns, and more.  Our roster of instructors draws upon 40 leading Laban experts from the US and overseas.  Over 265 individuals have taken advantage of these opportunities to deepen their movement analysis skills.

Networking Opportunities.  Motus Humanus has organized 8 Roundtables on Professional Events in which over 100 individuals have presented their work.  In addition, through our Adventure Grant program, we have provided over $2400 in funding for members to present their work at other professional conferences and workshops in Phoenix, Washington DC, Chicago, Brazil, Austria, and, most recently, Montreal, Canada.

And that’s not all.  Read more in the next blog.

Tensegrity – Did Laban Beat Bucky Fuller?

tensegrityIn 1975 Buckminster Fuller coined the term “tensegrity” by contacting two terms —  tensional and integrity.  Simply defined, tensegrity refers to “compression elements in a sea of tension.”

“Tensegrity structures,” cantilevered struts held together by strings, appear in photographic records of sculptures created by Rudolf Laban during his convalescence at Dartington Hall (1938-39).  Of course, Laban was modeling Choreutic trace-forms.  But he seems to have happened upon the concept of tensegrity, or more accurately, to have grasped intuitively today’s emerging models of the body as a biotensegrity structure.

In this biotensegrity model, central to what is now called “spatial medicine,” our bones (typically viewed as compression elements) float in a sea of tension provided by the fascial network, muscles, tendons, and ligaments.  Our bodies move and retain their shape through this interconnected network of compression and tension elements.  As Deane Juhan notes, “We will be closer to the complex truth in our conceptualization of muscular activity if we regard the body as having only one muscle, whose millions of fibre-like cells are distributed throughout the fascial network and are oriented innumerable directions, creating innumerable lines of pull.”

Laban’s concept of “spatial tension” takes on new resonance when viewed from this perspective.  In the “first fact of space-movement” in Choreutics, Laban affirms that “Innumerable directions radiate from the centre of our body and its kinesphere into infinite space.”    Among these many lines of pull, Laban goes on to identify two main types, counter-tensions  and chordic tensions.   The first is simply a kind of reflective body symmetry in which one limb reaches in one direction while another opposes this reach by extending in the opposite direction.  Chordic tensions accompany plastic poses and movements in which three or more “spatial/tension paths radiate in space simultaneously.”

Challenge your biotensegrity in the forthcoming “Advanced Space Harmony Workshop,” December 3-4, in New York City.