Choreutics in Berlin

During a recent master class in Berlin, I introduced the “mixed seven-rings.” These Laban scales are analogous to the major diatonic scales in music. Participants were instructed to use the seven “signal points” of the scale as if they were musical notes and to compose a “spatial melody” in four measures. Choreutics in Berlin

Students could use the signal points in any order and make them any duration. Individuals could embody the specified directions in any way they chose. Yet, interestingly, when we watched these solos, the freely constructed spatial melodies retained the fundamental qualities that Laban highlights in his unpublished writings on the mixed seven-rings. That is, these choreutic forms combine arabesque-like shapes that penetrate space with attitude-like shapes that encompass space.

As one participant commented to me later, this creative assignment made space harmony relevant. Rather than “received wisdom,” that is, spatial sequences taught and repeated by rote, Choreutics came alive. It became a design source for dance!

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.  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.”

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.  The key is to spark curiosity and a desire to continue to learn about movement expression.

Consequently, while Meaning in Motion is meant to be an introductory text, there is more material than can be covered in one semester.  For example, the chapter on Effort not only introduces the four motion factors and eight effort qualities.  It also covers all the states and drives, providing suggestions for creative explorations of these more complex dynamic expressions.

In explaining effort as expression, I discuss the psychological correlations that Laban drew with the motion factors and the basic phrasing pattern of preparation, exertion, and recuperation.  These notions are also linked to a reflective movement exploration.

Increasingly I have come to feel that it is important for students to understand relationships between states and drives – how states build to a drive or provide recuperation from a drive.  This is obviously more advanced material, but the adequate explanation is incorporated in the chapter on effort as well as in appendix material to help students begin to “think in terms of effort.”  

This was always Laban’s admonition.  Thinking in terms of effort requires a conceptual shift from focusing on what is done to appreciating how the movement is done.

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.  One way is to start with general principles of the Laban system. I identify the following as key notions in Meaning in Motion: Introducing Laban Movement Analysis.


Movement is a process of change. Movement is not a position or even a series of positions.  Movement is an uninterrupted flux.

The change is patterned and orderly. Body movement is dynamic and ephemeral.  Nevertheless, laws of spatial sequencing and effort phrasing, along with the rhythms of stability/mobility and exertion/recuperation prevent human movement from being chaotic.

Human movement is intentional. Laban observed that human beings move to satisfy needs, both tangible and intangible.  Movement reveals motivation.

The basic elements of human motion may be articulated and studied. Laban identified an “alphabet of the language of movement” that makes it possible to observe and analyze this psychophysical phenomenon.

Movement must be approached at multiple levels if it is to be properly understood. Movement is a dynamic process involving simultaneous changes in spatial positioning, bodily activation, and kinetic energy.  Moreover, movement can be perceived from a variety of perspectives.  It can simply be appreciated through immersion in the physical experience itself.  It can be studied objectively, or it may be approached intellectually.

Find out more in the next blog.

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. Recent research has confirmed that Movement Pattern Analysis provides a reliable prediction of how an individual will apportion his or her time and energy across the processes of giving attention, forming an Intention to act, and taking that decision to the point of Commitment.

MoveScape Center is offering an “Introduction to Movement Pattern Analysis” this summer. This seminar, limited to six participants, not only covers the core theory and practice of Movement Pattern Analysis (MPA), it also allows each participant to have his/her own profile constructed by the instructor.  

Over the past 75 years, MPA has helped thousands of people work more effectively, both individually and in teams. Find out more….

MPA Stands Up to Rigorous Testing

movement theory testingIn 2011, I participated in a pilot study examining the validity of Movement Pattern Analysis profiles in predicting decision-making patterns.  Although MPA has been used by senior business teams for over 50 years, its potential application to the study of military and political leaders has barely been tapped.  The pilot study was the first test of this new area of application.

Twelve military officers made up the research participant group.  The research team consisted of Dr. Tim Colton, a political scientist from Harvard and Dr. Richard Rende, a psychologist from Brown, along with Movement Pattern Analysts Brenda Connors, James McBride, and myself.  We interviewed the participants and constructed their profiles.  Several months later, the officers completed four hypothetical decision-making tasks designed by the other members of the research team.  The subjects could partially control the amount of information sought and the amount of time spent on each task before coming to a decision.

And the results?  As Connors, Rende, and Colton report:

“A composite MPA indicator of how a person allocated decision-making actions and motivations to balance both Assertion (exertion of tangible movement effort on the environment to make something occur) and Perspective (through movements that support shaping in the body to perceive and create a suitable viewpoint for actions) was highly correlated with the total number of information draws and total response time – individuals high on Assertion reached for less information and had faster response times than those high on Perspective.”

In other words, the MPA profile provided valuable predictive information about individual differences in decision making!

Find out more about your own decision-making patterns in the forthcoming Introduction to Movement Pattern Analysis seminar.

MPA as a Teaching Tool, Part 2

By Madeleine Scott, Registered Movement Pattern Analyst

teaching movement theoryThe application of Movement Pattern Analysis in building teams was not the focus of my experiment with making basic profiles of undergraduate dance majors for a seminar on career development.  However, I realized that an implicit team relationship clearly exists between student and teacher.

Students and teachers must work together, or they will fail to collaborate successfully in the educational enterprise.  The profile information about the group allowed me to re-assess the strengths and weaknesses of my own profile. This re-assessment of my own style helped me to be a more effective teacher and to respond appropriately to the “team profile” style that this group of students engendered.

In summary, the use of MPA as a teaching tool can improve performance for faculty in various ways:

1)  MPA can provide a novel and self-reflective way to analyze course organization and management, and to strategize meeting the needs of students with different learning styles;

2)  MPA can provide perspective on the academic advising activities required of the professoriate today;

3)  It can enhance mentorship practices required for new faculty and staff.

Find out more about Movement Pattern Analysis in MoveScape Center’s March introductory course.

MPA as a Teaching Tool, Part 1

By Madeleine Scott, Registered Movement Pattern Analyst

teaching movement theoryI utilized the Movement Pattern Analysis decision-making framework to support an undergraduate seminar for dance majors that focused on career planning and resume/portfolio development. In preparation for the course, I had interviewed and constructed basic profiles of all thirteen students.  This revealed specific learning needs of the group and suggested strategies to meet these needs.

For example, students with strong Attending motivation need to be interested in the subject as such.  They need to go into the subject in depth and also see it from a number of different angles.  Attention-oriented students like an open-ended approach where he/she can make discoveries.

Students with a strong Intending motivation need to have a definite purpose and want to establish the value of a subject and its worthwhile-ness.   They respond well to challenges and want to know how well they are performing in relation to others.  Intention-oriented students like a clear approach with tasks he/she can come to grips with.

Students with a strong Committing motivation need to see a prospect for getting results out of their studies.  They need to see that tangible progress is being made at a good pace and want immediate feedback on performance.  Commitment-oriented students like a well-organized approach, systematized wherever possible.

I found that the MPA profiles helped students to understand their own decision-making processes.  This can facilitate better management not only of individual studies but also of collaborative projects that must be carried out with peers.

In the following blog, I discuss how the MPA Interaction Motivations and team building, though not the primary focus of this course, also became relevant as a teaching tool.

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.

The Challenge of Teaching LMA

labanby Laurie Cameron

It is always a challenge to create a syllabus for Laban Movement Analysis.  At Pomona College, my goal is to cover the theoretical bases of LMA while encouraging embodiment of the material through regular practice of the Bartenieff Fundamentals and creative explorations that lead students to an understanding of the material within their own physical capabilities.  This has to happen in two one-hour and 15 minute sessions per week for 14 weeks.

Meaning in Motion has become an anchor for my course.  The opening chapters (History and Development and Overview of LMA) provide context and introduce the important characters.  As I move through the Space material, the students read all of Part 5.  I generally do not assign creative exercises for them to do on their own, simply because there are always students who need immediate reinforcement before confusion sets in.  I do plan to modify a few of the suggested exercises to try in class, possibly in groups.  For instance, students (in groups) might be given a simple score:  one group will be asked to interpret it through peripheral pathways, while the other group uses only central pathways.

I always seem to run out of time and wish that students could concentrate more on Effort.  I am determined to push us faster during the first third of the course so they can play more.  Students with strong interests in Psychology, Sociology, and Neuroscience often become really engaged as they observe Effort Drives.  I do plan to include creative explorations derived from those suggested in Part 4.

I am grateful to have this book as a way of keeping me on track.  Students who want more information can refer to it and be led to original source material.  It is an excellent study guide in preparation for quizzes and tests and provides more material than I am able to deliver.