Rudolf Laban’s father was a general in the Austro-Hungarian Army. As Laban writes in his autobiography, “My father taught me the life of a soldier, which fascinated me almost as much as did the arts.” Subsequent events show that the life of the artist won. Nevertheless, Laban drew on his military background when it came to theorizing dance and movement.
As Gwynne Dyer asserts, for almost all human history, a battle “has been an event as stylized and limited in its movement as a classical ballet, and for the same reasons: the inherent capabilities and limitations of the human body.” Laban concurs, drawing parallels in Choreutics between the cardinal dimensions, the five positions of ballet, and protection of the vulnerable areas of the human body as mirrored in the opening movements of fencing.
The metaphor of battle also plays a role in Laban’s conceptualization of human effort. In Laban’s dynamic framework, each of the four motion factor manifests as one or the other of two contrasting effort qualities. Four of these effort qualities indicate the mover’s indulging attitude towards Weigh, Time, Space or Flow; the other four effort qualities reveal fighting attitudes, in which the mover appears to be struggling against Weight, Time, Space, or Flow.
In Mastery of Movement, Laban applies these metaphors to develop a continuum of personality types, noting that “The fighting against or indulging attitude towards a motion factor form the basic aspects of the psychological attitudes of hatred and love. So it is useful if the artist realizes how these two poles of emotion are related to other forms of inner attitude, and how their relationship is mirrored in the movements of different characters.”
Find out more about Laban’s movement metaphors in the upcoming MoveScape Center correspondence course, “Mastering Laban’s Mastery of Movement.”