Celebrating Janus in January

January is named after the Roman god Janus. As the god of beginnings, transitions, and endings, Janus is usually depicted with two faces, one looking to the future and one to the past. To celebrate the god of this month, I will begin a new year of blogging with some reflections on the previous year.  

Celebrating Janus in January

2017 was marked by progress in preserving the history of movement analysis. Materials contributed to the National Resource Centre for Dance at the University of Surrey by Rudolf Laban’s gifted protégé, Warren Lamb, have now been preserved and catalogued. Given the time and resource intensive nature of archive work, this is a major step forward. Hopefully, the catalogue of this archive will become available online later this year.

Through similarly epic preservation efforts, the archives of movement analysis pioneer Irmgard Bartenieff are now housed, catalogued, and publicly accessible in the Special Collections of the Performing Arts Library at the University of Maryland, College Park.  

In addition, the archives of Motus Humanus, an Anglo-American professional organization for Laban Movement Analysts, have also been transferred to the National Resources Centre for Dance. A partial donation of material made in 2017 will be followed by additional donations in 2018, including monies for preservation and cataloging.

And that’s not all – find out more about landmarks of 2017 in the next blogs.

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….

Demons Into Goddesses Through Effort Magic

Laban personifies each of the eight basic actions in Mastery of Movement. He characterizes Floating (all indulging qualities of Weight, Time, and Space) as the Goddess and Punching (all fighting effort qualities) as the Demon. He goes on to note that it will not be difficult for the actor or dancer to depict these characters, for we “remember the age-old symbolism of love’s soft floating movements, and of the violent and abrupt movements of hatred.”

During the recent MoveScape Center Mastery of Movement Beautiful girl following butterflies on a mountaincorrespondence course, Rebecca Nordstrom created a sequence of basic actions and imagined this movement sequence as a scenario involving the Demon and the Goddess. It is a beautiful example of how imagination can bring Laban’s effort theories to life.


Becky has graciously allowed me to share her scenario….

Scale of moods order: Punch, slash, wring, press, glide, dab, flick, float.

A demon looks at the large oblong object that mysteriously appeared in his lair. First, he strikes it with his fist, punching repeatedly to try to break it open. He then slings it violently and repeatedly around the room sending it crashing into the walls, floor, and ceiling (slashing). When that doesn’t work, he grabs it in his hands and tries to twist it open with great force (wringing). Lastly, he leans against it with all his force trying to crush it (pressing). Exhausted, he collapses into a heap and falls asleep.

Out of a hole at one end of the object a veiled figure slowly, gently and steadily emerges (gliding). Once free of the object the figure quickly but gently pokes at the surrounding veil with long delicate fingers and toes (dabbing). Once loosened, the veil is gently but quickly tossed aside with flicking gestures.

Now completely free of the veil, the figure begins to spread its wings and gently, delicately rises. As the butterfly goddess knew, she was only able to emerge from her chrysalis cage with the help of the unsuspecting demon. She hovers over his sleeping body to whisper her thanks before floating gently out of his lair and into the bright sunshine.

Lamb and Embodied Cognition

Laban correlated physical efforts with mental efforts, relating Space effort to Attention, Weight to Intention, and Time to Decision.  Warren Lamb added shape to this scheme, noting  that “We cannot move in making an Effort without an accompanying movement of Shaping.”

movement pattern analysis

The paths traced by the moving parts of the body lie predominately in one of three planes – in the horizontal or table plane, in the vertical or door plane, or in the sagittal or wheel plane.  Lamb related these movement patterns to cognitive processes in the following way.

He noted that “horizontally-oriented movement puts the performer in touch with what is going on around him.”  Thus shaping in the table plane relates to giving Attention.

Vertical orientation then emphasizes where the person stands “in relation to whatever he is in touch with.”  That is, shaping in the door plan relates to forming an Intention.

Finally comes the sagittal orientation, Lamb writes,“a form of decision to advance or retire from the subject matter.”  Consequently, shaping in the wheel plane is linked to making a Commitment.

Interestingly, this progression also underlies motor development.  The infant first learns to roll over (horizontal plane).  Then he pulls up to standing (vertical plane).  Finally, he walks (sagittal plane).  Perhaps these early development phases provide the sensorimotor foundation of our decision-making processes!

What Makes a Successful Leader?

leader movement pattern analysisIn his observation and analysis of thousands of business executives, Warren Lamb found that leaders come in many shapes and sizes.  That is, there is no single “leader” profile — successful leaders can approach decisions in quite varied ways.

However, Lamb discovered that the characteristic pattern of motivation tapped by the MPA profile has much to do with how a leader defines his or her responsibility.

For example, a leader who emphasizes Attending will believe it is his/her responsibility to analyze the situation, consider alternatives, and make sure there is sufficient informed preparation prior to taking any action.   A leader who emphasizes Intending will have a strong sense of mission, believing it is his/her job to instill discipline and stick with basic policies and plans.  The leader with predominant Committing motivation will believe it is his job to exploit opportunities strategically, to set the pace and beat the competition.

It is a principle of Movement Pattern Analysis that what is right for one person is not necessarily right for another.  Everyone has a distinctively individual way of moving and that way of moving in intrinsically linked with motivation and decision-making processes.  Successful leaders are people who act true their own way of moving.

What do your movement patterns reveal about your style of leadership?  Find out during the Introduction to Movement Pattern Analysis seminar.

Why I Became a Movement Pattern Analyst

movement pattern analystShortly after I completed my Laban Movement Analysis training (1976), Warren Lamb gave a short course at the Dance Notation Bureau.  I had been thinking a lot about the relationship between movement and psychology, but in vague and hypothetical ways.  What Lamb presented was much more concrete — it blew me away.

Fast forward 40 years, Movement Pattern Analysis still blows me away for three key reasons.

First, Lamb’s grounded theory connecting movement patterns with motivational initiatives and decision-making processes continues to help me understand my fellow human beings better.

Secondly, understanding my own profile has enabled me to use my strengths, minimize my weaknesses, and work more successfully with others.

Finally, the observational skills I have developed by carefully watching and coding normal conversational behavior have convinced me that movement analysis can be used in a disciplined and reliable way.

Don’t just take my word for it.  Find out for yourself at the Introduction to Movement Pattern Analysis seminar.

Movement Pattern Analysis – Business and Beyond

movement business and beyondIn the 1940s, Rudolf Laban took his dance theories into the world of work, addressing issues of efficiency, job satisfaction, and reduction of fatigue on the factory floor.

In the 1950s, Warren Lamb took Laban’s methods of movement analysis into the executive suite, discerning how patterns of movement reveal unique decision-making processes.  He applied his Movement Pattern Analysis profiles to thousands of senior executives in businesses around the world.

Today, Movement Pattern Analysis (MPA) is being applied to new arenas of human endeavor.

In the series of blogs that follow, three registered Movement Pattern Analysts – Laurie Cameron, Alison Henderson, and Madeleine Scott — describe how they have applied MPA respectively in creative work for dance, the theatre, and teaching at the university level.

MPA is not just for business – decisions are made in all kinds of enterprises and activities.  You can find out more about your own decision-making processes in the upcoming Tetra seminar, Introduction to Movement Pattern Analysis.

Movement Health – Laban-style

dance, movement, theory, labanAs the benefits of physical motion are gaining recognition and undergoing further scrutiny, it is interesting to see how Laban characterized movement health.  He wrote, “A healthy human being can have complete control of his kinesphere and dynamosphere….  The essential thing is that we should neither have preference for nor avoid certain movements because of physical or psychical restrictions.”

Clearly, Laban views movement as healthy for both the body and mind.  He prescribes a rich range of motion, noting “we should be able to do every imaginable movement and then select those which seem to be the most suitable and desirable for our own nature.”

When I did my Laban Movement Analysis training in the mid-1970s, the faculty used to give individual “movement prescriptions” in the middle of the year.  These were meant to be fun and usually aimed to encourage exploration of less preferred movement elements.  However, the underlying rationale was not made transparent to students, who were sometimes left guessing as to why they received a certain prescription.

Warren Lamb took a more direct approach in the hundreds of individual movement tutorials he taught in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  First he assessed the individual’s movement patterns.   Then he worked with their effort and shape preferences, gradually building less preferred qualities into a unique movement sequence that the person could continue to practice and refine.

Want to find out more about your own movement patterns?  Join the “Introduction to Movement Pattern Analysis course,  March 17- 19, 2017.

Body Language Is Out

Virtually any time I tell someone that I am a movement analyst, I am met with a puzzled look and the query –“Oh, like body language?”

Warren Lamb hated having Movement Pattern Analysis characterized as body language, and rightly so.  Popular treatises on body language primarily focus on poses and isolated gestures and affix simple meanings to these.

For example, while trawling the internet recently, I came across a “scientific portal on body language” that explained the meaning of various poses and gestures.  For example, one photo showed a man (his head cropped out) seated in a narrow and erect pose.  According to the explanation, this position conveys interest or surprise.

Another headless photo showed the fellow with his arms crossed over his chest.  This gesture was said to indicate being defensive.

Of course, postures and gestures do have meaning.  But poses and gestures come and go in an ongoing stream of human behavior.   Just as the meaning of individual words can change depending upon how they are used in a sentence, so too the meaning of poses and gestures must change in the context of the ongoing movement flow.

As Warren Lamb would say, there are so many ways to fold the arms over the chest.  Surely there are worlds of meaning to be perceived when we stop thinking of bodily action as a set of static punctuation points – arms open, arms crossed – and start to perceive it as a process of change, one that can be done in many ways.

Moving Beyond “Groupthink”

“Groupthink” is a characteristic of overly cohesive groups. Symptoms of groupthink include overconfidence and risk taking, suppression of dissent, and collective rationalization. The old adage that “like hires like” has some truth in it. Unfortunately, any group composed of like-minded individuals is in danger of succumbing to groupthink.

Long before “diversity” became politically correct, Warren Lamb was encouraging diversity in working teams. His model of diversity was not based on age, race, creed, or gender. Rather it was based on decision-making style. Lamb found that the best teams are made up of people who have different decision-making strengths.

Each effort and shape component contributes something different to the decision-making process. As Mary Catherine Bateson (daughter of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson) notes, “Everyone has had some experience of organic versus mechanical solidarity.” She defines organic solidarity as “the working together that depends on difference and complementarity.” This contrasts mechanical solidarity, which depends on “identical performance.” Bateson goes on to suggest that differences need not be a stumbling block to working together. Instead, people can make their differences worthwhile to each other.

The Embodied Decision Making course will help you understand your effort and shape patterns, your decision-making preferences, and what you can contribute to the  groups with which you work. Learn more….