Laban Movement Analysis

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Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) is a method and language for describing, visualizing, interpreting and documenting all varieties of human movement. It is one type of Laban Movement Study, originating from the work of Rudolf Laban and developed and extended by Lisa Ullmann, Irmgard Bartenieff, Warren Lamb and many others. In addition many derived practices have developed with great emphasis on LMA methods.

Also known as Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analysis, it uses a multidisciplinary approach, incorporating contributions from anatomy, kinesiology, psychology, Labanotation and many other fields. It is used as a tool by dancers, actors, musicians, athletes, physical and occupational therapists, psychotherapy, peace studies, anthropology, business consulting, leadership development, health & wellness and is one of the most widely used systems of human movement analysis today.

Laban Movement Analysis is generally divided into these categories:[1]

On a more macro level LMA looks at the categories in terms of Phrasing and themes of opposites. The themes are:

Labanotation (or Kinetography Laban), a notation system for recording and analyzing movement, is used in LMA, but Labanotation is a separate system, regulated by separate professional bodies.

Laban Movement Analysis practitioners and educators who studied at LIMS, an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD), are known as "Certified Movement Analysts" (CMAs). Other courses offer LMA studies, including Integrated Movement Studies, which qualifies "Certified Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analysts" (CLMAs).

On a stylistic note, terms which have specific meaning in the system are typically capitalized (though this convention is not universally adhered to). Thus there is a difference between "strong weight effort" and "Strong Weight Effort". The former is an English phrase with a variety of connotations. The latter is LMA specific vocabulary referring to one of the two configurations of Weight Effort, a qualitative category of movement expression.

Body[edit]

The body category describes structural and physical characteristics of the human body while moving. This category is responsible for describing which BODY parts are moving, which parts are connected, which parts are influenced by others, and general statements about body organization. The majority of this category's work was not developed by Laban himself, but developed by his student/collaborator Irmgard Bartenieff, the founder of the Laban/Bartenieff Institute in NYC, through the "Bartenieff Fundamentals" (sm). The Body category, as well as the other categories, continue to be further developed through the work of numerous CMAs, and applied to ever extending fields, such as: fitness, somatic therapies, rehabilitation, dance technique, and more.

Several subcategories of Body are:

Bartenieff Fundamentals are an extension of LMA originally developed by Irmgard Bartenieff, the Founder of the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies (LIMS) – NYC, who trained with Laban before moving to the USA and becoming a physiotherapist and one of the founding members of the American Dance Therapy Association.

Effort[edit]

Laban Effort graph
Laban Effort graph with effort elements labeled

Effort, or what Laban sometimes described as dynamics, is a system for understanding the more subtle characteristics about the way a movement is done with respect to inner intention. The difference between punching someone in anger and reaching for a glass is slight in terms of body organization – both rely on extension of the arm. The attention to the strength of the movement, the control of the movement and the timing of the movement are very different.

Effort has four subcategories (Effort factors), each of which has two opposite polarities (Effort elements).[2]

Effort FactorEffort element (Fighting polarity)Effort element (Indulging polarity)
SpaceDirectIndirect (Flexible)
WeightStrongLight
TimeSudden (quick)Sustained
FlowBoundFree

Laban named the combination of the first three categories (Space, Weight, and Time) the Effort Actions, or Action Drive. The eight combinations are descriptively named Float, Punch (Thrust), Glide, Slash, Dab, Wring, Flick, and Press. The Action Efforts have been used extensively in some acting schools, including ALRA, Manchester School of Theatre and LIPA, to train the ability to change quickly between physical manifestations of emotion.

Flow, on the other hand, is responsible for the continuousness or ongoingness of motions. Without any Flow Effort, movement must be contained in a single initiation and action, which is why there are specific names for the Flow-less Action configurations of Effort. In general it is very difficult to remove Flow from much movement, and so a full analysis of Effort will typically need to go beyond the Effort Actions.

Shape[edit]

While the Body category primarily develops connections within the body and the body/space intent, the way the body changes shape during movement is further experienced and analyzed through the Shape category. It is important to remember that all categories are related, and Shape is often an integrating factor for combining the categories into meaningful movement.

There are several subcategories in Shape:

The majority of the Shape category was not developed during Laban's life, but added later by his followers. Warren Lamb was instrumental in creating a significant amount of the theoretical structure for understanding this category.

Space[edit]

Main article: Space Harmony

One of Laban's primary contributions to Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) are his theories of Space. This category involves motion in connection with the environment, and with spatial patterns, pathways, and lines of spatial tension. Laban described a complex system of geometry based on crystalline forms, Platonic solids, and the structure of the human body. He felt that there were ways of organizing and moving in space that were specifically harmonious, in the same sense as music can be harmonious. Some combinations and organizations were more theoretically and aesthetically pleasing. As with music, Space Harmony sometimes takes the form of set 'scales' of movement within geometric forms. These scales can be practiced in order to refine the range of movement and reveal individual movement preferences. The abstract and theoretical depth of this part of the system is often considered to be much greater than the rest of the system. In practical terms, there is much of the Space category that does not specifically contribute to the ideas of Space Harmony.

This category also describes and notates choices which refer specifically to space, paying attention to:

The Space category is currently under continuing development, more so since exploration of non-Euclidian geometry and physics has evolved.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ EUROLAB European Association for Laban / Bartenieff Movement Studies Website
  2. ^ Laban, Rudolf, and Lawrence, F. C. Effort. (1947). London: MacDonald and Evans.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]