In order to communicate ideas and concepts effectively one needs a language. This is especially so in movement, touch, and somatics, two nonverbal forms of expression. At the NYC Chair Massage Company – www eventschairmassage.com – we often use the language of somatics with our corporate clients.
The language for somatics was created by Rudolf von Laban – aka Rudolf Laban (15 December 1879 – 1 July 1958). Laban was a dance artist and theorist and is noted as one of the pioneers in modern dance in Europe and in the visualizing, interpreting and documenting of all varieties of human movement. Laban Movement Study, originated with him Rudolf Laban and was further developed and extended by Lisa Ullmann, Irmgard Bartenieff, Warren Lamb and many others.
Also known as Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analysis (LMA), his work 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, dance/movement therapists, 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.
The origins of his work are often traced to his studying architecture in Paris in the early patrt of the twntieth century. While there Laban became interested in the relationship between the moving human form and the space which surrounds it. He then moved to Munich at age 30 and under the influence of seminal dancer/choreographer Heidi Dzinkowska began to concentrate on Bewegungskunst, more commonly called Ausdruckstanz, or the movement arts spending the summer months of 1913 and 14 directing the school for the Arts at the alternative community at Monte Verita, Switzerland.
One of his great contributions to dance was his 1928 publication of Kinetographie Laban, a dance notation system that came to be called Labanotation and is still used as one of the primary movement notation systems in dance. His theories of choreography and movement are now foundations of modern dance and dance notation (choreology). Later they were applied in other fields, including cultural studies, leadership development, and non-verbal communication theory.
Laban developed the art of movement choir, wherein large numbers of people move together in some choreographed manner, but that can include personal expression. This aspect of his work was closely related to his personal spiritual beliefs, based on a combination of Victorian theosophy, Sufism, and popular fin de siecle Hermeticism. One of the schools of Sufism has strong philosophical ties to idea core to somatics. Sufi whirling (or Sufi spinning) is a form of Sama or physically active meditation which originated among Sufis, and which is still practiced by the Sufi Dervishes of the Mevlevi order. It is a customary dance performed within the Sema, or worship ceremony, through which dervishes aim to reach the source of all perfection, or kemal. This is sought through abandoning one’s nafs, egos or personal desires, by listening to the music, focusing on God, and spinning one’s body in repetitive circles, which has been seen as a symbolic imitation of planets in the Solar System orbiting the sun. As explained by Sufis. Whether spinning had an influence on Laban’s ideas is not known but it very well might have since it is unlikely that he would know about Sufism and not be aware of spinning.
Ultimately Laban’s work laid the foundations for Laban Movement Analysis,Labanotation (Kinetography Laban), other more specific developments in dance notation and the evolution of many varieties of Laban Movement Study.
Before the second World War he moved to England where he was greatly assisted in his dance teaching during these years by his close associate and long-term partner Lisa Ullmann. Their collaboration led to the founding of the Laban Art of Movement Guild (now known as The Laban Guild for Movement and Dance) in 1945 and the Art of Movement Studio in Manchester in 1946. Laban was a friend of Carl Jung and Josef Pilates (inventor of the Pilates method of physical fitness).
In 1947, he published a book Effort, Fordistic study of the time taken to perform tasks in the workplace and the energy used. He tried to provide methods intended to help workers to eliminate “shadow movements” (which he believed wasted energy and time) and to focus instead on constructive movements necessary to the job in hand. He published Modern Educational Dancein 1948 when his ideas on dance for all including children were taught in many British schools.
Among Laban’s students, friends, and associates were Mary Wigman, Kurt Jooss, Lisa Ullmann, Albrecht Knust, Lilian Harmel,Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Hilde Holger, Gertrud Kraus, Gisa Geert, Warren Lamb, Elizabeth Sneddon, and Yat Malmgren.
Laban Movement Analysis is generally divided into these categories:
- Body (Bartenieff Fundamentals, total-body connectivity)
- Effort (Energetic dynamics)
- Space (Choreutics,Space Harmony)
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.
Many modern somatic systems have derived practices developed from or influenced by LMA methods. Oday LMA is considered by many to be a branch of movement Somatics.
In exploring Laban’s approach to the body (Bartenieff Fundamentals, total-body connectivity) we can observe the 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:
- Initiation of movement starting from specific bodies;
- Connection of different bodies to each other;
- Sequencing of movement between parts of the body; and
- Patterns of body organization and connectivity, called “Patterns of Total Body Square Connectivity”, “Developmental Hyper Movement Patterns”, or “Neuromuscular Shape-Shifting Patterns”.
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, 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.
When my team at the NYC Chair Massage Company – www.eventschairmassage.com – offers stress management programs we are always concerned with which come first; the body or the mind.
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Body-mind explorations as practiced by the NYC Corporate Chair Massage Company – www.eventschairmassage.com – integrates corporate stress management with touch, bodywork, movement and chair massage.
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Today’s stress management blog is presented by a grant from Events Chair Massage –www.EventschairMasssage.com – a company that offers Corporate Chair Massage and Stress Management Services to meeting planner, event planners, party planners and HR for Trade show booths throughout the United States.
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