Laban Lesson: History and Efforts

History Lesson – Rudolf Laban

Rudolf Laban (1879-1958) was a Hungarian born scholar who was a philosopher and theoretician of dance and human movement. Throughout his life, he was concerned with the nature of work movements and the effective utilization of effort. Laban became Ballet Master of the State Theater in Berlin during the 1920’s, but left Germany before the war to develop his theories in England. Fundamentally, Laban analyzed human movement and its meaning and application to art, education, therapy, recreation and industry. Architect, painter and esthetician as well as dancer, Laban saw dance as a means for joining with the larger systems of the universe: space, rhythm, and dynamic change. His extraordinary mind and consuming curiosity led him to develop a method of dance notion, Labanotation, and to develop a method for systematic description of quality change in movement. Kurt Jooss and Mary Wigman were his most noted students.


When someone moves, you perceive it as more than a change of place or a change in shape. Movement does not flow along in a monotone. You see it swelling and subsiding, quick flashes, impacts, changes in focus, suspension, pressures, fluttering, vigorous swings, explosions of power, quiet undulations. All this variety is determined by the way the mover concentrates his EFFORT. This effort might be concentrated in the quality of tension or flow of the movement, the changing quality of weight, or the quality of time in the movement or in the mover’s focus in space.

Flow, weight, time and space are called EFFORT factors.

Flow of tension can be either    FREE or BOUND

Quality of weight can be either LIGHT or STRONG

Quality of time can be either     SUSTAINED or QUICK

Quality of Space can be either   DIRECT or INDIRECT


ACTIVITY #1: Everyone walk with eyes closed. A leader will make sound and everyone move toward the sound.

Question: How do you sense space? How do you move when you cannot see?

Answer: Bound energy.

Question: What happened when a sound was made?

Answer: You moved from a broad focus to a direct focus.

One stage we concentrate our energy and use various forms of focus.

ACTIVITY #2: In couples: sit back to back. Give and take each others weight. One person gives weight and one accepts weight, Keep moving and sense when to change.

Shape Flow is a constant shrinking and expanding, unfolding and opening, going away,

folding, gathering, shrinking, going in.

ACTIVITY #3: 6- 8 people stand shoulder to shoulder in a circle. One person stand in the middle and give your weight to the people in the circle. The center person’s weight is passed around from one to another. Share Weight.

Question: how do you catch your balance? How do you release? Where is your center of gravity?

More Laban lessons to come! Check back for more!

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