Laban Lesson: Space Scales

Glossary of Terms

KINESPHERE: The limits of an individual’s reach into space without changing place or taking a step.

THREE-DIMENSIONAL CROSS OF AXES :Laban investigated movement to see if their was a “harmonic” relationship to movement up and down, forward and backward, side to side, and diagonals.The upright human being has a three-dimensional orientation to SPACE. This means he had access to the HEIGHT, WIDTH AND DEPTH of the surrounding space.

VERTICAL DIMENSION ( or axis) called the “door” plane is composed of two directions, up, away from the pull of gravity and down toward the pull of gravity.

HORIZONTAL DIMENSION or “table” plane intersects with the vertical and goes from side to side.

SAGITTAL DIMENSION or “wheel” plane goes forward and backward.

You can describe where movement goes in the kinesphere by means of these six directions.

SPACE SCALES: a system to explain movement relationships.

WEIGHT FACTOR: A mover must be able clearly to sense his own body weight before he can actively change its quality. The center of weight refers to the part of the body most involved in initiating shifts of weight or supporting the body. The shift of weight is either Light or Strong.

TIME FACTOR: Changes in the quality of time in movement becomes either Sustained or Quick.

SPACE FACTOR: Movement in the body in which spatial attention in the body is pinpointed, channeled, single focused, we call Direct, but if the shifts of attention varies or overlaps, we call it Indirect.

SHAPE FLOW: Movement involves a change of relationship of one, several or all of the parts of the body. The change is called Shape Flow and can be said to grow or shrink, unfold or fold.

Laban Space Scales

#1 Reaching out to define the six cardinal directions: High, low, Left side, Right side, front, back.

  • (RIGHT SIDE: Right hand reaches. Right leg is more active. Always go and return hand through the center or the place. The left hand reaches in opposition. Begin standing with feet together, arms down at sides)
  • Right hand reaches high over-head and returns to the center by the navel…place.
  • Right hand reaches low as you plie and returns to place.
  • Right hand reach across the body to the left side middle as right leg also crosses and steps. Return to place.
  • Right leg opens to the right side in a lung, right hand opens to right side middle. Return to place.
  • Step back in lung and reach backward with right. Left leg extends straight in front. Return to place.
  • Step forward on right in plie and lift left leg in arabesque. Reach front with right arm and back with left.

#2 Reaching to connect the points in space.

  • RIGHT SIDE (This time the arms travels from point to point rather than returning to place. The left hand remains at your side.)
  • Reach high over-head with right hand.
  • Reach to the right side middle and lung open to the right.
  • Reach back middle in plie with left leg extended to the front.
  • Reach low and plie.
  • Reach forward middle. Step forward on right and arabesque left leg.
  • Reach across to the left side middle. Cross right leg in back.
  • Return to the high over-head reach.

#3 Three Dimensions

Vertical Door plane:  Open arms and legs to diagonals

Horizontal Table plane: Step on right foot, plie in arabesque (on a slight diagonal in back) and reach arms to the sides, torso parallel to the ground.

Sagittal Wheel plane: Step back on left and reach right arm forward and left arm backward. (slightly bend the back arm. Palms face middle of body)

#4 FACE THE DIAGONAL: Right hand reaches to points in space.

  • Reach across in front of body to left back middle. Right leg steps across back (twisted shape)
  • Right side high. Open both arms high diagonal Right leg goes to side (on half toes)
  • Right side high. Open both arms high diagonal Right leg goes to side (on half toes)
  • Reach low back. Right leg goes back (both legs bent)
  • Reach left middle across. Right leg steps across front.
  • Reach low right side diagonal. Open in lung to right
  • Reach back high . Step across back
  • Front right middle diagonal (plie on right and extend left leg in back)
  • Left low front diagonal, Right cross in back.
  • High front diagonal (step front on right, half toes)
  • Back Middle (step back on right and extend left leg in front off floor)
  • Left side high. Right leg cross in front (half toe)
  • Forward low (bend both legs)
  • Left side back middle. (right arm crosses in front of body) Right leg cross in back

ACTIVITY: Ask students to create their own Space Scale by making a written plan, determining the points in space to explore, and then transferring the plan to movement.

Basic Effort Actions

By observing people working, Laban found that most work movement required that people concentrate on weight, space and time simultaneously and called this Basic effort actions.

  • FLOAT: Indirect, light, sustained
  • PUNCH: Direct, strong, quick
  • GLIDE: Direct, light, sustained
  • SLASH: indirect, strong, quick
  • DAB: direct light, quick
  • WRING: indirect, strong, sustained
  • FLICK: Indirect, light, quick
  • PRESS: Direct strong sustained

ACTIVITY: Improvise with the EFFORT ACTIONS.  Put the actions into movement in the hand and arm and make it travel in various directions.


Traveling (walking) through space in various directions using Basic Effort Actions.

Use the right arm to initiate the action.

  • FLOAT (Front right high) travel on the right diagonal, reach low to high
  • PUNCH( Back left low ) travel backward left diagonal, reach high to low
  • GLIDE (Front high) travel forward down stage, reach front high diagonal, low to high
  • SLASH (Back right low) travel backward right diagonal, reach high to low to high diagonal
  • DAB (left back high) travel left straight sideward, reach high horizontal
  • WRING (front right low) travel on right diagonal, reach high to low
  • FLICK (Back high) travel straight backward, reach back high diagonal, reach low to high
  • PRESS (Front low) travel left front diagonal, reach high to low
  • FLOAT (Front right high) travel on the right diagonal, reach low to high right diagonal

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