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Qualitative movement analysis
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Qualitative movement analysis

This video looks more into two systems developed by dance-choreographer Rudolph Laban: Labanotation and Laban Movement Analysis.
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Let us now look a bit more at qualitative movement analysis. There exist numerous systems for systematic notation, analysis, and exploration of body motion from a qualitative and observational point of view, including the Alexander technique, Rolfing, expressive motion, and Dalcroze. Common for most of these is that they were developed at the same time or parallel to systems influenced by the dancer and choreographer Rudolf Laban. Here, I will briefly introduce two of Laban’s methods– the Labanotation and the Laban Movement Analysis. We start with the Laban Notation. Rudolf Laban worked as a dancer and choreographer before he became interested in the description and analysis of human motion at large with the aim of developing a universal system for motion analysis.
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For that reason, he spent time studying all sorts human motion, including that of factory workers. In 1928, he presented a system called Schrifttanz, a method for the notation of motion of symbols along a vertical axis. This system was later to become what is today called Labanotation. Here we see an example of Labanotation with time running vertically from the bottom to the top.
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And the vertical line in the centre of each notation system marks the centre of the body.
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Motion is then notated through the different symbols on the left and the right side of the centre line representing the left and right side of the body. Each of the body parts have their own symbols, and the duration of motion and position are given through different types of symbols inside the shapes of the body parts. Labanotation is still in active use today, particularly in larger ballet and dance companies. Some movement researchers also Labanotation. However, the system is complex, so few people really master Labanotation at a level in which they can read and write scores fluently.
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So as opposed to music notation, which we can assume that most musicians and music researchers master at a quite high level, it is hard to find people that can comfortably read and write Labanotation. In addition to Labanotation, Laban also developed what has later become the Laban Movement Analysis. Here, the aim is not to focus on writing motion structures in time, but rather, to describe motion qualities. One important point here is that the analysis should always start from the observer’s point of view. One could, for example, start by asking the question, how does this motion feel for my own body? The Laban Movement Analysis system is based on four main categories– body, space, shape, and effort.
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And each of these are subdivided into different categories describing different movement qualities. It’s a large and complex system, and we’re now going to look a little bit more into one particular one– the effort subcategory, which can further subdivided into four subcategories, each with a descriptive axis. Here, we will first of all talk about the space and whether the movement is direct or indirect. The space describes how one moves through the physical space and how one relates to the body’s kinesphere. kinesphere is the maximal volume that we can reach around our body when standing fixed on the floor. So the performance scene is really then connected to the piano itself, because the musician, the pianist, is sitting down.
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And it’s also the kinesphere– that is, the maximum directions that the musician can use– are defining the performance scene that we are talking about now. This is the focus of attention for the audience, and this is also then where the performance is happening. The second effort element is time. And here, we talk about an axis from quick to sustained. The quick is rapid. The sustained is sustained. Here, time is used to describe the rhythmic character or the motion. Laban was concerned that time and rhythm should not be split. This is because we experience rhythmical patterns all the time, and we have our own bodily rhythms defined by our pulse and breathing.
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The third effort element is that of weight, where we differentiate between strong and light. The weight is related to gravity and the fact that we need to use muscular activity to work against gravity when moving upwards. We also use gravity to help us when moving downwards, and it is this constant interplay between our body and the Earth’s gravitational pull that help shape our motion. And finally, the fourth one, which is between bound and free movements. The flow describes how much motion unfolds in time and space. What Laban calls free flow is when our motion is both relaxed and continues at the same time, while bound flow is when the motion is hindered.
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Even though the four effort parameters are but one small part of the full Laban Movement Analysis system, they give us a tool for talking about movement in a more systematic manner.

In this video you will learn about different types of qualitative movement analysis.

We will in particular look more into two systems developed by dance-choreographer Rudolph Laban: Labanotation and Laban Movement Analysis. These systems have not received wide-spread usage, but they are probably the two most well-known notation and analysis methods in use in dance and beyond.

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