Sie sind auf Seite 1von 354

Rudolf Laban’s Theory of Movement Harmony

Rudolf Laban’s Theory of Movement Harmony Dr. Carol-Lynne Moore

Dr. Carol-Lynne Moore

To my children, Keita Carey Moore and Kiyomi Lynne Moore

CONTENTS

Original Artworks by Rudolf Laban

ix

Preface

xi

Acknowledgements

xv

Introduction

1

Tracing a Theory: Research Material and Methods

2

A

Beautiful Theory – Movement Harmony

5

Chapter 1 Laban’s Journey: Art, Dance, and Beyond

9

Art and Dance: A Study in Contrast

9

Laban’s Early Years (1879-1899)

10

A

Life for Art (1900-1907)

14

Transitional Years (1910-1912)

16

Experimentation and Turmoil (1913-1919)

18

A

Life for Dance (1920-1937)

22

Beyond Dance (1938-1958)

26

Laban as “Artist/Researcher”

29

Chapter 2 The Artist/Researcher at Work

37

Tracing a Research Career

37

Reconstructing a Research Methodology

39

Laban’s Artwork

42

Making Art and Theorizing Dance

55

Chapter 3 Visual Representation of Movement:

Tradition and Innovation

61

Representing Movement

61

Proportional Theories and Figure Drawing

63

Use of the Traditional Canon in Laban’s Figure Drawings

70

The Impact of Instantaneous Photography

73

From Photograph to Mental Image: Bergson’s Philosophy of Movement

81

Bergsonian Reverberations in Laban’s Choreutic Theory and Notation

84

vi

Space, Time, and Proportional Theory in Laban’s Combination Drawings

86

Art Nouveau and the Modernization of Form

90

Empathy, Expression, and Abstraction

93

The Modernization of Form and Expression in Dance

96

Chapter 4 Space: The Outer Domain of Human Movement

109

The Dancer Moves from Place to Place

109

Geographies of the Kinesphere

110

Lines of Motion and Their Characteristics

121

Why Laban Preferred the Icosahedron

126

From Line to Line Complex: Theorizing Movement Sequences

131

Refining Laban’s Scheme

135

Summary: Taxonomy of Space

140

Chapter 5 Effort: The Inner Domain of Human Movement

147

The Dancer Moves from Mood to Mood

147

Evolving a Theory of Movement Dynamics

147

Elements of Effort: The Four Motion Factors

150

The “Dynamosphere”

155

Landscapes of the Dynamosphere

159

Patterns of Effort Change

169

Connecting Mood and Place

171

The “Law of Proximity”

176

Summary: Taxonomy of Effort

178

Chapter 6 On Harmony

187

Analysis, Synthesis, and the Essence of Movement

187

Harmony as an Analogic Metaphor

188

Ratio and Proportion

190

Balance

195

Symmetry

197

Unity of Form

201

Interrelationship of Elements

204

Individuality

207

Hidden Harmonies: An Interlude

207

A Working Definition of Movement Harmony

213

vii

Chapter 7 Tone, Scale, Interval, and Transposition

219

Chronological Development

219

Choreutic Forms in the Oral Tradition

221

Balanced Symmetry and Order in Choreutic Forms

222

The Standard Scale and the Chromatic Scale

231

Empirical Correspondences: The Standard Scale and Range of Motion

237

Harmonic Correspondences in the Standard Scale

238

Mixed Seven-Rings and the Diatonic Scales

244

Transposition

248

Harmony of Spatial Forms

255

Chapter 8 Modulation and Harmonic Phrasing

263

Musical Modulation and the Law of Proximity

263

Modeling Harmonic Phrasing for Other States and Drives

271

Stability and Mobility in Effort Phrasing

273

Exploring Other Models of the Dynamosphere

280

Laban’s Vision of Dynamic Space

282

Chapter 9 The Harmonic Unity of Form and Energy

287

Existing Theory of Effort/Space Affinities

288

Steps in the Emergent Theoretical Process

291

Mature Theory of Effort/Shape Affinities

293

A Shift in Perspective

296

Reconsidering the Theory of Movement Harmony

302

Future Horizons

305

Bibliography

311

Index

321

Original Artworks by Rudolf Laban

[Note: Artworks are identified by the classification system used by the Rudolf Laban Archive, © Rudolf Laban Archive, National Resource Centre for Dance. Used with permission.]

Figures

Figures 2-1, 3-2. Anatomical study. L/C/3/14

Figures 2-2, 3-3. Figure study. L/C/3/20

Figures 2-3, 3-4. Figure study variation. L/C/3/18

Figures 2-4, 6-3. Icosahedron and octahedron. L/C/2/119

Figure 2-5. Truncated octahedron. L/C/2/128

Figures 2-6, 8-3. Effort pattern diagram. L/E/53/2

Figures 2-7, 7-31. Octahedron being stretched. L/E/17/16

Figures 2-8, 7-34. Twisted band in hypercube. L/E/12/26

Figure 2-9. Variations of pentagon. L/C/1/87

Figure 2-10. Pentagonal poses. L/C/1/88

Figure 2-11. Dancers in icosahedron. L/C/6/100

Figure 2-12. Architectural sketches. L/C/1/2

Figure 2-13. Caricature. L/C/9/114

Figure 4-15. Directions in kinesphere. L/E/14/54

Figure 4-16. Center, body and kinesphere. L/C/4/7

Figure 4-21. Polygonal trace-form. L/C/5/86

Figure 6-2. Trace-form and figure in dodecahedron. L/C/5/128

Figure 7-32, 9-7. Klein bottle and multi-dimensional forms. L/E/14/34

Figure 7-33. Trefoil knot in tetrahedron. L/E/15/36

Figure 8-2. Working notes, effort modulation. L/E/6/62

Figure 8-8. Proximity model, effort states and drives. L/E/17/48

Figure 9-8. Weight/space shape. L/E/18/62.

x

Colored Plates and Photographs

Cover art. Figure in tetrahedral pose. L/C/6/56 Plate A. Superimposed octahedra. L/E/10/16 Plate B. Circuits in icosahedra and dodecahedron. (no reference number) Plate C. Manipulations of pentagons and heptagons. L/E/38/29 Plate D. Pentagonal shapes and poses. L/C/1/87, L/C/1/88 Plate E. Tetrahedral pose. L/C/6/56 Plate F. Unfolding movement in crystals. L/C/7/152 Plate G. Sculptural version of trace-form. L/F/7/68 Plate H. Lemniscatic sculpture. L/F/7/84 Plate I. Seascape. L/C/9/65 Plate J. Crayon portrait. L/C/9/1 Plate K. Figure surrounded by angular trace-form. L/C/5/86 Plate L. Trace-form as biomorphic curves. L/C/6/24 Plate M. Figures in icosahedron. L/C/4/7 Plate N. Cube, dodecahedron, and icosahedron. L/C/4/5 Plate O. Octahedron, tetrahedra, and cube. L/E/4/72 Plate P. Musical tones and signal points of A scale. L/E/4/72 Plate Q. Topological manipulation of octahedron. L/E/17/16 Plate R. Hypercube and effort affinities. L/E/7/35 Plate S. Flow shape. L/C/1/32 Plate T. Time shape. L/C/1/31 Plate U. Space shape. L/C/1/33 Plate V. Weight shape. L/C/1/21

xi

Preface

Rudolf Laban’s work has been highly significant in the development of analytical structures across a number of movement-based disciplines in the twentieth century, from acting, dancing and therapy to work place behaviour. It has been much referred to, with greater or lesser degrees of accuracy and understanding. The interpretation of his ideas has, however, been fraught with problems — partly because of his re-location from Central Europe to England in 1938. As with other artists and scholars who emigrated prior to the Second World War, Laban’s artistic practices lost their context, his papers were dispersed among various personal collections and a few archives, and his written materials needed translation. The spread of Laban‘s ideas across continents as far apart as Australasia and the Americas, again a common diasporic process in the pre-war years, also led to its fragmentation. Groups in different countries chose to emphasise specific parts of his work and used it in diverse contexts. In consequence, this breadth of application, compounded by the depth and range of his theorisation in itself, made it difficult for anyone else to construct a coherent account of the body of his work — a task he never completed himself. The enthusiastic development of isolated areas of his work by others, largely practitioners, whether in the theatre, or in industry, or in therapy and education, can be seen to have led to a loss of coherence. It was perhaps inevitable that his thinking would be distorted in the process, since it was very much a work-in-progress, only partially developed at that time. Moore’s re-visiting shows how partial previous understandings were. Scholarship to date is scant, focussed on education and therapy, and bordering at times on the mystical. A degree of historical and cultural distance is in fact very useful in allowing us to re-position Laban, since reflecting on his significance would have been extraordinarily difficult in the mid-twentieth century. So, while his ideas have inspired movement practitioners in many domains and across many countries over more than half a century, we have had to wait for a thoroughgoing assessment of his

xii

theory of movement harmony, not just for time to elapse, but also for a practitioner/theorist such as Carol-Lynne Moore to emerge, whose special strengths and knowledge, combined with persistence and long, long familiarity with the material have been vital for the insightful development found in this book. Laban’s original writings themselves, as Moore shows, have often been characterised as somewhat obscure, not just from being written in German, but in their content and mode of representation, just as his drawings needed to be seen in the light of then-current biological insights as well as the concerns of the visual arts. The ‘density’ of his material, a word Moore rightly uses, is a real challenge for the reader and, combined with the extraordinary complexity and inter-related character of his ideas, has halted many previous attempts at interpretation. While recognising the diverse and difficult nature of his exploration, Carol-Lynne Moore brilliantly explicates and pursues his lines of argument with great sympathy and clarity. The theory of movement harmony was perhaps one of the most problematic of his pursuits, requiring knowledge from philosophy, physiology, mathematics and the visual arts as well as deep understanding of movement and an intellectual agility not often found in movement scholarship. In bringing this book to fruition, Moore successfully negotiates multiple threads of argument, each extensively expounded, to interweave critical concepts with clarity in this interpretive exercise. Laban’s own ingenuity is matched by hers, and, with the empathy that is equivalent to completing a symphony only sketched by a composer, she moves beyond his less explicit statements into new territory. She does more than justice to Laban’s materials, getting inside his work and bringing it to new life in a manner appropriate to our present time. This book reinvigorates Laban scholarship, showing how movement and mind, body and soul, emotion and concept, are one, entwined, inseparable. This deeply difficult task, given the binary nature of language, is successfully achieved. It bears similarity to dance making of the present time. Just as current choreographers re-visit, for example, the themes of Swan Lake, and we see them anew, re-worked, so Carol-Lynne Moore challenges tendencies to value Laban’s notation system and taxonomic

xiii

analysis solely as technical tools, and focuses instead on his notions of the coherence of movement, its elements integrated in ‘meaningful human acts’. Its implications and applications will support the growth of the discipline for years to come. This articulation and further development of Laban’s ‘beautiful’ but ‘analogic’ theory of movement harmony makes a unique, original, and impressive contribution to scholarship.

Janet Lansdale Emeritus Professor, Dance Studies University of Surrey England

xv

Acknowledgments

My thanks go first to the British Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) for funding the two-year research fellowship that made this book possible. Generous support from the AHRB allowed me to extend the breadth and depth of my archival research on Rudolf Laban’s unpub- lished theoretical materials. I also want to thank the Department of Dance Studies at the University of Surrey for serving as host institution. Staff and faculty were welcoming and helpful without exception. Particular thanks go to Professor Emeritus June Layson, who generously shared her own experiences with Laban and also graciously served as a sounding board for discoveries as the research unfolded. The study could not have been completed without the dedicated in- volvement of the staff of the National Resource Centre for Dance at the University of Surrey. Special thanks to Chris Jones, chief archivist, and Helen Roberts, director, for their expertise, generous assistance, and good will—not to mention the occasional cup of tea when spirits flagged. Production of this book was facilitated by the Herculean efforts of Vivian Heggie, typesetter extraordinaire, who adroitly found a way to integrate Laban’s drawings with my text and translate roughly sketched diagrams into camera-ready illustrations. My husband, Kaoru Yamamoto, has not only steadfastly driven our children to school for weeks on end so that I had time to write, but also provided invaluable editorial support and encouragement. Finally, I would like to acknowledge my teacher, Irmgard Bartenieff (1900-1981). Bartenieff worked with Laban in Germany in the 1920s, but with the rise of National Socialism, she and her family immigrated to the United States. During the final 15 years of her life, Bartenieff intro- duced a generation of young Americans to Laban’s ideas, not as received wisdom from the past but as theory belonging to the future. Through her life work and, indeed, her very being, she conveyed a sense of the im- mense potential of movement study. Credit for the hopeful subtext in this study goes to Irmgard.

Introduction

Rudolf Laban (1879-1958) is identified by various encyclopedists and historians as “the multifaceted dance theorist” whose studies of human movement not only “provided the intellectual foundations for the development of central European modern dance” but also “unquestionably affected the tradition of classical theatrical dancing.” 1 While Laban’s reputation remains closely associated with the discipline of dance, he is an anomaly in the field for several reasons. Only a third of Laban’s career, the period bracketed by the two world wars, was focused single-mindedly on dance. During the first two decades of his professional life (1899-1919), Laban trained and worked as a visual artist. During the final two decades of his career (1939-1958), Laban applied theory developed from dance studies to a variety of novel fields beyond dance. Unlike most significant figures in dance history, Laban is not remembered as a great performer or choreographer. In this most physical of arts, Laban’s contributions are almost entirely intellectual. Today Laban is recognized primarily for two accomplishments. The first is his notation system, which allows dance works of varying genres to be recorded and reconstructed from a written score. The second is the taxonomy of human movement that provides conceptual underpinnings for the notation system by delineating elements of movement that must be recorded. Both notation and Laban’s taxonomy provide the means for breaking a stream of bodily action into component parts, either for purposes of documentation or for study. Consequently, Laban’s name has become synonymous with movement analysis. However, analysis was only part of Laban’s project, for he was also concerned with delineating how the various elements of movement cohere in meaningful human acts. To date, the integrative aspects of Laban’s theoretical explorations have received little scholarly attention. This book aims to redress this imbalance through discussion of Laban’s final intellectual achievement – his theory of movement harmony.

2

Tracing a Theory: Research Materials and Methods The material in this book was developed from my doctoral and post- doctoral research conducted at the University of Surrey between 1994 and 2002. 2 This research was motivated initially by a desire to trace the ideational bases of Laban theory and by so doing to locate Laban more precisely in streams of twentieth century thought and culture. The sheer variety of his activities suggested that there were many different prisms for understanding Laban. Temporal shifts in his professional interests added another layer of complexity to his work; chameleon-like, Laban appeared to change his colors depending upon the period under investigation. And though a tireless champion of dance documentation, his own work paradoxically had been documented haphazardly. As a consequence, situating Laban’s ideas historically, culturally, and aesthetically was neither straightforward nor obvious. In the beginning, biographical research was combined with study of the historical and cultural contexts of Laban’s life. On the assumption that the foundations of Laban’s thinking were most likely to be found in his youth and early career, initial study concentrated on the early decades of Laban’s life: the period from 1879 through 1919, that is, from Laban’s birth to his emergence as a public figure in the dance when he was 40 years old. Focusing on Laban’s early life meant looking at his somewhat undistinguished career as a visual artist. Documentation of Laban’s artistic activities was limited, and I had to work inferentially from existing traces. These indicated that Laban had been close to significant figures and events in emerging modern art movements, notably Jugendstil, Art Nouveau, abstract Expressionism, and Dada. Curious about the nature of Laban’s own artwork, I casually asked to see the drawings in the Rudolf Laban Archive, a vast collection of materials from the final two decades of Laban’s life that is held by the National Resource Centre for Dance (NRCD) at the University of Surrey, England. What I found as a result of this simple query marked a turning point in the initial study. I had accepted the given wisdom that Laban gave up art sometime around 1913, when he began to find his true vocation in the dance. 3 Hundreds of drawings, however, were to be found among archival papers dating from 1938-1958, the final years of Laban’s career. The

3

subject matter of the majority of these drawings — geometrical shapes, dancing human figures, dancers inside geometrical forms — seemed to explore ideas about motion, form, and space. Discovery of this cache of visual material indicated that, while Laban gave up art as a profession, he continued to draw upon his artistic skills to model ideas about dance. The uncovering of this archival material provided a thematic center and angle of approach for the study as it unfolded. First of all, many hours were spent studying Laban’s drawings in what may be characterized as a hermeneutic approach. Hermeneutic interpretation involves a mobile, somewhat intuitive process in which various relationships of part to whole, or of the interpreter to the tradition from which a text or artifact speaks, are juxtaposed until a congruence can be sensed. I was deeply familiar with Laban’s ideas from my work as a dancer. In studying Laban’s drawings, I assumed that he was modeling these ideas visually and that by looking at the drawings I would be able to apprehend the concepts they represented. The hermeneutic penetration of Laban’s drawings also pointed towards areas of knowledge upon which he might have drawn. My method was to pursue these pointers, reading as much as possible about subject areas such as human anatomy for artists, proportional techniques, photographic studies of human movement, and modernist art theory and aesthetics. In this way various arenas of information were circled, multiplying and deepening angles of understanding until distinct connections to Laban’s work could be made through a process of contextualization. Contextualization allows the historian “to confront what looks like a largely unconnected mass of material” and then “to show that sense can be made of it by revealing certain pervasive themes or developments.” 4 Such contextual juxtapositions for revelatory and explanatory purposes are in essence narrative structures. 5 Thus, the inital study employed hermeneutic and contextual methodologies to construct an intellectual history with reference to unpublished drawings in the Rudolf Laban Archive. This history focused on Laban’s choreutic concepts, the taxonomical elements and harmonic principles that govern movement forms in the dancer’s space. A post-doctoral fellowship funded by the British Arts and Humanities

4

Research Board allowed me to extend the initial study in two ways. First,

I was able to examine archival materials dealing with Laban’s eukinetic

concepts, the taxonomical elements and harmonic principles that govern the rhythmic patterning of energy in dance. Secondly, the fellowship provided time for extended study of unpublished writings on Choreutics

and Eukinetics in the Archive. Two things came to light as a result. First,

I found that there were just as many drawings tucked away among the

files on Eukinetics as there had been in the Choreutics files. The use of figure drawing and geometrical forms in relation to the study of movement forms in space was readily understandable. Laban’s use of a similar technique to model theories about kinetic energy was unexpected, but this discovery revealed that Laban utilized consistent procedures for modeling both domains of his movement taxonomy. While drawing in general was central to Laban’s method of constructing dance theory, over time I began to detect significant differences in the way Laban visually modeled the choreutic and eukinetic domains. He seemed to prefer particular three-dimensional forms for modeling movement in space. In this case, the choreutic models seemed to be literal — to represent actual movement trajectories. However, Laban employed a different set of three-dimensional forms when he modeled Eukinetics. In this case, the forms chosen appeared to be figurative rather than literal, explorations of formal relations rather than depictions of movement pathways. This distinction was a first breakthrough to understanding how Laban constructed his ideas of the harmonic relations of energy and spatial form. As I slowly worked my way through file after file, most filled with fragments of writing and arcane drawings, I kept glimpsing Laban’s attempts to connect separate strands of his theoretical work. I could perceive the direction the work was tending — but only in shadowy form, never fully crystallized. This was due in part to the way in which the Archive has been organized. There are overlapping subject categories. This ambiguity, coupled with the fact that several different people sorted materials over a period of years, means that materials exploring a common idea are often filed under different subject headings. By methodically examining all seemingly relevant categories, I eventually located the

5

“rosetta stone” documents, and Laban’s mature theory of harmony emerged from the shadows and became comprehensible and coherent.

A Beautiful Theory — Movement Harmony This book, based upon the first comprehensive examination of unpublished materials in the Rudolf Laban Archive, integrates Laban’s final theoretical explorations with earlier and better known work centered in the discipline of dance and focused on movement analysis. The book takes as its theme Laban’s observation that human movement has a harmonic structure analogous to that of music. This theme guided Laban’s research activities in dance, seemingly from the very beginning, and he attempted over and over again to articulate his perspective. Of all Laban’s ideas, that of movement harmony has received the harshest treatment at the hands of both friends and foes. The idea has, in short, simply been written off as a fuzzy figure of speech, a by-product of Laban’s mystical world-view, a utopian fantasy in which dance is seen to carry metaphysical significance and magical power. On the basis of my years of research, I have come to believe that Laban was not employing the term harmony in a fuzzy way, to refer to pleasing or attractive aspects of movement or to promote his mystical views. Rather, Laban employs the term “harmony” as an analogic metaphor. Through this controlled comparison, Laban aims to get at the deep structure of movement, elucidating the means through which distinctively different elements of movement cohere in meaningful actions. At its base, Laban’s theory of movement harmony is beautifully simple. Like all truly elegant and abstract theories, however, it is devilishly difficult to explain. Consequently, discussion of the theory of movement harmony is developed in three parts. The first part, Chapters 1, 2, and 3, examines technical and conceptual links between Laban’s first career as a visual artist and his subsequent vocation as a dance theorist. This examination recapitulates Laban’s career, situating his artwork and dance theory in a network of late nineteenth and early twentieth century ideas. The second part of the book, Chapters 4 and 5, deals with Laban’s taxonomy of human movement. While this analytic framework has been

6

articulated in Laban’s own writings as well as in many other sources, familiarity with the component parts of his movement analysis system is necessary to follow the subsequent discussion of Laban’s theory of harmony. The final section of the book extends the analogic metaphor of movement harmony. Chapter 6 provides an overview of Laban’s notions of the elements of movement harmony. This is followed in Chapters 7, 8, and 9 by elaboration of specific harmonic constructs such as interval, scale, modulation, transposition, and harmonic relationships. While the ideas belong to Laban, the articulation of these harmonic constructs is my own. There is, I believe, sufficient substance to Laban’s theory to merit this effort at articulation. That being said, no theory ever provides a perfect explanation for a material phenomenon or an actual experience. Each theory is always an imaginary excursion, from the known to the unknown. While Laban’s theory of harmony has the potential to extend understanding of the coherent nature of human movement, it will not fit in all particulars. Where it is found not to fit, new theory can be generated. It is by these means that knowledge is advanced in any field; dance and movement studies should not be exceptions. Thus Chapter 9 also provides a critical reflection on future directions for research. When Laban abandoned a career in art in 1913, dance was an a- historical and a-theoretical discipline by necessity. Since that time a great deal has been done to alter these deficiencies. Nevertheless, the role that theory can play in enhancing practical and creative movement activity is not fully recognized, even today. Dance and movement studies will never achieve their disciplinary potentials and be recognized as constituting legitimate bodies of knowledge until theoretical bases are better articulated. It is in the interest of furthering these fields that Laban’s theory of movement harmony is presented here.

7

Notes

1. Characterizations of Laban cited are drawn from, respectively, the entries on Rudolf Laban in the International Encyclopedia of Dance, Encyclopedia Britannica, and Lincoln Kirstein’s seminal Dance, 303.

2. Moore, “Choreutic Theory of Rudolf Laban.”

3. This is the perspective taken by the British biographer, Preston- Dunlop, in her Rudolf Laban.

4. Walsh, cited in Berkhofer, “Challenge of Poetics,” 142.

5. Barthes, Discourse of History.

CHAPTER 1

Laban’s Journey: Art, Dance, and Beyond

Art and Dance: A Study in Contrast In 1913, a 34-year-old Hungarian painter named Rudolf Laban (1879- 1958) declared that he was giving up art to pursue a career in dance. By becoming a dancer, Laban confessed that he seemed to have set his heart on “the most despised profession in the world.” 1 Indeed, the contrasts between the artistic discipline he was leaving and the one he wished to enter could not have been more obvious at the time. In the early years of the twentieth century, the visual arts in Europe were not only exciting and innovative disciplines, but also prestigious and well-established ones, rich in history, literature, and theory. Dance, on the other hand, was the perennial “poor relation.” Masterworks of painting, sculpture, and architecture outlived their creators and could continue to be viewed, appreciated, analyzed, and copied, while dance existed only for the moment and then disappeared without a trace. Libraries were full of writings about art, for a dense body of theory had been developed over the course of several hundred years, addressing fundamental elements such as proportion, perspective, composition, color, and form. In contrast, little had been written about the history of dance, and there was no substantial body of theory addressing the fundaments of human movement. Dance seemed to be condemned by its ephemeral nature to remain an insignificant art, even a disreputable one. Laban intended to alter these despicable conditions. Over the next twenty-five years, working in Germany and other parts of Europe, Laban labored incessantly to establish disciplinary foundations for the ephemeral art of movement. He developed a notation system that allowed choreographies of different genres to be recorded and re-staged. He wrote and published books about dance. He performed and choreographed. He organized professional dance conferences, and encouraged amateur dance for recreative purposes, often on a large scale. By the early 1930s, dance was becoming a modern art at last, and Laban

10

was a leading figure in the European dance avant-garde. However, economic and political problems in Europe effectively ended Laban’s dance career. Like many other modernists involved in the artistic diaspora of the late 1930s, Laban left Germany, and immigrated, first to France, and then to England. When he arrived in Britain, he was nearly 60 years of age, ailing and depressed. With the start of the Second World War, there was little demand for aging dancers, and he was compelled to find another professional outlet for his expertise. Initially he applied his understanding of movement to efficiency studies of manual labor in factories, training women to take on jobs formerly done by the men. After the war, he became involved in other projects: he taught stage movement to actors, supported efforts to embed dance in the national educational curriculum, and explored the use of movement in psychotherapy. Throughout these activities, he continued to write, to teach, and to theorize. In these final years of his life, it was not merely dance that occupied Laban’s thoughts, but human movement in general. As Reynolds and McCormick note, “Laban’s expansive intellect and curiosity would have marked him as unusual in any field, but in dance, where imagination and pragmatism rarely combine in one individual, he was unique.” 2 In a life devoted to the study of human movement as a psychophysical phenomenon, Laban’s initial involvement in visual art seems to be an episode of minor importance in a lifetime of more significant accomplishment. Yet the thousands of drawings Laban has left behind stand in silent testimony to his continued involvement in art as a means for theorizing dance. Consequently, this chapter examines Laban’s journey from art to dance, outlining biographical data that contributed to the development of his theories and tracing his career trajectory.

Laban’s Early Years (1879-1899) Laban was born into a bourgeois Catholic family in Bratislava, a minor municipality in the Austro-Hungarian Empire near Vienna. Even today, more than a century later, the historic center of Bratislava retains an old world charm evocative of Laban’s youth. A fairy tale castle sits on a hill overlooking the Danube, corners in the old center are marked by

11

elegant Baroque churches and palaces, while pleasant courtyards open suddenly in the maze of narrow streets. In Laban’s day, Bratislava was quite multicultural despite its small size, with a mixed population of German, Hungarian, Jewish, and Slovak inhabitants. In addition, the town was large enough to have a Municipal Theatre where visiting companies performed, as well as a Kunstverein, or artist’s guild, that held local exhibitions. 3 Ullmann’s annotations to Laban’s autobiography, A Life for Dance, report that Laban’s mother, the daughter of a physician, was a “cultured and progressive” woman. 4 Laban’s father, a career officer in the Austro- Hungarian military, had a more conservative orientation. 5 With the father’s eventual promotion to the rank of general, the Laban family became ennobled and were allowed to add a “von” to their surname. References in Laban’s autobiography to the family home overlooking the Danube, to his grandparents’ music room and vineyard, and to the servant available to him when he visited his father at the latter’s posting in the Balkans also suggest that the general economic circumstances of Laban’s youth were comfortable. Indeed, his father’s military promotions brought the family close to the Viennese court and imperial culture, with all the attached social responsibilities and privileges. Little is known definitively about Laban’s early education beyond the fact that he was “not a docile pupil.” 6 A few scattered references in Laban’s own writings must suffice as suggestions of formative influences during these decades. Among these influences, experiences with theatre, visual art, and the military are outstanding. Theatre. Laban’s autobiography suggests that he was a fanciful and imaginative boy and that his fantasies had a strongly theatrical element. Laban’s boyish dramatic impulses were further reinforced by his extended family. One favorite uncle, Adolf Mylius, became a prominent actor in Germany. Another uncle with whom Laban spent a lot of time was Antoine Sendlein, city architect of Bratislava. Because his uncle’s responsibilities included making contracts with visiting theatrical companies, Laban reports becoming familiar with the theatre “from the flies to the pits.” 7 Although his family rationed his attendance at performances, fearing it would cause his imagination to run riot, Laban’s autobiography indicates

12

that he was able to see many operas, operettas, dramas, folk-plays, and circuses. Scenic design should also be mentioned as another youthful interest linking Laban to the theatre. He became friends with the son of the scene decoration painter, Otto Winterstein, often visiting his studio. 8 This painter was sometimes called upon to decorate halls for festivities and Laban became his assistant in these enterprises. Moreover, when the old painter died, his son took over scene-painting duties and also called upon Laban’s help. An on-going partnership apparently resulted. Visual Art. Scenic decoration was not the only type of art that figured prominently in his youth. By his own accounts, the artistically inclined Laban was befriended by a local painter, whom Vojtek identifies as Eduard Majsch. 9 In his autobiography, Laban writes that Majsch, “was the first person to whom I confessed my intention of becoming an artist.” The painter took Laban “firmly in hand” and forced the somewhat undisciplined youth to “learn real craftsmanship.” 10 By age sixteen, Laban recalls, “I counted as quite a reputable painter.” 11 As a student of Majsch, the youthful Laban was able to exhibit his paintings in Bratislava. Laban notes that at this time, “awareness of movement existed only in my sub- conscious and was strongly linked with the pictorial. It needed a special occasion to open my eyes to the fact that in the ‘moving picture’ lies hidden a tremendously enhanced expression of human will and feeling.” 12 The particular occasion which released this awareness again came through Majsch. In 1897, a provincial ruler was due to visit Bratislava for the unveiling of a monument. As part of the festivities, the old painter was asked to design not only triumphal arches but also tableaux vivants, which were to be performed as part of the festivities in the Municipal Theatre. At one rehearsal when the painter was absent, Laban tried out his own ideas. Rather than having the group remain motionless throughout the festivities, Laban directed them to strike a new pose with each new phrase of musical accompaniment. This innovation found favor with Majsch, to Laban’s delight. The experience opened a completely new field of activity. Laban recalls that “I designed hundreds of these sequences and gradually they developed into real group-dance scenes.” 13 The Military. If an awareness of movement came to Laban only

13

gradually through painting, its role in martial maneuvers was much more obvious. When Laban visited his father in the Balkans, he took part in “training in fencing, shooting, riding and other forms of sport and combat.” He was also able to observe battalion exercises, corps maneuvers, and actual skirmishes. “Horses panted, soldier surged forward and gun carriages bumped over the field. It was as if everyone was flying and tearing about in wonderful designs,” he recalled. Laban admits to being justifiably proud of his father’s role as the commanding officer and deriving pleasure, not only from his own physical exertions but also from the “splendid display of movement” in parades and formal marching processionals. Indeed, Laban later acknowledged that the life of a soldier fascinated him “almost as much as the arts.” 14 His father’s posting to various parts of the multi-national Austro- Hungarian Empire also provided contacts with different cultural groups. In particular, the time spent as an adolescent in Bosnia and Herzegovina appears to have made a lasting impression on Laban. Through his “tutor,” a Muslim Imam, Laban gained access to the Sufi sects in the area, witnessing their ecstatic dance rituals: “I saw to my astonishment dervishes, in a state of high ecstasy, driving long needles and nails through their cheeks, and through their chests and their arm muscles, without showing any sign of pain, or even more important, without losing a drop of blood. Afterwards there was no trace of a wound.” 15 Laban appears to have been deeply affected by these rituals, for he was later to remark, “Were the dervishes really immune to cuts? Could dancing really have such a power over man? Belief in a magic that conquers nature was surely just foolishness, a childish superstition — but even so, wasn’t there something great, something immense hidden behind it?” 16 Despite his interest in arcane and artistic matters, in 1899 Laban entered an Officers’ Training Academy near Vienna at the instigation of his father. It would appear that the unhappy year spent there settled forever the contest between the life of the soldier and the life of the artist. Laban’s military career ended in 1900, never to be resumed despite the occurrence of two World Wars. The life of the artist was the course that would be followed from 1900 onwards.

14

A Life for Art (1900-1907) Despite his family’s misgivings, Laban secured a small allowance and permission to pursue his interest in art. His first port of call was Munich, a continental art center second only to Paris in the fin-de-siècle world. Laban situated himself in Schwabing, the bohemian sector where “everyone painted — or wrote poems, or made music, or took up dancing.” 17 Here Laban quickly formed two important attachments. The first was to Martha Fricke, a German art student, whom Laban married shortly after arriving in Munich. The second was an acquaintance with Jugendstil artist, Hermann Obrist. Little is known about how Laban made these connections. What can be surmised is that Laban established a personal circle in which making and discussing art were paramount. The art of the moment was Jugendstil, a local manifestation of the much broader international movement known as Art Nouveau. Retrospectively, this self-proclaimed “new art” can be seen as an important link in the shift from representational art, whose traditions were promulgated by the great European art academies, to non-representational art, which emerged from the various iconoclastic movements of the early 20th century. In the fin-de-siècle period, Munich was a particularly important center of the Art Nouveau movement because developments taking place in German aesthetics and psychological studies overlapped with innovations in the fine and applied arts, making for a heady mixture of theory and practice. 18 The visionary Obrist was a pivotal person in the Munich art community, not only due to the attention that his own work attracted, but also because of his extensive public lecture activities and reputation as an inspirational teacher. 19 It is not known if Laban and his wife actually studied with Obrist. Even peripheral involvement in his circle, however, would have given them access to some of the most advanced thinking about art at this time. In any case, Laban and his wife did not linger in Munich for long. Late in 1900, the year of the famous Universal Exposition, they moved on to Paris to enroll in the École des Beaux Arts. At this time, between 500-600 students were regularly registered in the École, studying either painting, sculpture, or architecture. Admission to the École was by competition, and advancement was likewise based on competition, the

15

most prestigious award being the Prix de Rome, which allowed its recipients to study at the French academy in Rome. While classes and theoretical lectures at the École were free, the more practical side of the arts was taught in the artist’s studio or the architect’s drawing office. And so a system of ateliers, some commissioned by the Académie des Beaux Arts, some independent, provided additional training for which students paid. 20 Laban’s own recountings of his educational background indicate that he studied architecture and painting at the École des Beaux Arts during the period of 1900-1907. His biographer, however, has been unable to find records of his enrollment, either at the École or in one of the ateliers. This may be because Laban failed to pass the competitive examination for upper level classes, for only the names of the students in these classes have been retained in the archives of the École. Laban’s wife, however, seemingly did pass and is recorded in 1903 as a student in the School of Architecture, where course work included “mathematics, geometry, architectural history, analytical elements and perspective.” 21 One could, of course, learn much about architecture and art outside the walls of the academy. Paris itself was an artist’s textbook. For those of a conventional bent, the city was filled with historical architectural masterpieces in various styles. Art Nouveau designers were also modernizing the look of the city, from the Metro gates created by Hector Guimard to the theatre built on the Paris Exposition grounds by Henri Savage for Loie Fuller, the dancer whose abstract manipulation of fabric and light seemed the very embodiment of Art Nouveau ornament. 22 Historically significant paintings and sculpture were on view in the city’s many museums. Contemporary work was also readily accessible. For academically acceptable painters, there was a well-established system for exhibiting and selling work. Beyond the mainstream, more iconoclastic artists developed their own exhibition opportunites through a number of independent salons. Straddling these worlds, the gallery of Siegfried Bing, L’Art Nouveau, provided a venue where it was possible to see the newest designs in furniture, fabric, lamps, wall coverings, and other decorative arts. 23 Surrounded by these riches, Laban eked out a living for his family

16

somehow, perhaps by selling caricatures, magazine illustrations, or sidewalk portraits. In any case, this period was brought to a close in 1907 by the tragic early death of Laban’s wife. The two children of the union were sent to be raised by their maternal grandparents, while Laban apparently returned to his paternal home, seemingly passing into a phase of inactivity about which little is known. Concrete information about these first years of Laban’s artistic career is frustratingly scarce. 24 Surviving works shown in Chapter 2 and the latter sections of this book demonstrate an understanding of human anatomy, proportion, geometry, and rendering in perspective, indicating that Laban received the rudiments of an academic art education. In addition to familiarity with academic traditions of visual representation, Laban was also immersed in the innovations of Art Nouveau through his contacts in Munich and his surroundings in Paris. A few of Laban’s surviving illustrations testify to his familiarity with stylistic features of Art Nouveau. 25 In the years leading up to World War I, however, this “new art” was destined to be surpassed by the even greater innovations of abstract Expressionism. And Laban, it would seem, was destined to be back in Munich when this breakthrough occurred.

Transitional Years (1910-1912) In 1910, through contacts within his family circle, Laban met and married Maja Lederer, a singer. After the wedding in Bratislava, the couple moved to Munich, settling down in Schwabing. This bohemian community once again proved important for Laban, “enabling him to inform himself of a wide range of current artistic philosophies and offering a fertile ground in which he could try out his emergent ideas in a practical way.” 26 The Labans immersed themselves in the artistic whirl of the district, cobbling together a livelihood of sorts. Maja taught singing while Laban himself worked freelance as an illustrator and caricaturist. As children began to arrive the Labans were often in debt. Yet, they “regularly attended performances throughout the years 1910-1914.” 27 Given Laban’s career, presumably they also attended important exhibitions and other art events. As it so happened, the art scene in Munich at this time was quite lively, due to the emergence of the Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) group. At

17

the heart of the Blaue Reiter were the painters Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. In 1911 the first Blaue Reiter group exhibition was held in Munich, followed by the publication of Kandinsky’s theoretical treatise, Concerning the Spiritual in Art. 28 The year 1912 saw the second group exhibition held in Munich and publication of Der Blaue Reiter Almanac, edited by Kandinsky and Marc. This almanac combined an eclectic collection of illustrations with writings on art, music, and theatre. Though “spontaneous in origin and fragmentary in shape,” the Almanac outlined “a program of modern aesthetics and articulated principles of artistic creativity that are still of current interest.” 29 Munich was also the site of creative revolutions in the performing arts. The Munich Artists’ Theatre, under the visionary direction of Georg Fuchs, had opened in 1908. With its advanced lighting system, unique proscenium, and Jugendstil decoration, it was the most modern theatre in Germany. Productions by local writers and musicians were encouraged, while the whole thrust of the theatre’s program was oriented toward “a nonnaturalistic symbolic theatre.” 30 “Spiritual art,” it would seem, was in the air, for Munich also saw the premiers of Rudolf Steiner’s cycle of four Mystery Plays, beginning in 1910. 31 Development of Steiner’s esoteric movement art, Eurythmy, also began during this period, with a premier performance being given in conjunction with a gathering of the Theosophical Society in Munich in 1913. 32 Meanwhile, cabaret performers and playwrights such as Frank Wedekind explored the satirical and profane, pushing the limits of what were considered to be socially acceptable topics for stage portrayal. 33 These sacred and profane currents came together in the traditional carnival festivities preceding Lent. As a way to make money during the winters of 1911-1913, Laban became involved in staging entertainments for various carnival balls, designing sets and costumes and recruiting amateur performers. From Laban’s descriptions in his autobiography, these were colossal productions involving hundreds of people. While he complains of the workload, the experience of directing such festivities seems to mark the start of a transition in his professional direction. Sometime in 1912, Laban packed away his paintings to make room for movement classes in his studio, gathering a small group of students. These

18

students presumably became his assistants in staging carnival entertainments, helping to train the amateur performers and stepping in for the more demanding dance parts. Laban’s dance inventions were soon so enthusiastically received, he claimed, that “no festivals took place at which we were not present with our dances and other artistic contributions.” 34 Despite these successes, Laban appears to have been dissatisfied with the trivial character of the work and the carnivalesque atmosphere in which it evolved. “For the first time,” he writes, “I became aware of my responsibility for this group of people who put their trust in me.” 35 Laban wanted to see “festive moments” filled with a “spiritual attitude.” He longed for his dancers to be able to get out of town: “Alongside the arts they must do a healthy job, preferably farming, gardening or something of that kind, for in both form and content the artistic work must grow out of the community in which I should like to bring them together.” 36

Experimentation and Turmoil (1913-1919) In search of a more suitable environment for his work, Laban visited “Monte Verita” in the spring of 1913. Situated in the southern Swiss town of Ascona, on the Lago Maggiore, Monte Verita had been founded in the early years of the 20th century by a wealthy group of disaffected intellectuals. The area had subsequently established itself as a center “for experimental living according to artistic, spiritual, and anarchistic principles.” 37 Laban secured permission to start a School for the Arts from Henri Oedenkoven, one of the colony’s founders; and arrangements were made for his family and ad hoc group of students and faculty to assemble for the summer season. Schwabing was bohemian, but Monte Verita was even more iconoclastic. Its counterculture stance attracted “spiritual and political rebels.” 38 For Laban, it provided a rustic yet stimulating environment for experimentation. Having recruited a friend to teach painting, Laban was free to pursue his original ideas about dance. On the theoretical level, Laban began his Herculean labors to develop a notation system for recording choreographies. He also started to frame his harmonic theories. These explorations were supported by practical movement classes with

19

the students who began to gather around him. Two of the earliest students, Suzanne Perrottet and Mary Wigman, are of particular importance. Perrottet had been the protégé of Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, the Swiss music professor who developed a movement pedagogy for musicians known as Eurhythmics. 39 By 1910, Dalcroze had also established an institute in the planned garden community of Hellerau, outside Dresden, which combined training in Eurhythmics with theatrical productions. These music and movement performances, with sets created by the revolutionary Swiss scenographer, Adolphe Appia, attracted the attention of avant-garde theatre artists from all parts of Europe. But it was Dalcroze’s pedagogical work, rather than his theatrical creations, that was significant for Laban. Dalcroze had developed a rudimentary system of movement analysis; Perrottet’s familiarity with this material “allowed Laban to have a direct model against which his own ideas could be seen.” 40 Other points of contact were no doubt provided by the subsequent enrollment of Mary Wigman, another Dalcroze student. Wigman became Laban’s star pupil. Her reminiscences provide a picture of the early days of experimentation on the “dance farm” in Ascona:

Open air, meadows surrounded by trees, a sunny beach and a small group of rather queer people. How young we were! We moved, we jumped, we ran, we improvised and outlined our first simple solos and group Laban, the painter and designer, showed us how to draw. In invoking our imagination by his own vivid fantasy, his instruction always turned into a lesson in improvisation, and as a final result into dance. 41

The outbreak of the First World War brought these halcyon days to an end. Most students left immediately to return to their native countries; only Perrottet and Wigman remained behind. The Laban family, including Laban’s mother and sister, found themselves in difficulty. If they returned to Bratislava, Laban would be drafted and sent to the front. Switzerland offered a safe haven but no immediate means of making a living. With few options, the group decided to stay in the nearly deserted Monte Verita

20

colony through winter. In this forced seclusion, Laban started to work intensely on his dance notation, along with his theory of movement harmony. Wigman recalled

I became the first victim to help prove his theoretical findings. Each morning he knocked on the door of my room: “Here comes the choreographer!” Laban stood there carrying an old-fashioned valise stuffed full with drawings and notes… This was his great dream to be realized: an analysis of movement and the experiment of translating it into signs… He repeatedly designed, and rejected, always starting again from the beginning… It was also hard work for me! Every movement had to be done over and over again until it was controlled and could be analyzed, transposed, and transformed into an adequate symbol. 42

This hard work, however, did not resolve the group’s financial difficulties. With the idea of opening a school, Laban secured premises in nearby Zurich and found a place to live for his mother, sister, wife, children, and Suzanne Perrottet, who had become his mistress. Thus began the period that Laban would later refer to as “the nightmare years.” 43 Haunted by debt, recurrent bouts of ill-health and the possibility of being forced to leave Switzerland, Laban struggled to attract students, to present new choreographic work, and to develop his ideas. Meanwhile, another new art movement was emerging in Zurich. Given a nonsensical moniker, “Dada” erupted at the Cabaret Voltaire in 1916, the joint creation of writers, performers, and artists Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, Richard Huelsenbeck, Emmy Hennings, Marcel Janco, and Hans Arp. On the narrow Spiegelgasse, down the street from where the Russian revolutionary Lenin was living, “there were art shows, instrumental performances, singing, dancing, theatre, recitals, poetry readings.” 44 All activities aimed “to stir the bourgeois out of their conventional contentment.” 45 Laban found himself linked to the Dadaists through his student, Sophie Tauber, a visual artist who had joined his group at Monte Verita in 1914. Tauber in turn was linked to the Dadaists through her personal and professional relationship with the Dada artist, Hans Arp. Through Tauber,

21

other female students of the Laban school found themselves drawn into Dada events, performing at the Cabaret Voltaire and its successor, the Corray Gallery, and forming romantic liaisons with the movement’s male writers and artists. Laban’s attendance at Dada performances is clearly documented, although he does not appear to have contributed personally to the sometimes outrageous proceedings. 46 Laban needed places for his dancers to perform, however, and the Dada soirees appear to have provided one such venue. During these nightmare years in Zurich, Laban maintained his contacts in nearby Ascona. These also led to choreographic ventures. One such opportunity came about through Laban’s membership in the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), an irregular Freemason’s Lodge into which Laban had been initiated in 1914. 47 In the summer of 1917, the OTO, under the guidance of Theodor Reuss, organized a Non-National Conference that aimed “to mobilize every kind of force” subversive to patriarchal and militaristic society. 48 Laban’s contribution to this event was an elaborate dance drama, “Song to the Sun.” Called an “open-air festival” by Laban, this site-specific outdoor work was performed in three sections, with the first section beginning at sunset, followed by a firelit circle dance at midnight, and concluding with a celebratory ritual of renewal at sunrise. 49 Despite the fact that experimental works like “Song to the Sun” were beginning to find an audience, Laban struggled through 1918 and 1919 to carry on his work while providing for his family and his dancers. Eventually, the strain was too much. Laban became seriously ill during the influenza epidemic, and his prolonged hospitalization had disastrous results. He could not keep his school together or pay his bills. After years of domestic instability, his wife Maja finally had enough. When the war ended, she returned to Munich with their five children. Laban was left alone, depressed, and in debt. Help finally came through Jo Meisenbach, a student from the Munich days. Meisenbach remembered the drawings that Laban had used to decorate his movement studio and arranged for these to be displayed at a post-war exhibition in Nuremberg. Sale of these drawings raised “several thousand marks,” enough cash to clear some of Laban’s debts and get Laban back on his feet again. 50

22

This final public exhibition marks the end of Laban’s professional career as a visual artist. By October of 1919, Laban was able to leave Switzerland, carrying the manuscript of his first book on movement, Die Welt des Tänzers (The Dancer’s World). The transition from visual art to dance, painfully navigated through the nightmare years of the war, was nearing completion.

A Life for Dance (1920-1937) The following two decades, from 1920-1937, were periods of frenetic activity as Laban pursued his vision of a meaningful role for dance in modern society. Like many artists, Laban was drawn to post-war Germany, where the toppling of the monarchy and the imposition of democracy held the promise of a new social order. In actuality, the years of the Weimar Republic (1919-1933) and the subsequent takeover of the German government by the National Socialists (1933-1945) were times of enormous civil unrest and economic instability. Nevertheless, as John Willett observes, “ just for those few years the arts of the European avant-

garde began to have what cultural pessimists

of lacking: an audience, a function, a unity, a vital core.” 51 Laban was not immune from the stresses of this period and repeatedly had to find ways to cope with bureaucratic, financial, and political pressures from both within and without the world of dance. Nevertheless, Germany proved to be an extremely fertile environment. Laban’s prodigious efforts, along with those of the eminently talented students he attracted, reshaped ideas about the nature of dance, fostering a revolution in style that extended well beyond German borders and the initial period of chaotic experimentation. 52 Laban’s arrival in Germany was not auspicious, however. Post-World War I division of the Austro-Hungarian empire had made Laban’s citizenship ambiguous. Whether he was officially viewed as “Hungarian” or “Czechoslovakian,” he was a man without financial resource, or a readily demonstrable profession. Despite these obstacles, Laban managed to find a publisher in Stuttgart by the name of Seifert, who not only accepted his book but also managed to secure permission for Laban to stay in Germany. 53 Publication of the book in 1920 to critical acclaim,

normally accuse them

23

along with the successful performances of Laban’s protégé, Mary Wigman, established Laban as a leading figure in the emerging Ausdruckstanz (Expressionist dance) movement. With his new partner, a gifted dancer from the Zurich days named Dussia Bereska, Laban began to attract students, who formed the kernel of a “free dance group,” in which the “fundamental means of expression” were to come from the “rhythm of bodily movement and its spatial and dynamic components.” 54 On the basis of his growing reputation, Laban secured a position with the Mannheim Opera as guest choreographer for the 1921-22 season. Attempts to integrate his free dance group with traditionally-trained opera ballet dancers proved difficult, and Laban seems to have realized that state institutions were not likely to be conducive to the development of the kind of new dance that he envisioned. With great resourcefulness, Laban found independent financial backing and established a base of operations in Hamburg in 1923, starting a chamber dance group and a central Laban school. This entrepreneurial venture set a pattern that allowed Laban to sustain his dance activities through most of the 1920s. The school, in essence, supported the dance company. The school not only provided training for current and future company members; it also attracted many amateurs. These amateurs also had the opportunity to dance together in a unique dance form known as Bewegungschor (movement choir). An extension of Laban’s open-air festivals in Ascona, the movement choir was intended to be a celebration of community in movement, analogous in function to traditional folk dance, but thoroughly contemporary in style and meaning. 55 It proved to be extremely popular. 56 Laban was indefatigable in promoting these various dance activities. In addition to choreographing, performing, and teaching, he continued to lecture, to work on his notation system, and to publish his own books along with many articles in periodicals of the day. 57 His theoretical work and its practical application proceeded hand in hand. Meanwhile, gifted students scattered through Germany and started their own “Laban” schools, modern dance companies, and movement choirs. 58 In order to control this proliferation, Laban established an accreditation system. Maletic notes that increasingly Laban’s schools

24

began to serve a more “integral and complex role in the dissemination of his theories.” 59 Leaders of Laban schools had to have a Diploma, which required them to dance, to choreograph, to know choreutic and eukinetic theories, and to write notation. Because, at this time, “the notation was still in flux , and the choreutic and eukinetic theory developing,” school leaders were required to keep up-to-date on theoretical developments by attending vacation courses. 60 Success seemed to follow success. With the publication of three books in 1926, 61 Laban was invited to establish a Choreographic Institute for notation and dance research in Würzburg. In 1927, this research institute moved to Berlin, along with the central Laban school. Later this same year, Laban was instrumental in organizing a Dancers’ Congress and establishing a dancers’ union. In 1928, major breakthroughs in notation led to publication of Laban’s first book on the subject. 62 The notation system itself was showcased at the second Dancer’s Congress, and Laban founded Schrifttanz (Written Dance), a scholarly journal for the discussion of dance notation, with editor Alfred Schlee. In 1929, Laban reached the peak of his dance career. Following a major lecture tour in Germany, he designed and directed a massive festive procession for handwork and industrial unions in Vienna. 63 Three German magazines, Singhör und Tanz, Der Tanz, and Schrifttanz, devoted issues to Laban. The year culminated in a celebration of Laban’s 50 th birthday in which former students, now famous in their own right, paid homage to Laban. As Wigman put it,

The dancers of today honor in the name “Laban” the beginning of a new epoch in the history of the European dance. Laban was the great inventor and stimulator. He gave us dancers a foundation. He taught the nature of tension, the harmonic relations of swing sequences, and the unity of body and space. Laban freed dance from its reliance on music and returned dance to its self-reliance as an absolute language of art. 64

Events beyond the world of dance, however, cast a shadow over these celebrations. Worldwide depression, brought on by the 1929 crash of the American stock market, was eroding the amateur dance market that had

25

supported modern dance development in Germany. In the early twenties, “there seemed an insatiable demand among amateurs for instruction in the new art of movement.” 65 Studio after studio had been opened, many by former students of Wigman and Laban, until the market was glutted. As the economic crisis worsened, amateur enrollment declined, and schools became unreliable sources of support. Modern dancers began to reconsider the opera house as a potential patron and venue for their art. Laban detected this trend. In 1929, his Central School moved to Essen and merged with the Folkwangschule (Folkwang School) directed by former Laban student, Kurt Jooss. The Choreographic Institute also was moved to Essen in 1930, while Laban himself stayed behind, accepting a post as Director of Movement at the State Opera in Berlin and working on his autobiography. 66 Although Laban appeared to have made an adroit and timely career move, he found himself facing the same challenges he had met in Mannheim a decade earlier. He was saddled with ballet dancers from the opera who were inimical to his choreographic style. Consequently, his creative work was lackluster, and although he held onto this job until early in 1934, his tenure was marked by controversy. 67 Political pressures on Laban increased when the National Socialists came to power in January 1933. Whatever his views, Laban was holding a state post and this meant that he was working for the Nazis. 68 Although his contract with the Berlin Opera was not renewed, Laban’s international reputation made him potentially useful to the regime. In 1934 he was hired as Director of the newly-formed German Dance Bureau under the Ministry of Propaganda. One of his functions in this job was to plan dance festivities in conjunction with the 1936 Berlin Olympics, including an event with movement choirs drawn from around Germany. Had this event proceeded as planned, Laban’s movement choir creation would have been showcased before an international audience. But, after a “fatal dress rehearsal” attended by Nazi officials, Laban’s contribution was cancelled. 69 By gradual increments he was relieved of his official duties, investigated, and denounced. Destitute and unable to work, Laban had to find some way to get out of Germany. An invitation to participate in an international dance congress in

26

Paris provided an opportunity for escape in the summer of 1937. Laban left Germany with whatever he could carry. Paris proved to be only a temporary solution, however. To stay in France, Laban had to have some means of support. Alas, “no Frenchman wanted German dance by 1937.” 70 With winter coming, Laban checked into a cheap rooming house. Alone, depressed, and destitute, his life for dance, perhaps his life itself, seemed to be over.

Beyond Dance (1938-1958) Deliverance came early in 1938, when Laban was able to enter England on the “strength of a personal invitation from his ex-pupil Kurt Jooss.” 71 Jooss himself had lost his state post at the Folkwangschule in Essen shortly after the Nazis assumed power in 1933. After being threatened in the press, Jooss, his family and company barely escaped imprisonment by crossing into the Netherlands and then going to England, where Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst, progressive patrons of the Dartington Hall estate in southwestern England, provided living quarters and work space for the Jooss family and company. The Elmhirsts subsequently extended this generosity to Laban. 72 Jooss and his associate Sigurd Leeder had established their own creative and pedagogical direction in the years since they had worked with Laban. They were not eager to resume old roles with the master, and Laban himself was in no shape to dance or teach. In any case, his interests shifted away from the practice of dance to broader philosophical concerns. Dorothy Elmhirst encouraged Laban to write about his philosophy of movement and provided financial support and a studio in which to work. Meanwhile, Lisa Ullmann, a young teacher in the Jooss- Leeder circle, attached herself to Laban, providing personal care and support. As he gradually recovered his vitality in this supportive environment, Laban began to reconstruct notes, drawings, and models, and to work on the beginnings of a theoretical treatise on spatial form and movement harmony. 73 Practical concerns could not be kept at bay, however. With the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the international group of artists whom the Elmhirsts had attracted to their rural estate were forced

27

to scatter. As aliens, Laban and Ullmann had to be moved to an area that was not sensitive for British defense. They found a place to live in Wales, but restrictions were placed on their ability to work and to travel. Fortunately, the Elmhirsts continued to take a personal interest in the fate of Laban and Ullmann. Through the Dartington circle of connections in industry, art, and progressive education, opportunities presented themselves, and Laban and Ullmann pursued these with entrepreneurial vigor. Despite the obvious hardships of the war and post-war years, Laban was able to secure a livelihood and rebuild his reputation with Ullmann’s help. This reputation was not based on work in dance, however, but rather on the extension and application of Laban’s ideas in the areas of education, industry, theatre, and psychotherapy. Education. Ullmann had been working with Jooss in Essen and had come to England with the company in 1934, four years before Laban’s arrival. Beyond her training work with the professional dancers in the company, Ullmann had an interest in amateur dance and had done extension courses in the communities around Dartington, establishing contacts with local education authorities. 74 She and Laban were able to make other connections with a handful of English educators, mostly situated in colleges of physical education, who had studied modern dance in central Europe with Wigman or other Laban students. Through these contacts Ullmann was able to secure teaching work during the war. 75 Her classes, carefully planned with Laban, attracted interest in progressive education circles. 76 When the war ended, Ullmann opened a private school in Manchester, calling it the Art of Movement Studio. Laban contributed to the curriculum and classes and supported Ullmann’s efforts to promote the educational value of movement, publishing a book for parents and teachers in 1948. 77 Their joint efforts met with fruition in 1949 when the Ministry of Education recognized the Studio as a “training college for teachers of movement in schools.” 78 Since teacher trainees received government funding for tuition, this development provided a solid financial basis for the Art of Movement Studio, as well as a means of promoting Laban’s ideas in state education of children. Industry. Wartime employment for Laban also came about through his contacts at Dartington. F.C. Lawrence, a time and motion study expert

28

who had provided advice on efficiency for several rural enterprises at Dartington, was introduced to Laban in 1941. Lawrence was interested in the application of Laban’s notation system in the study of work movement. After collaborating in a trial project, the two men joined forces. Laban and Ullmann moved to Manchester, where Lawrence’s firm was based. Soon Laban found himself observing manual labor in tire, candy, and textile factories, and giving advice on improving production and worker satisfaction. Laban and Lawrence rapidly moved on from blue collar work to a consideration of white collar labor in clerical and managerial jobs. 79 This empirical analysis of movement to exacting standards in turn stimulated Laban’s theorizing about kinetic energy in human movement. In 1947 he and Lawrence published Effort, a treatise based on their collaboration. Laban and Lawrence drew upon Art of Movement Studio students to help with industrial assignments. One of these students, Warren Lamb, went on to develop this line of work independently. 80 Laban and Lawrence continued to collaborate until Laban’s death in 1958, although Laban’s active involvement in consulting assignments seems to have decreased after the Art of Movement Studio moved to Surrey in southern England in 1953. Theatre. Laban had established some contacts in the theatre world through lectures given during the war. After the war, he collaborated on productions with Joan Littlewood, whose innovative Theatre Workshop was near the Studio in Manchester. He also worked closely with Esme Church, teaching for her at the Northern Theatre School and assisting with stage movement in productions from 1946 until the Studio relocated in 1953. 81 This practical work led to yet another exposition of his movement theory, The Mastery of Movement on the Stage, which was first published in 1950. Psychotherapy. Laban’s entrée into this discipline again came about through the Dartington circle. The Elmhirsts had invested in a private psychotherapy clinic, the Withymeade Centre, run by a husband and wife team of Jungian psychotherapists, Irene and Gilbert Champernowne. Laban had met Irene Champernowne by chance in 1949 when they were both booked to speak on art therapy for a gathering of occupational

29

therapists. “They recognized each other as kindred spirits,” and Laban was invited to visit Withymeade. 82 Extended visits to the Centre “focused Laban’s mind on the relationship between his work and that of Jung.” 83 Through Withymeade Laban also met William Carpenter, and the two embarked on a joint exploration of movement and psychology, cut short by Carpenter’s untimely death in 1954. 84 Nevertheless, Laban pursued research into “personality, stress and intervention techniques” until his own death in 1958. 85

Laban as “Artist/Researcher” Maletic notes that “Laban was a man of great complexity. He made so many seminal contributions in so many diverse areas of dance that it is difficult to label him according to established categories.” 86 Laban’s career is indeed hard to categorize. Unlike most famous dancers, his reputation does not rest on performance skills or choreographic creations. Rather, his contributions to dance and movement studies are ideational. As Bartenieff notes, “we have no major publication that summarizes his insights into one philosophical-theoretical statement, but we have three crystallizations of his ways of looking at, analyzing, describing and notating movement: (1) space harmony (choreutics), (2) Labanotation/ Kinetography, and (3) Effort/Effort notation.” These three systems make it possible “to study and work with some extremely elusive phenomena in tangible ways.” 87 Such intellectual contributions have led Preston-Dunlop to characterize Laban as an “artist and researcher.” 88 Laban the artist is a public figure; Laban the researcher is more elusive. The next chapter gives the elusive figure of Laban, the artist/researcher, greater definition by examining how Laban linked the observation of movement to dance theory through the medium of art.

30

Notes

11.

Laban, Life for Dance, 63.

12.

Reynolds and McCormick, No Fixed Points, 84.

13.

Information about Laban’s early years is particularly scarce. Miklos Vojtek’s paper, “Encouraging Impulses Given by the Native Town,” published in 2006 as part of a conference proceedings, provides some contextual information about Laban’s youthful contacts in Bratislava. Laban’s autobiography, A Life for Dance, was originally published in German in 1935 and subsequently translated into English and published by Lisa Ullmann in 1975. It is a fanciful work in which biographical details only emerge in relation to Laban’s choreographies. Laban does not chronicle his career by providing dates of events or names of family, friends, or colleagues. Ullmann’s annotations provide some of these details. John Hodgson’s and Valerie Preston-Dunlop’s 1990 monograph, Rudolf Laban, provides an introduction to his life and work, along with a chronology. Preston-Dunlop’s 1998 biography, Rudolf Laban, and Evelyn Doerr’s 2008 work, Rudolf Laban, flesh out this chronology.

14.

Laban, Life for Dance, 36.

15.

Martin Green’s portrait of Laban in Mountain of Truth provides insight into the social and economic circumstances of Laban’s family of origin.

16.

Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban, 4.

17.

Laban, Life for Dance, 166.

18.

Vojtek, “Encouraging Impulses.”

19.

Ibid.

10.

Laban, Life for Dance, 10.

11.

Ibid., 168.

12.

Ibid., 11.

13.

Ibid., 13.

14.

Ibid., 37.

15.

Ibid., 51.

16.

Ibid., 52.

31

18. Lynn Gamwell’s treatise, Exploring the Invisible, examines the interrelationships of art and science in the early decades of the 20th century. Studies of sensation and perception in particular influenced psychological and philosophical writings on art, which in turn generated innovative theory and practice in the artistic community. Primary source materials from German aesthetic discourse of this period can be found in Bloomfield, Forster, and Reese, Empathy, Form, and Space.

19. Hermann Obrist originally studied botany, but certain visionary experiences shifted his interest to art. His own work moved from stylization of natural forms, common in Art Nouveau, to genuinely abstract designs. His theoretical writings emphasized the dynamism inherent in natural form, and it is easy to see how Obrist’s ideas would have stimulated Laban’s nascent interests in movement and dance.

20. Milner, Studios of Paris.

21. Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban, 10.

22. Laban does not mention seeing Loie Fuller perform. However, he must have seen images of her work, for as Current and Current note, “Her impact on the Art Nouveau world was so profound that more art representing her was produced than for any other woman up to the present” (Loie Fuller, 343). This comment reiterates the intertwining of art and dance in fin-de-siècle Paris.

23. Borsi and Godoli, Paris 1900.

24. Laban’s autobiography describes the importance of his youthful apprenticeship to an unnamed painter, but gives few technical details of his training. A copy of a resumé‚ prepared for Laban by Suzanne Perrottet is found in the Laban Collection at Trinity Laban in London. It notes that Laban studied art in Munich in 1899 and at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris in 1900. But the people with whom Laban studied and the actual nature of his tuition are not specified. Another resumé‚ prepared by Laban himself around 1951 and located now in the Rudolf Laban Archive, National Resource Centre for Dance, only reports that he was a student of architecture in Paris in 1900. Under “Positions Held” in this same resumé‚ Laban

32

makes no reference to having worked professionally as an artist even in freelance capacity. If Laban did not obscure his background as a visual artist, he certainly chose not to highlight it.

25. A few of Laban’s early Art Nouveau style works have been reproduced in Hodgson’s and Preston-Dunlop’s monograph, Rudolf Laban, and in Suzanne Perrottet’s memoir, Ein Bewegtes Leben.

26. Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban, 17.

27. Ibid., 18.

28. Concerning the Spiritual in Art sets forth Kandinsky’s belief that “spiritual” art must be like music, non-representational yet expressive. He goes on to outline a theory for abstract art based upon color, form, and movement. Kandinsky’s ideas at the time were strongly influenced by Theosophy, a popular syncretic and esoteric philosophy that proclaimed the coming of a “new age” of enlightenment.

29. Klaus Lankheit, “History of the Almanac,” in Kandinsky and Marc, Der Blaue Reiter Almanac, 35.

30. Weiss, Kandinsky in Munich, 95.

31. Rudolf Steiner was the head of the German section of the Theosophical Society and often lectured in Munich. He used these dramas as didactic devices to convey precepts of his own esoteric philosophy, which subsequently became known as Anthroposophy.

32. Siegloch, How Eurythmy Began. Painting and theatre were not the only arts seeking new forms of symbolic and spiritual expression. Steiner developed gestural and locomotor designs to illuminate human speech through movement. See also, Steiner, An Introduction to Eurythmy.

33. Goldberg, Performance. Wedekind performed satirical ballads in Munich’s first cabaret, “The Eleven Executioners” —a popular gathering place for artists in the Schwabing district. His plays explored sexuality with a frankness found shocking in the early years of the 20 th century.

34. Laban, Life for Dance, 81.

35. Ibid., 83.

33

37. Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban, 81.

38. Green, Mountain of Truth, 119.

39. Spector, Rhythm and Life.

40. Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban, 22.

41. Wigman, Mary Wigman Book, 33.

42. Ibid., 38, 39.

43. Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban, 37.

44. Fauchereau, Arp, 12.

45. Comments by Dada poet Richard Huelsenbeck, cited in Soby, Arp,

17.

46. Bolliger, Magnaguagno, and Meyer (Dada in Zurich); Doerr (Rudolf Laban); Perrottet (Ein Bewegtes Leben); and Green (Mountain of Truth) all agree that Laban did not involve himself personally in the Dada happenings. Laban’s artistic sensibilities do not seem to have extended to provocative avant-garde movements like Dada, Futurism, and the politicized Expressionism of the 1920s.

47. Theosophy, Anthroposophy, Free Masonry, the OTO, and other esoteric groups were part of the Ascona landscape. Like many avant- garde artists of the fin-de-siècle period, Laban is known to have been attracted to these world-views.

48. Green, Mountain of Truth, 104.

49. Laban, Life for Dance, 158. Laban sees “Song of the Sun” as a precursor to his later work with amateur community dance.

50. Doerr, Rudolf Laban, 80.

51. Willett, Art and Politics in Weimar, 13.

52. Partsch-Bergsohn, Modern Dance in Germany and United States.

53. Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban.

54. Maletic, Body Space Expression, 6.

55. Toepfer’s Empire of Ecstasy provides an insightful account of Laban’s dance work in the context of the broader “body culture” phenomenon of this period in Germany.

56. In Rudolf Laban, Hodgson and Preston-Dunlop report that by 1924 twelve movement choirs had been established in Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Switzerland.

34

can be found in Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban.

58. For more on prominent students and schools, see Hodgson and Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban, and Maletic, Body Space Expression (Part One, notes 32, 34).

59. Maletic, Body Space Expression, 17.

60. Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban, 111.

61. These books were Gymnastik und Tanz (Gymnastics and Dance), Des Kindes Gymnastik und Tanz (Children’s Gymnastics and Dance), and Choreographie (Choreography). In the first two books, Laban delineates the differing functions of gymnastics and dance. Choreographie introduces Laban’s ideas regarding spatial organization of dance and showcases his preliminary attempts to develop dance notation symbols.

62. Laban, Schrifttanz.

63. Accounts of this massive event can be found in Laban, Life for Dance, and Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban.

64. Wigman, cited in Partsch-Bergsohn, Modern Dance, 44.

65. Manning, Ecstasy and the Demon, 134.

66. Laban, Ein Leben für den Tanz.

67. Laban’s difficulties with the ballet soloists is discussed in Karina and Kant, Hitler’s Dancers. The scapegoating of him by the press is explored in Doerr’s Rudolf Laban.

68. Writers are divided regarding Laban’s motives for collaborating with the National Socialists. See Karina and Kant, Hitler’s Dancers; Koegler, In the Shadow of the Swastika; Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban; and Doerr’s Rudolf Laban.

69. Partsch-Bergsohn, Modern Dance, 93.

70. Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban, 202.

71. Ibid., 204.

72. The well-to-do Elmhirsts were intellectually, socially, and artistically perspicacious. In 1925 they had purchased the dilapidated Dartington estate with the aim of rural revitalization. The estate had a progressive school as well as various agricultural and artistic enterprises. See Partsch-Bergsohn, Modern Dance, and Willson, In Just Order Move.

35

73. This treatise was meant to introduce Laban’s ideas to the English public, but the outbreak of the war interfered with publication. Laban left the manuscript with the Elmhirsts for safekeeping. They only returned the manuscript to Lisa Ullmann after Laban’s death. Ullmann edited and published the book in England in 1966, under the title Choreutics. The American edition, titled The Language of Movement, was published in 1974. This book remains an important exposition of Laban’s theory of spatial order and movement harmony.

74. Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban.

75. Various groups – the English Folksong and Dance Society, Ling Physical Education Association, and Bedford Physical Training College – had shown interest in central European modern dance in the early 1930s. Bedford students Joan Goodrich and Diana Jordan had studied with Mary Wigman in Germany, and returned eager to promote the idea of dance in English education. The arrival of Laban and Ullmann was fortuitous, for they were able to support this growing interest.

76. Willson, In Just Order Move, and Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban, provide insight into how Laban’s dance ideas, many drawn from his community work with movement choirs, became adopted by progressive British educationists.

77. Laban, Modern Educational Dance.

78. Willson, In Just Order Move, 56.

79. For a more complete history of the Laban/Lawrence collaboration, see Moore, Movement and Making Decisions.

80. Lamb, Posture and Gesture; Lamb and Turner, Management Behaviour; Davies, Beyond Dance.

81. A brief account of these collaborations can be found in Hodgson, Mastering Movement.

82. Hodgson, Mastering Movement, 75.

83. Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban, 255.

36

85. Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban, 255.

86. Maletic, Body Space Expression, 27.

87. Bartenieff, “Space, Effort and Brain,” 37.

88. Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban, 232.

CHAPTER 2

The Artist/Researcher at Work

Tracing a Research Career Three sources provide insight into how Laban developed his theories of dance and movement: his published writings, reports of colleagues, and unpublished archival materials. Nevertheless, many aspects of Laban’s working methodology are unspecified. Like many individuals who break new ground in a discipline, Laban was not formally trained in research protocols. While he claims his formulations are based upon empirical evidence, his published writings report the results of inquiries but not the methods through which his theories were formulated. These must be reconstructed through a process of triangulation comparing published works with reports of close associates and archival papers. Of these sources, the latter provide the most unguarded glimpse of the workings of this artist and researcher and serve as the focus of discussion in this chapter. Lacunae in our understanding of Laban’s methods of inquiry are all the more remarkable in light of the fact that he established two research organizations over the course of his long and varied career. The first was the “Choreographic Institute” for dance research, launched in Würzburg in 1926. From its inception, the Institute had lofty aims: “to form a new dance aesthetic and theory of dance within a two-part framework of theory and practice.” 1 Finding the necessary financial support to pursue these aims proved difficult, however. The Institute was moved to Berlin in 1927, and then to Essen in 1930, where it subsequently ceased operations, “a victim of politics.” 2 During its brief existence, members of Laban’s staff were appointed to pursue research along three lines: Choreutics, Eukinetics, and Notation. In actuality, the Choreographic Institute seems to have served primarily as an umbrella for Laban’s variegated professional activities. It is difficult to document what was studied or to identify clear research outcomes beyond Laban’s own publications at the time, notably Choreographie (1926), Gymnastik und Tanz (1926),

38

Des Kindes Gymnastik und Tanz (1926), and Schrifttanz (1928). Laban had a second chance to establish a research center, however. In 1953, through generosity of the Elmhirst family, the Art of Movement Studio was given premises in the countryside near Addlestone, Surrey, and the Laban Centre was set up as the affiliated research branch of the Studio. 3 Laban and Ullmann relocated, with Ullmann continuing to oversee the Studio. Laban increasingly devoted his final years to writing and research, collaborating with various Studio staff members. 4 Nevertheless, when Laban died in 1958, “there were no outstanding thinkers waiting to step into Laban’s shoes, and no university or learned body, or enlightened corporation, poised to invest heavily in treading all or even some of the new paths he had already laid down.” 5 Laban only managed to publish one book after this research center was established in 1953. This was a short treatise, Principles of Dance and Movement Notation (1958), undertaken to re-establish his copyright on the notation symbols. However, Laban left all his personal papers — a huge collection of writings and drawings — to Lisa Ullmann. This was perhaps not the happiest choice of heir, for as Willson critically reports, Ullmann “showed little interest in Laban’s research during his last years at Addlestone; nor does a reading of the surviving archives reveal any sense of her having shown, in the same years, much drive for or grasp of the possibilities of an amalgamation of all Laban-related enterprises.” 6 Ullmann did, however, “hold on grimly to every chance of controlling activities associated with Laban work.” 7 As a consequence, the fruits of Laban’s final years of writing and research were not available for scholarly scrutiny until after Ullmann’s death in 1985, when trustees of her estate donated the Rudolf Laban Archive to the National Resource Centre for Dance (NRCD) at the University of Surrey. By the time the NRCD opened in 1989, more than 30 years had elapsed since Laban’s death. It is somewhat difficult after three decades to pick up the strands of inquiry that Laban was pursuing. Nevertheless, these archival traces provide valuable insight into Laban’s working methods when considered in relation to his published work and accounts of his close associates.

39

Reconstructing a Research Methodology Published works, unpublished personal papers, and the reports of colleagues provide differing views of Laban, the artist/researcher. One point of agreement, however, is that he had a keen eye for movement. In the early years of his visual art career, Laban claims to have made a point of seeking out varied settings to observe movement, so as to acquaint himself “with hitherto unknown social strata and conditions.” 8 This seems to have been a kind of rite of passage that he undertook to redress an idealistic naivety, but people-watching developed into a genuine interest and talent. 9 In later years, Laban’s penetrating powers of observation became legendary among his students and colleagues, for “he saw people with a startling clarity.” 10 He sometimes expressed his perceptions in quickly drawn but not always flattering caricatures: “Like a glaring flashlight they pointed out your own weak spots to you, and this in a more direct and convincing way than any other criticism could have done.” 11 Nevertheless, Laban’s perceptiveness was more often used benignly, to draw out the best in his students, for, according to Wethered, “he had an uncanny faculty of knowing how to handle people.” 12 Wigman attributed this uncanny faculty to Laban’s penetrating grasp of movement:

“with a flicker of an eye he seemed to take in every funny detail of a movement, a picture, a person or a given situation.” 13 Hutchinson-Guest described the scope of Laban’s movement observation skills in the following way: “Laban could see the detailed and also the thing as a whole. And he was interested in both, and particularly in relationships, how one aspect affected or modified another.” 14 These accounts indicate that Laban studied movement as a naturalist would. His vocation, of course, provided ample opportunity to observe moving people in situ — in classes, rehearsals, theatres, factories, clinics, and other venues. These wide-ranging observations of movement behavior, amassed over a lifetime, must have provided the empirical basis for Laban’s broad theoretical concepts. This point is underscored by Ullmann’s assertion that Laban’s formulations of the inherent laws of natural movement “gradually came to light in the author’s [Laban’s] professional activity as a dancer and dance-teacher.” 15

40

If Ullmann’s remarks are correct, then Laban’s research method can be construed as a naturalistic inquiry that generated “grounded theory.” As Glaser and Strauss describe, this type of research process originated

in sociology, where the study of human behavior in complex social settings

does not lend itself to the experimental method. Experimental research starts with the generation of a hypothesis that is based on a priori assumptions. This hypothesis is subsequently tested under controlled conditions to prove or disprove the theory. In contrast, naturalistic research does not begin with the formulation of a hypothesis. It begins with collecting data through observation in the field. Preliminary explanations are formulated through the analysis of the data. Then new observations are collected, and hypotheses revised accordingly. There is a doubling back and forth between observing and theorizing in which the processes of induction, deduction, and verification intermingle in a non-linear way. As Glaser and Strauss delineate, “generating a theory from data means that most hypotheses and concepts not only come from the data, but are systematically worked out in relation to the data during the course of the

research.” 16 The grounded theory is completed only when theoretical sampling of field data no longer reveals anomalies that require explanatory adjustments. 17

Laban is known to have made constant adjustments in his theoretical formulations. Colleagues acknowledge that he was not a man who “was satisfied with the extent of his knowledge.” 18 Gleisner observes that Laban “never rested, he always moved… on and on.” 19 Jooss concurs, explaining that “it was characteristic of Laban’s teachings never to give concrete answers.” 20 Thornton has hypothesized that Laban was reluctant to give

a concrete answer because such definition might result in a restriction

“instead of a constant expansion of his ideas.” 21 Preston-Dunlop reiterates

this observation, stating that Laban preferred to leave “the foundations of his work” in a “state of liquidity.” 22 Based on her study of Laban’s published works in German and English, Maletic has mapped the development of various aspects of Laban theory chronologically. 23 This study documents periodic changes in terminology and concept. These changes correspond with shifts in Laban’s

41

sphere of activities, and indicate that he engaged in theoretical sampling of movement behavior at different times and in different settings. This chronology supports the perception of close associates — Laban never really considered his theoretical research closed, but continued to modify concepts based on ongoing observations. These conceptual modifications are consistent with procedures used to generate grounded theory. However, Laban was ahead of his time, and in many instances, ahead of his associates. 24 As Thornton notes, “by never giving a definite solution, Laban left the door open for research, but he also left it open for confusion.” 25 Possessed by a creative energy, he seemed to be always “rushing ahead with ideas before executing them.” 26 His theoretical shifts and conceptual modifications gave colleagues the impression that Laban “was against any system in his work.” 27 There is such agreement among his close associates on this point that one must accept this reluctance to systematize as a salient characteristic of Laban’s research methods. However, Laban’s personal papers from the final two decades of his career (the ones bequeathed to Lisa Ullmann and now held by the National Resource Center for Dance) present a different picture. It is true that this is a vast and disorderly collection of often fragmentary writings accompanied by drawings and rough sketches. Many pieces in the Archive are undated, making it difficult to ascertain chronological lines of inquiry and development. Nevertheless, conceptual themes can be discerned in Laban’s repeated explorations of particular topics. The drawings that accompany theoretical writings shed further light on his methods of generating models of movement behavior. These visual models demonstrate a much more consistent approach to theoretical development than most colleagues credit Laban with employing. In this context Littlewood’s observations appear perspicacious. She notes that while Laban “did not want his work intellectualized,” paradoxically “he spent his life on system research.” 28 The theoretical work that Laban was unable to publish in his lifetime bears witness to this systematic research. And nowhere is this more obvious than in Laban’s artwork.

42

Laban’s Artwork Laban’s involvement in the visual arts during the first two decades of the 20th century positions him in a network of modernizations, ranging from the Art Nouveau and early Expressionist movements to the Zurich Dadaists’ experiments in performance art. Laban himself downplayed this aspect of his career. While, as Hodgson and Preston-Dunlop point out, “the only formal professional training Laban ever had was in art,” 29 actual details of this training remain vague. Only a fraction of Laban’s drawings have been published. A sample of his early work appears in Suzanne Perrottet’s memoir and in the catalogue from an exhibition of early modern art mounted in Frankfurt in 1995. 30 Laban did the illustrations for his autobiography, and other drawings from the early and middle decades of Laban’s career have been published in biographies by Hodgson and Preston-Dunlop. The artwork used in this study is drawn from the Rudolf Laban Archive (National Resource Centre for Dance, University of Surrey) and dates from the final two decades of Laban’s career. A small sample of these works has been published posthumously in various sources. 31 These published examples represent only a fraction of the works held in this Archive. The author’s research has surveyed over 1200 drawings and photographs of models held as a special category of material. Under other categorical headings in the Archive there are literally hundreds more drawings and sketches. Taken altogether, these materials not only represent the breadth of Laban’s graphic work, they also demonstrate how Laban systematically drew upon his first career in visual art to develop theoretical models of human movement. While not equally represented, the following types of works are found among Laban’s personal papers: figure drawings, geometrical sketches, drawings that combine human and geometrical forms, photos of three- dimensional constructions and models, and miscellaneous works such as architectural sketches, landscapes, portraits, and caricatures. Descriptions and samples of these types of work follow. Figure Drawings. As a youth, Laban excelled in figure drawing and received early recognition for his talent within his family circle. This talent was cultivated through his formal art training. Hodgson and Preston-

43

Dunlop affirm that “Laban studied human muscle, sinew and bone structure, and began to put together a ‘notebook of anatomical sketches,’ many in colour, expressing a detailed observation and understanding.” 32 An example of Laban’s basic grasp of artist’s anatomy can be seen in Figure 2-1, which is a study of torso flexion and extension.

Figure 2-1, which is a study of torso flexion and extension. Figure 2-1. Anatomical study. Rudolf

Figure 2-1.

Anatomical study.

Rudolf Laban

Archive L/C/3/14

©NRCD.

The majority of Laban’s drawings of the human figure are not as anatomically detailed as in this example. Rather, a few simple lines are used to capture the human form in motion. Motion, rather than anatomy, is accentuated. To portray movement in his figure drawings, Laban uti- lized a variety of approaches, often working and reworking a pose many times. Among materials in the Rudolf Laban Archive, there is one pose that has been rendered eighteen times, with each black and white version handled differently. Two examples are shown here. In Figure 2-2, the dancer is rendered realistically. The form is outlined in pencil and con- touring shadows are created by short, straight, fine lines. In Figure 2-3, the same pose is portrayed with a heavy, continuously curved outline. The pattern of light and dark on the body is reversed from the pattern in the previous example. In this sketch there are flat areas of heavy shadow, and the whole figure is much more stylized and abstract. These two ex- amples show how Laban played with pencil markings, varying among

44

Figure 2-2. Figure study. Rudolf Laban Archive L/C/3/20 ©NRCD. Figure 2-3. Figure study variation.
Figure 2-2.
Figure study.
Rudolf Laban
Archive L/C/3/20
©NRCD.
Figure 2-3.
Figure study variation.

Rudolf Laban Archive L/C/3/18

©NRCD.

continuous, short, curved, angular, fine, or heavy strokes and experi- menting with the patterns of light and shadow. This play of light and shade, which testifies to Laban’s familiarity with techniques used in Art Nouveau design, reverses figure and ground relationships. This may have been a graphic technique Laban employed to help himself perceive dif- ferent relationships between the forms of moving figures and the form of space through which the bodies are moving. Despite stylized rendering, Laban does not distort the proportion of the body itself. In general, his figure drawings faithfully adhere to a classical canon of human propor- tion and, in this sense, his figural representation remains realistically anthropometric. Geometrical Forms. These works demonstrate Laban’s grasp of solid geometry, his ability to construct and de-construct skeletal and solid shapes, and his capacity to visualize movement unfolding within a three- dimensional geometrical grid. There are literally hundreds of these types of drawings in the Rudolf Laban Archive. Most are done in pencil, pen, or colored pencil. In the last instance, a simple palette is used and the choice of color seems to serve less as an aesthetic device and more as a code for identifying or highlighting certain parts of the forms.

45

The geometrical drawings primarily represent the five regular Platonic solids – tetrahedron, octahedron, cube, icosahedron, and dodecahedron. For instance, in Figure 2-4 two regular polyhedra are depicted. The left form is an icosahedron (some of the edges of faces are missing) and the right form is an octahedron. Drawings of stellated and truncated solids are also found, along with sketches of semi-regular solids such as the cuboctahedron. Sometimes the geometrical forms are set squarely with reference to the picture frame; in other instances the forms are tilted. For example, in the colored pencil sketch shown in Plate A (center section), an octahedron is rotated towards and away from the viewer around its horizontal axis, while being tilted slightly on its vertical axis. Five different views of the octahedron are presented, with each view overlapping the others. These various representations indicate Laban’s grasp of perspective. His fine handling of stereographic technique can literally make the octahedron seem to vibrate and dance.

can literally make the octahedron seem to vibrate and dance. Figure 2-4. Sketches of icosahe- dron

Figure 2-4. Sketches of icosahe- dron and octahedron.

Rudolf Laban Archive L/C/2/119 ©NRCD.

In other sketches Laban elaborates upon polyhedral forms by highlighting certain edges to create circuits that are three-dimensionally symmetrical. The spatial complexity of the circuit varies, depending upon the polyhedron chosen and the number of links or edges utilized in the circuit. For example, Figure 2-5 shows a fairly complex circuit traversing edges of a truncated octahedron. This semi-regular solid has eight

46

Figure 2-5. Symmetrical tracing of edges of truncated octahedron.

Rudolf Laban Archive L/C/2/128 ©NRCD.

octahedron. Rudolf Laban Archive L/C/2/128 ©NRCD. hexagonal and six square sides. The circuit appears to snake

hexagonal and six square sides. The circuit appears to snake its way around four edges of six of the eight hexagonal faces, returning to its point of origin. In many drawings Laban leaves out the polyhedron itself and simply represents the circuit, as in Plate B. Here circuits of increasing circumference are angularly traced along the edges of a small icosahedron nested within a dodecahedron which is nested in turn within a large icosahedron. The polyhedral forms themselves are invisible. Such drawings become relatively abstract. A mathematician would recognize what Laban is doing, however. Each of the inner and outer brown shapes is a Hamiltonian circuit, a pathway that visits each of the twelve corners of the icosahedron once and ends at the same corner where it began. Laban drew these types of circuits over and over again. These sketches appear merely to depict a linear shape situated in a particular geometrical grid. For Laban, however, these designs capture a “trace-form” or a series of circular movements that traverse the space around the dancer. Each circuit has been carefully constructed to be symmetrical in three dimensions. In this sense, these drawings are explorations of choreutic theory, Laban’s systematic examination of the relationship between bodily range of motion and the types of designs a dancer can trace in the surrounding space. Laban used a similar technique to visualize sequences of kinetic

47

energy change, which are articulated in his eukinetic theories. These drawings represent formal relationships rather than actual movements in space. An example of this type of drawing is shown in Figure 2-6.

An example of this type of drawing is shown in Figure 2-6. Figure 2-6. Formal diagram

Figure 2-6. Formal diagram of effort pattern.

Rudolf Laban Archive L/E/53/2 ©NRCD.

Most of Laban’s sketches explore pattern through symmetry operations. However, in the series of drawings shown in Plate C, Laban manipulates an angular pentagon and flexible heptagon, bending and linking them three-dimensionally in various configurations. These drawings suggest that Laban was experimenting with topological manipulations of form, in which a shape is imagined as being rubbery and capable of being bent, stretched, and twisted. Another example of this type of topological transformation can be seen in Figure 2-7, in which an octahedron is stretched and twisted to become more icosahedral in

is stretched and twisted to become more icosahedral in Figure 2-7. Octahedron being stretched. Rudolf Laban

Figure 2-7. Octahedron being stretched.

Rudolf Laban Archive L/E/17/16 ©NRCD.

48

shape. Other shapes of interest to topologists, such as lemniscates, knots, and Klein bottles, are also found among Laban’s sketches. For example, in Figure 2-8 Laban has situated a twisted band in a hypercube, a four- dimensional cube. Laban began to explore complex geometrical models such as these in the last decades of his career.

Figure 2-8. Twisted band in hypercube.

Rudolf Laban Archive L/E/12/26 ©NRCD.

band in hypercube. Rudolf Laban Archive L/E/12/26 ©NRCD. Combinations of Geometrical and Human Figures . Laban’s

Combinations of Geometrical and Human Figures. Laban’s geometrical drawings would stand as anomaly were it not for the combination drawings in which abstract and human forms are integrated. Here Laban’s concern with geometrical space and the moving human figure come together. The set of drawings in Figures 2-9 and 2-10 reveal how Laban linked these two subjects. In Figure 2-9 one finds various manipulations in the form of five-sided polygons. In Figure 2-10 Laban has sketched movement poses to fit within these various polygonal shapes. Plate D shows how these geometrical forms have been used to generate the figural shapes. A similar approach can be discerned in Plate E. Here a more finished figure has been posed so as to fit within a tetrahedral shape. The dancer’s hands and feet mark the four corners of this simple Platonic solid (note — two edges of the form are not drawn in). In other instances, Laban appears to start with the movement and derive the geometrical form from the figural constellation, as in Plate F. Each figure depicts a momentary position in a movement sequence that progresses from crouching to arching, twisting, and advancing. Laban

49

Figure 2-9. Variations on a pentagonal shape. Rudolf Laban Archive L/C/1/87 ©NRCD. Figure 2-10. Poses
Figure 2-9. Variations on a
pentagonal shape.
Rudolf Laban Archive L/C/1/87 ©NRCD.
Figure 2-10. Poses designed
to fit within pentagonal
shapes.
Rudolf Laban ArchiveL/C/1/88 ©NRCD.

50

has used the dancers’ heads, extended arms, and feet to generate a complex cluster of stellated shapes. It is as if the dancers’ poses represented subsequent stages in the growth of a cluster of crystals. In the pencil drawing shown in Figure 2-11, three figures pose asymmetrically within a skeletal icosahedron. Only certain edges of the icosahedron are represented by the twelve-sided symmetrical circuit that surrounds the dancing trio. A number of similar compositions exist in which parallel segments in the snake-like line that surrounds the movers create a pattern of reflective symmetry, contrasting the dancers’ poses and revealing Laban’s deep fascination with symmetry and asymmetry.

Laban’s deep fascination with symmetry and asymmetry. Figure 2-11. Group of dancers surrounded by icosahedral

Figure 2-11. Group of dancers surrounded by icosahedral shape.

Rudolf Laban Archive L/C/6/100 ©NRCD.

In these so-called “combination” drawings Laban brings the full range of his technical skills as an artist into play, demonstrating his command of anatomy, proportion, and rendering in perspective. Laban appears to have developed an interest in this subject matter early in his career. Works dating from around 1912-1918, held by the Kunsthaus Zurich in Switzerland, bear a striking similarity to works created after 1938, such as the figures shown in this section. This visual evidence suggests that Laban pursued certain themes in his movement studies using consistent methods across his research career. Three-dimensional Constructions. With the exception of a very few surviving models, this category of work exists only in photographic form,

51

due to the fact that Laban worked with simple, rather fragile materials such as string, sticks, wood, cardboard, and clay. These constructions were designed as models, typically of three-dimensional geometrical forms. In some cases, these are simply mathematical shapes: solid forms, such as tetrahedra and octahedra; skeletal shapes, such as icosahedra in which the solid sides are removed, with only the edges left as the visible “bones” of the form; truncated forms such as tetrahedra whose corners have been cut off to create extra sides; and stellated forms in which a star-like point has been added to each side of a simpler shape. Because Laban utilized solid geometry in his notation system to create a coordinate system for mapping movement, these types of models presumably were built to assist with the development of the notation. In addition to these rather straight-forward models, Laban also constructed more complex shapes such as cubes with collapsed sides or icosahedral shells that have been cut apart and twisted. The purpose of these constructions is more obscure, although Laban appears to be exploring the topological deformation of shape, a theme that becomes salient in his later theoretical study. For example, the dynamic deconstruction of regular polyhedra and their transformation into new forms is a theme that also appears in some of Laban’s geometrical drawings, as in the figure of an octahedron coming apart to become an icosahedron, shown earlier in Figure 2-7. Laban also created dynamic constructions that cantilever obliquely in space. These models reveal inner axial lines of support that are used to stablilize a seemingly unstable structure through countertension, countertension being another important concept in his theoretical exploration of balance in dance. In Plate G Laban has constructed a lyre- like structure in which to display one of his so-called movement “scales.” The zigzagging shape suspended from the strings of the lyre is a carefully designed trace-form similar in pattern to the Hamiltonian circuits depicted in brown pencil in Plate B. Finally, Laban explored various curvilinear forms such as knots, twisted bands, and lemniscates in sculpture as well as drawings. An example of this type of construction is shown in Plate H. Here a thick clay band loops its way around four diagonal axes that jut downward, to

52

support, and outward, to project. The photographic record of Laban’s sculptural works testifies not only to his ability to generate and transform shapes in space, but also to his proficiency in solid geometry. For example, in building a skeletal icosahedron, the relationship of edges and internal rays must be in the correct proportional ratio or the resulting polyhedron will not be regular; that is, it will not have sides that are all the same regular shape and corners that are equidistant and congruent. Building these models is one way to understand the laws that govern their beautiful symmetries. The three dimensional constructions that Laban created may also have served as visual and tactile devices to help him understand form, space, and movement. Building physical models of geometrical forms provides a very practical knowledge of their characteristics. For example, when these three-dimensional geometrical forms are constructed from paper or cardboard, as Laban’s were, they typically start as a two- dimensional grid. Polygonal faces that will be adjacent in the three- dimensional form must either be left joined or cut apart if the solid is to lie flat on the sheet of cardboard from which it is being made. To construct the solid form, the grid is cut out and the joined faces are folded to create edges. Then the faces that have been cut apart are glued together. By these means, a flat sheet of paper can be made to encompass space, creating a three-dimensional shape. Various motions are inherent in this transformation: the flat grid encapsulates the movements of separating, spreading, and exposing. Construction of the solid form utilizes the opposite actions of joining, closing, and enfolding space. Thus,in an artist’s hands, abstract geometrical concepts become tactile experiences, and shapes are not merely static entities but the culmination of carefully selected actions that impart form to the chosen medium. Architectural Sketches. A small number of architectural designs are found in the Rudolf Laban Archive. Published and unpublished designs suggest that Laban favored polygonal structures with dome-like roofs. Many of these feature a crystalline scaffolding that resembles the geodesic structures of Buckminster Fuller. 33 Figure 2-12 is typical. The function of these structures is not obvious. Laban did, however, have an interest in designing theatres. In particular, he wanted to create an appropriate

53

space for viewing dance, one that would allow the choreography to be seen from all sides rather than only from the front. A few surviving designs show beehive-like structures that are faintly reminiscent of Greek amphitheatres. 34 In contrast to Laban’s geometrical designs, the curved lines of these structures seem to draw inspiration from the biomorphic forms used in Art Nouveau architecture.

from the biomorphic forms used in Art Nouveau architecture. Figure 2-12. Architectural sketches. Rudolf Laban Archive

Figure 2-12. Architectural sketches.

Rudolf Laban Archive L/C/1/2 ©NRCD.

Landscapes. Most of the landscapes found in the Rudolf Laban Archive are executed in color and appear to have been done in the 1940s and 1950s, when Laban was on holiday. The seascape shown in Plate I is an example of this type of work. Familiar aspects of Laban’s style can be detected here, notably the way the pencil strokes are used rhythmically to create forms and light and dark masses. The landscapes are of interest because of what they reveal about Laban as a colorist. Many of Laban’s sketches are black and white. Work in color is often done with colored pencil. Unlike working with paint, colored pencil offers limited opportunity to mix color or layer hue on top

54

of hue. Thus in many of Laban’s line drawings, a very simple palette is used. The majority of Laban’s landscapes, however, combine colored pencil and what appears to be colored crayon or perhaps oil pastel. The colors are layered over one another and sometimes worked, possibly with water or solvent. This technique allowed Laban to create unique colors.

At the same time, he could work with the white of the paper, often leaving

it or merely partially coloring over it, much as a watercolorist would.

This particular use of media and technique is repeated over and over again in the landscapes. Perhaps Laban could afford the slightly more leisurely technique when on holiday. At any rate, he seldom used this approach in his other types of work, except for portraits. Portraits. Although few portraits exist, those that have survived are usually color works, executed in either oil paint or crayon, as in Plate J. Certain common stylistic features may be detected. The canvas focuses attention on the head, as little of the rest of the body is visible save a portion of the shoulders. The background is either dark or very sketchily drawn. The eyes, whether open or closed, are given compositional importance, as are the contours of the face and line of the chin. Laban achieves a dramatic quality in these portraits by understating the context and allowing the character of the subjects to stand out. Caricatures. As noted earlier, Laban had a gift for movement observation and utilized this in the caricatures he drew. Most of this work has been dispersed, because “this was the kind of drawing he [Laban] made for friends” or sold to magazines in the early years of his career. 35

A surviving example is in Figure 2-13. As is often the case with caricature,

the sketch appears to have been done quickly, using only a pencil. There

is an economy in the use of line and shading. Laban’s basic grasp of human anatomy, clearly demonstrated in his figure drawings, allows his cartoon sketches to exaggerate body parts with a swift sureness and a humorous touch. In addition to the types of work described above, there are pastels and monoprints among Laban’s output. Pastel was utilized primarily in landscape work and monoprint for figural work. Only a few samples of such works remain.

55

55 Figure 2-13. Caricature. Rudolf Laban Archive L/C/9/114 ©NRCD. Making Art and Theorizing Dance Laban’s choice

Figure 2-13.

Caricature.

Rudolf Laban Archive L/C/9/114 ©NRCD.

Making Art and Theorizing Dance Laban’s choice of media is of interest. He worked primarily in pen and pencil. In the latter case, he used either black or colored pencil, with occasional use of some sort of colored crayon. One finds few works in other media. There are only a few oil paintings, pastels, and prints. Three- dimensional work is also made with simple materials — string, wood, cardboard, or clay. Laban seemingly did not work in enduring materials like stone or bronze. Thus, there is a certain economy in the materials Laban chose to work with — an economy of time as well as cost. Painting, particularly with oils, requires an extended duration. Colors must be applied and then allowed to dry before more paint can be applied. An oil painting cannot be completed in one sitting. Sketching in pencil, pen, or crayon has much more immediacy. Work can be completed rapidly, with readily available materials and little special paraphernalia. Moreover, the materials Laban chose to work with were relatively inexpensive. In many cases he did not even bother to sketch on artist’s paper, but used whatever was at hand.

56

Among the papers from the final two decades of his career, there is even a small sketch on a paper napkin. Economy of time and cost in relation to the materials Laban worked with correlates with what is known about the intended audience for his work. Laban’s so-called modern paintings were packed away around 1913 when Laban gave up visual art. In 1919 these artworks were retrieved and exhibited as a part of a group show in Nuremburg. They proved to be “colourful working designs of his [Laban’s] thoughts on the relationships of bodies and space.” 36 The aim of Laban’s participation in this exhibition was financial; he needed funds. Apparently the designs proved marketable even though “they were never made with the intention to sell as art works.” 37 Much of the same is true of the hundreds of drawings done after 1938 and now housed in the Rudolf Laban Archive. There is no record that Laban produced these works for sale or exhibition. Moreover, Ullmann has indicated that none was intended for publication. Seemingly Laban did the work for personal pleasure or “to re-create some of his lost study notes and to assemble the necessary material for the continuation of his inquiry into the phenomenon of movement.” 38 Ullmann’s comments draw a definite link between Laban’s practice of visual art and his study of movement. Moreover, her remarks suggest that the practice of visual art was for Laban both an act of remembrance as well as a means of extending his theoretical work. Hodgson and Preston-Dunlop concur. They observe that the practice of art proved to be “only a further means of developing skills he [Laban] would later use in a related field.” 39 Once Laban abandoned visual art as a career, drawing became a tool with which to explore dance. Dance can be thought of as a moving picture in which the body is viewed against the canvas of space itself. Skills and techniques drawn from academic training and exposure to modern styles proved relevant to Laban in exploring themes with which he was preoccupied such as the geometry of the moving body in relation to the geometry of space, time, and energy. The hundreds of drawings of polyhedra also echo Laban’s preoccupation with developing three-dimensional forms for theorizing dance and movement. This work reflects Laban’s ability to represent three-dimensional shapes in a two-dimensional sketch, revealing also

57

his understanding of perspective and proportion. But the really interesting feature of Laban’s geometrical drawings surpasses the fact that he could represent such forms realistically — Laban not only could draw these forms accurately in perspective, he also could manipulate the forms. He could make them stand on an edge, tilt, rotate towards and away from the viewer, start to come apart in space, and metamorphose into other forms. These manipulations could be represented without distorting the forms graphically. Thus Laban was capable not only of capturing polyhedral forms but also of transforming them graphically; indeed, transformation appears to be a theme in many sketches. The geometrical drawings also reveal Laban’s interest in pattern and symmetry. Here Laban shows himself not only as an artist but also as something of an amateur mathematician. One way to approach what Laban appears to be doing in drawing after drawing is by analogy. The Islamic artists who created richly textured tile mosaics displayed a very practical grasp of the mathematics of two-dimensional space, for “there are only certain kinds of symmetries which our space can support.” 40 The symmetrical circuits that Laban drew explore similar patterns in three- dimensions rather than two. Just as the Islamic artist used a flat network of polygons to generate a pattern, so Laban used a three-dimensional network of polygons (the faces of various polyhedra) to generate three- dimensional patterns. These abstract symmetries are then correlated with the actual forms created by moving bodies. The drawings of human figures posed within polyhedral structures or circuits reveal Laban’s graphic explorations of the interface between movement form and spatial form, an interface that comprises the basis of his choreutic theory. His graphic understanding of symmetry operations in design also informs his modeling of eukinetic theory. Ultimately symmetry in the broadest sense became a powerful conceptual tool for Laban’s explorations of movement harmony. Laban’s drawings, then, can be seen as an important tool in his theoretical study of dance and movement. Since these artworks were not produced for the public, they have largely escaped scrutiny and, consequently, their seminal role in the development of Laban’s movement theory has been overlooked. Even when examined, Laban’s artworks are elusive. The more abstract geometrical pieces are obscure. The more

58

representational pieces suggest that Laban was not a great or innovative artist, but merely a competent one. Such works are easy to dismiss. But competence in the representation of form, both human and geometric, rests upon visual traditions and artistic theories. It will be shown in the following chapter that these traditions and theories, coupled with the innovations in visual representation that occurred at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, provided the additional conceptual tools that Laban utilized to develop his notation system, his taxonomy of human movement, and his theory of movement harmony.

59

Notes

11.

Maletic, Body Space Expression, 18.

12.

Partsch-Bergsohn, Modern Dance, 29.

13.

Willson, In Just Order Move.

14.

Hodgson and Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban.

15.

Willson, In Just Order Move, 94.

16.

Ibid., 118.

17.

Ibid., 119.

18.

Laban, Life for Dance, 40.

19.

According to Diana Jordan, “Laban’s real interest was people. He once said, ‘to look at movement is to study people.’” Cited in Thornton, Movement Perspective, 124.

10.

Thornton, Movement Perspective,12.

11.

Wigman, Mary Wigman Book, 33.

12.

Wethered, cited in Thornton, Movement Perspective, 14.

13.

Wigman, cited in Thornton, Movement Perspective, 17.

14.

Hutchinson-Guest, cited in Thornton, Movement Perspective, 13.

15.

Laban, Language of Movement, 108n.

16.

Glaser and Strauss, Discovery of Grounded Theory, 6.

17.

For more on this research methodology, see Denzin, 1978; and A. Strauss, 1987.

18.

Thornton, Movement Perspective, 18.

19.

Gleisner, cited in Thornton, Movement Perspective, 18.

20.

Jooss, cited in Thornton, Movement Perspective, 19.

21.

Thornton, Movement Perspective, 19

22.

Preston-Dunlop, cited in Thornton, Movement Perspective, 132.

23.

Maletic, Body Space Expression.

24.

Naturalistic and qualitative methods of research, used to generate grounded theory, were not developed by social scientists until the 1960s. These procedures have only gradually been accepted by the research community as appropriate modes of inquiry. While Laban’s research methods must be viewed as informal, he nevertheless seems to have been a pioneer in applying naturalistic methodology to the study of human movement behavior.

60

25. Thornton, Movement Perspective, 19.

26. Maletic, Body Space Expression, 28.

27. Lamb, cited in Thornton, Movement Perspective, 19.

28. Littlewood, cited in Willson, In Just Order Move, 40.

29. Hodgson and Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban, 158.

30. Perrottet, Ein Bewegtes Leben; Henderson and Loers, Okkultismus und Avantgarde.

31. A Vision of Dynamic Space consists of writings and drawings from the Rudolf Laban Archive that were selected by Lisa Ullmann and published by Falmer Press in 1984, shortly before Ullmann’s death. This work was republished in a French translation by Schwartz- Remy as Espace Dynamique. This 2003 work also included other previously unpublished selections from the Rudolf Laban Archive, as well as chapters from Choreutics.

32. Hodgson and Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban, 161.

33. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) was an American architect whose geometrical designs aimed to reshape the urban environment. While Fuller’s “geodesic domes” are well known today, it is doubtful that Laban would have been familiar with such work. Since Fuller only became known internationally in the 1960s, Laban’s geometrical designs probably represent original explorations of a similar theme.

34. Designs for dance theatres appear in Laban, Life for Dance, and Hodgson and Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban.

35. Hodgson and Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban, 169.

36. Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban, 24.

37. Ibid., 54.

38. Laban, Vision of Dynamic Space, 79.

39. Hodgson and Preston-Dunlop, Rudolf Laban, 158.

40. Bronowski, Ascent of Man, 174.

CHAPTER 3

Visual Representation of Movement:

Tradition and Innovation

Representing Movement The challenge of movement representation is shared by visual artists and dancers, albeit in differing ways. Artists grapple with the problem graphically, for they must be able to depict the human form in a variety of still poses that nevertheless convey actions of all sorts. Dancers grapple with the problem mnemonically, for they must be able to remember and reproduce the steps, gestures, rhythms, and spatial patterns of a chore- ography. When Laban turned his energies to dance, he was not merely concerned with the cognitive construction and preservation of muscle memory; he was also determined to develop a graphic notation of movement that would allow dances to be recorded and reproduced from a written score. In tackling this problem, Laban drew upon traditions and innovations in the graphic representation of movement with which he was familiar from his experiences as a visual artist. The fin-de-siècle period when Laban came of age as a visual artist was a particularly provocative epoch, for tradition coexisted uneasily with innovation. The great European art academies were still functioning. These institutions made it possible for young artists to become familiar with classical traditions of realistic representation that had been rediscovered and perfected during the Renaissance. Traditional areas in which an artist was expected to be knowledgeable included human anatomy, proportion, and rendering in perspective. Artists also learned practical techniques that had been developed over time to facilitate realistic depiction of form, figure, and motion. The fin-de-siècle was also a restless period, when artists chafed against many of the conventions of representation that were associated with academic art. The “blossoming of a sense of modernity in European culture” that occurred between 1880 and 1914 gave rise to a robust search for new forms of artistic expression. 1 The development of photography

62

during this time raised questions about the purpose of painting and the need for realistic depiction. One avant-garde movement followed another — Impressionism, Symbolism, Art Nouveau, Futurism, Cubism, Expressionism, Fauvism, and Dada. Each new art impulse gave rise not only to new modes of expression but also to new theories. These rapid evolutions in form and concept had wide-ranging effects beyond the visual arts, in many cases spawning related movements in literature and the performing arts. Laban was situated in this vortex of cross-currents. This chapter examines how he drew upon streams of tradition and innovation in the graphic representation of movement, adapting these approaches to the study of dance. The first traditional area to be examined is proportion. Initially, proportion appears to be a visual design element with little obvious relevance to dance. Yet theories of proportion, which focus on the mathematical relations of part to whole, have been particularly important in visual art for the realistic representation of the human body in motion. That is, theories of proportion lead to theories of movement for the simple reason that proportion, together with anatomical structure, dictates range of motion, and range of motion in turn dictates the spatial forms the moving body can create. It will be shown, through the analysis of Laban’s figure drawings, that Laban was thoroughly conversant with classical theories of proportion as perpetuated by late 19th-century academic art training and used this knowledge to develop both his dance notation and his choreutic theory, which addresses spatial aspects of dance design. The impact of instantaneous photography on long-standing conventions in the artistic depiction of human movement is the second area to be discussed. These photos captured movements that could not be seen by the human eye, provoking intense philosophical and artistic debate and altering the way in which artists represented movement. Reverberations of this debate can be detected in Laban’s writings on dance and provide an underlying rationale for the dual perspectives — one analytic, the other wholistic — that inform his theoretical work in dance. The final area to be discussed is Art Nouveau theory and practice. There are only a handful of surviving works by Laban executed in what

63

could be called “Art Nouveau style,” and these all belong to his early work as a visual artist. Later works do not superficially reveal any debt to this style. Laban appears to have drawn upon his familiarity with Art Nouveau more indirectly, appropriating design techniques and ideological and theoretical positions. Significant concepts to be discussed include the modernization of form, the theory of empathy, Art Nouveau techniques of pattern generation, and the tension between biomorphic and geometrical design elements. Laban’s appropriation and adaptation of visual art theories and practices became the foundation for his construction of dance theory. This chapter explores the way Laban mobilized knowledge from one field in the service of another.

Proportional Theories and Figure Drawing Proportion has been defined in various ways. The Dictionary of Art calls it “the quantitative relationship of the parts of the human body to each other and to the whole body.” 2 This follows the classic definition put forth by Vitruvius: “Proportion is a correspondence among the measures of the members of an entire work, and of the whole to a certain part selected as a standard.” 3 Lawlor expands this description as follows:

“A proportion is formed from ratios, and a ratio is a comparison of two different sizes, quantities, qualities, or ideas, and is expressed by the formula a : b. A ratio then constitutes a measure of difference, a difference to which at least one of our sensory faculties can respond.” 4 Other sources refer to proportion as an organizing feature, “a mathematical concept that has acquired great importance in the visual arts, having supplied a set of norms corresponding to those of meter in music and poetry.” 5 Hogarth elaborates, noting that “the canon of proportions of the human figure is equivalent, so to speak, to the foot- rule in measurement, the axiom in geometry, the polestar in navigation. It proclaims the universal human norm, the ideal criterion of discipline in art.” 6 Critchlow takes the concept even further.

Proportion is both an idea and a reality. It is the significant relationship between things, and therefore it is inherent in natural

64

law, as we live in a cosmos — a cosmos being a profound balance between various forces, events and elements. Proportion in the broadest sense is concerned with this balance, harmony and relatedness between things: between body and mind, nature and humanity, illusion and reality. 7

Proportion, then, is a very broad subject, drawing upon mathematical concepts of measurement and ratio to prescribe certain relationships of part to whole in such a way that the resulting form is not only representationally realistic but also beautiful as a unified whole. The search for a proportional canon that can meet these criteria has occupied artists since the time of ancient Egypt. Yet, despite such a long history of development, there are only a handful of key theoreticians and theories of proportion. From classical civilizations come Pythagoras, Polyclitus, and Vitruvius; from the Middle Ages, the Byzantine and Gothic canons; and from the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci and Albrecht Dürer. The use of geometrical schemas to assist the artist with the depiction of bodily proportion and movement are common to all these theories. The Egyptian, Byzantine, and Gothic approaches reduce the human figure to a two- dimensional stylization. More realistic three-dimensional depictions are found in Classical and Renaissance art. The theories underlying these works are the ones most relevant to Laban’s adaptations for dance. Classical and Renaissance Approaches. To achieve greater faithfulness to the organic measure of the human figure and the visual experience of three-dimensional space, Classical and Renaissance approaches to proportion utilized whole number ratios. Pythagoras, the famous Greek mathematician of the sixth century B.C., established the basis of this approach. First, Pythagoras recognized that certain harmonies known to the Greeks derived from a string’s being divided into sections, with strictly defined relationships between the lengths of the sections. By so doing, he “proved that the world of sound is governed by exact numbers.” 8 He went on to do the same thing regarding the world of vision. Pythagoras’s recognition that number underlies sound, space, and form was applied by Polyclitus, a fifth-century B.C. Greek sculptor. Although his canon has not survived, it is known to have been both fractional (based

65

on whole number ratios) and anthropometric (based upon actual measurement of the human body). Consequently, it marked a significant departure from the modular system used by Egyptian artists. As Panofsky explains, when Polyclitus

described the proper proportion of finger to finger, finger to hand, hand to forearm, forearm to arm and, finally, each single limb to the entire body, this meant that the classical Greek theory of proportions had abandoned the idea of constructing the body on the basis of an absolute module, as though from small, equal building blocks; it sought to establish relations between the members, anatomically differentiated and distinct from each other, and the entire body. 9

The only canon surviving from the Classical period is that of Marcus Vitruvius Pollio. Vitruvius was a Roman architect and engineer living in the first century B.C. In his Ten Books on Architecture he described principles of symmetry, harmony, and proportion in architecture. It was in his chapter on temple architecture that the canon of human proportion was introduced as the paradigm for the precise relations between members that lead to a well-shaped human figure or a well-shaped building. Vitruvius uses simple fractions to express these relationships. For example, the head (from chin to crown) is 1/8 of the total length of the body, from the pit of the throat to the hairline is 1/6, and so on. 10 In addition to numerical ratios, geometric devices were employed to study bodily proportion. For example Vitruvius describes how the body may be inscribed in a circle and a square.

For if a man be placed flat on his back, with his hands and feet extended, and a pair of compasses centered at his navel, the fingers and toes of his two hands and feet will touch the circumference of a circle described therefrom. And just as the human body yields a circular outline, so too a square figure may be found from it. For if we measure the distance from the soles of the feet to the top of the head, and then apply that measure to the outstretched arms, the breadth will be found to be the same

66

as the height, as in the case of plane surfaces which are perfectly square. 11

This geometic inscription can be seen in Leonardo da Vinci’s illustration of Vitruvius’s idea, as shown in Figure 3-1.

illustration of Vitruvius’s idea, as shown in Figure 3-1. Figure 3-1. Leonardo: man in circle and

Figure 3-1. Leonardo: man in circle and square.

Renaissance artists not only rediscovered the fractional and geometrical approaches used by their Classical precursors, but also carried proportional theory forward. Refinements in the techniques of rendering in perspective, so as to create an illusion of depth, increased artists’ sensitivity to problems of foreshortening in the representation of the human body in motion. Foreshortening is problematic because, depending on the spectator’s point of view, the characteristic shape and dimension of a part or parts of the body can appear distorted. For example, “a head- on front view of the human body would not be considered fore- shortened.” 12 If the viewpoint is not head-on, however, or if the body itself is in motion, some foreshortening will occur. Artists were looking for systematic ways to replicate these visual distortions. Leonardo da Vinci is one of the prominent Renaissance artists who tackled this problem. According to Panofsky,

he embarked upon a systematic investigation of those mechanical and anatomical processes by which the objective dimensions of the quietly upright human body are altered from case to case, and thereby fused the theory of human proportions with a theory of human movement. He determined the thickening of the joints

67

while flexing or the expansion and contraction of the muscles which attend the bending or stretching of the knee or elbow, and ultimately managed to reduce all movement to a general principle which may be described as the principle of continuous and uniform circular motion. 13

The study of proportion during the Renaissance culminated in the work of the German painter Albrecht Dürer, whose treatises on human proportion were published posthumously in 1528. 14 Dürer reported that he first learned about proportion from the Italian painter, Jacopo de Barbari, who “showed me how to construct a man and a woman based on measurements. I was greatly fascinated by his skill and decided to master it. But Jacobus, I noticed, did not wish to give me a clear explanation. So I went ahead on my own and read Vitruvius.” 15 However, Dürer departed from the Vitruvian tradition of proportion in two important ways. First, he studied proportions of different types of figures, male and female, as well as children, with the consequence that there emerged from his work no single canon of beauty. 16 Secondly, Dürer combined the study of proportion with the study of perspective, working out his own approach to the problem of foreshortening through the use of stereographic techniques. In this approach, geometrical forms are superimposed on the organic curves of the body. These simpler geometrical shapes can then be tilted, rotated, etc. and redrawn in proper perspective to establish the visible changes in proportion that arise when the body is posed in various positions. In a way, Dürer’s incorporation of geometric form in relation to proportion resembled the work of the medieval French architect Villard de Honnecourt. Villard’s approach superimposed shapes such as triangles and pentagons on the human figure. 17 As a result, the organic proportion was somewhat deformed, but the system did successfully set contours and directions of movement. However, Villard’s work only yielded two dimensional representations while Dürer’s system moved from flat to solid shapes that allowed examination of foreshortening, facilitating realistic three-dimensional depiction. While Dürer’s work can be seen as the pinnacle of Renaissance proportion studies, it also marks its crisis. The impact of individual

68

differences and the almost infinite changes in foreshortening arising from movement frustrated attempts to measure the body visually and to lay down general rules guiding realistic proportional representation. Nevertheless, how artists grappled with these problems is instructive. As noted earlier, Leonardo combined the study of proportion and anatomy to outline a theory of human movement. His reasoning went something like this. Space is the medium in which movement occurs, and space is a continuous quantity that is divisible ad infinitum. Similarly, human action is also infinite, for every movement is a “continuous succession of phases.” 18 Since a circle is both infinite and continuous, Leonardo “perceived in the shape of the circle a correct pattern of movement for the human body that gave it a ‘second form,’ which became visible in the circling movement round his own centre and that of his limbs round their various joints.” 19 The treatise that Leonardo intended to write on this theory of movement was never completed. However, his ideas were sketched out in a methodical way by an unknown student in the Codex Huygens (ca. 1570). Using a system of circles and epicycles to represent the forms traced in space by the limbs of the moving body, this student was able to portray “figures enacting successive stages of one and the same movement.” 20 The significance of Leonardo’s circular scheme can best be understood in contrast to the ideas of Dürer. The latter’s “painstaking efforts to rationalize movement in the same way he had tried to rationalize proportion did not get beyond the systematic survey of various definite stationary situations which, by ingenious geometrical methods, could be transformed or rather converted into other no less definite and stationary ones, with the very principle of ‘transition’ left out.” 21 This led Dürer to attempt “to facilitate the construction of unrestricted postures by dissecting the whole figure into a number of units which were inscribed into such simple stereometrical bodies as cubes, parallelepipeds and truncated pyramids; by shifting these around in space any number of poses could be produced in what may be called a synthetic fashion.” 22 However, Dürer seemingly could only conceive of movement as “abrupt transformations of crystallized ‘poses’,” and his proportional theory stopped short of progressing to a general theory for the representation of movement. 23

69

While Leonardo and Dürer pioneered practical techniques in representing human movement that are still used, further developments in proportional theory did not occur. Over the ensuing centuries, artistic sensibilities shifted away from realistic depiction to emphasize “the subjective conception of the object in preference to the object itself.” 24 Nevertheless, the contrasting approaches of Leonardo and Dürer provided an analytic foundation for the representation of movement that Laban subsequently utilized in his dance notation and theory. Academic Influences. While practice in the field turned away from anthropometric proportion and prescribed canons of human beauty, the classical theories were preserved by the art academies that were formed in the 16th century. These academies were organized as professional institutions “with a view to providing training, theoretical debate and exhibiting opportunities.” 25 During the 17th century, the academic idea spread through much of Western Europe, the most influential academy being the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, founded in Paris in 1648. Its curriculum and educational methods were so widely followed that “the prescribed progress of drawing from drawings, drawing from casts, and drawing from life formed, with local variations, the basis of the training of artists in the European tradition until well into the 20th century.” 26 Although the Académie Royale was disbanded during the French Revolution, it was quickly replaced by the Académie des Beaux Arts, which administered the École des Beaux Arts as its school. This is, of course, where Laban supposedly studied. The best testimony to Laban’s familiarity with academic techniques of figural representation lies in his drawings themselves. It can be seen that figures drawn by Laban adhere almost obsessively to traditional proportional canons, methods of foreshortening, and the use of strokes to delineate anatomical landmarks and muscle groups. Laban’s proportion is always excellent, even if his draftsmanship is not. Even in seemingly casual sketches, Laban had to have been working carefully with a caliper or some other kind of measure to keep the proportion correct. 27

70

Use of the Traditional Canon in Laban’s Figure Drawings The canon explicated here is based upon the author’s own practical study of proportion and axial-skeletal drawing derived from the European tradition of academic art training. 28 The training begins with measuring a skeleton, plaster casts, and male and female models to develop ratios for parts of the body identified by various skeletal landmarks. From this measuring and averaging of anatomical parts, the student is able to rediscover and validate the anthropometric proportional canon as follows:

a) The face (from the mandible or jaw to the cranial apex or hairline) is used as a standard, with other body parts represented as either fractions or multiples of this unit.

b) The depth of the skull and the length of the skull are roughly equal.

c) The sternum is one face length.

d) The rib cage is roughly 1½ face lengths.

e) The clavicle is one face length, with the shoulder girdle being about two face lengths wide.

f) The upper arm is 1½ face lengths while the lower arm is just less than 1½ face lengths.

g) The hand is one face length.

h) The upper leg is two face lengths, while the lower leg is slightly less than two face lengths.

i) The foot is one face length.

Understanding of these proportional relationships provides a foundation. A further aspect of axial-skeletal technique involves using skeletal landmarks to set, as well as to adjust, proportional relationships for realistic foreshortening in various poses. Then the actual pencil strokes delineating the figure are used economically, each stroke having a single anatomical referent, usually that of the long axis of a muscle or muscle group. Thus, axial-skeletal technique brings together knowledge of anatomy, proportion, and movement. Laban’s work in Figure 3-2 demonstrates his grasp of the concepts underlying axial-skeletal technique. Here the crest of the ilium is indicated by a small upside down V, a technique often used by artists to set certain proportional landmarks. In this case, it is the measure from the iliac crest

71

a b c
a
b
c

Figure 3-2.

Anatomical study.

Rudolf Laban Archive L/C/3/14 ©NRCD.

a

to the greater trochanter of the thigh that is being set, a measure that corresponds to one face length, even though Laban has not completely sketched the face of this figure. Although the drawing technique is rough, the strokes representing muscles are not drawn idiosyncratically, but are oriented in very particular directions. For instance, the line indicating the deltoid muscles of the upper arm (a) run along the muscle’s long axis, as do the strokes delineating the latissimus dorsi muscles of the back (b) and the gluteus muscles (c) as they wrap around the derriere. Thus, these lines are carefully deployed to represent the axes of the muscles to which they refer. In Figure 3-3, basic proportional relationships are again observed in Laban’s sketch. As noted by Leonardo da Vinci, “from the sole of the foot to the lower edge of the knee is one fourth part of man; from the lower edge of the knee to the beginning of the penis is the fourth part of the man.” 29 These ratios can be seen in Laban’s drawing. Moreover, Laban follows Leonardo’s prescription that the foot is one seventh of the total height, as is the distance from the top of the chest to the hairline. Thus, the raised foot in Laban’s drawing corresponds in length with the neck and the head. Similarly, the face and upper right arm have a standard

72

proportional relationship of x to 1½ x. In addition, even though the strokes seem hasty and random, they actually follow the longitudinal axes of the muscle groups. For example, note the strokes for the latissimus dorsi (a), the gluteus muscles (b), the gracilis on the inner thigh (c), the gastrocnemius on the upper back of the calf (d), and the tibialis anterior

(e) on the front of the calf.

a b d c e
a
b
d
c
e

Figure 3-3. Figure study.

Rudolf Laban Archive L/C/3/20 ©NRCD.

A more abstract version of this same pose is seen in Figure 3-4. Although this figure drawing is highly stylized, the proportional ratios are intact, and Laban continues to abide by the rule that each stroke have a single anatomical referent. Along the contour of the right side of the torso three strokes are used to represent the latissimus dorsi (a), the ribs (b), and the external obliques (c). See, too, the long curve of the fascial band along the thigh (d), as well as the two strokes rendering the inside

contours of the lower leg, revealing the gastrocnemius (e) and soleus (f). Care is also taken in the rendering of the raised leg to indicate the patella

(g) and the kneeling point (h). 30

Thus, Laban’s adherence to the classical proportional canon can be seen in this sample of his figure drawings, which are all believed to have

73

a b c g d h e f
a
b
c
g
d
h
e
f

Figure 3-4. Figure study variation.

Rudolf Laban

Archive L/C/3/18

©NRCD.

been drawn after 1938, when he was no longer an aspiring visual artist but rather an established movement theorist. Although the drawings themselves vary considerably in style and finesse of execution, the adherence to the classical proportional canon attests to Laban’s early academic art background. His continued allegiance to the canon, however, points to its relevance for the study of movement. To repeat a point made in the introduction of this chapter, anatomical structure and bodily proportion dictate range of motion. Range of motion governs the shapes that can be traced by the mover in the surrounding space. These shapes are part of what must be captured in any form of dance notation. Any exaggeration of proportion tends to deform the shape of the movement being depicted visually. The shape of movement, or what Leonardo called the “second form of the human body,” was what Laban was studying. Consequently, it was important to Laban that bodily proportion be rendered accurately.

The Impact of Instantaneous Photography Despite technical advances during the Renaissance, the almost infinite variety of human movements frustrated the efforts of artists to develop a

74

general theory. With the subsequent waning of interest in proportion as a theory, the problem of depicting human movement realistically was also sidelined. Certain representational conventions arose, particularly in academic figure drawing, that were not challenged until the late 19th century, when innovations in photographic techniques provided new insight into human and animal motion. However, the earliest photographs did not successfully capture movement, due to the extremely long exposure times that were necessary. In order to get an image that was clear, the subject had to hold still, and hold still for quite a while. Consequently, when moving subjects were photographed, these subjects tended to disappear. In early photographs of street scenes, the moving people and objects became faint blurs, rendering a scene that seemed somewhat uncanny in its appearance of being uninhabited. 31 The first time moving subjects were successfully captured in motion was in the stereoscopic street scenes produced in the 1850s and 1860s. Improvements in exposure time, coupled with the fact that the camera was placed at some distance from the scene, populated these street scenes with clear images of moving figures for the first time. However, the attitudes in which these moving subjects were captured aroused both surprise and consternation. For example, the American doctor and writer Oliver Wendell Holmes used stereoscopic street scenes to study human walks, research meant to help him in designing artificial limbs for American Civil War veterans. As Newhall notes, “Holmes found the attitudes in these pictures startlingly different from the conventions that had been used for centuries.” 32 Like many early commentators, Holmes was impressed by the contrast between painting and photography; what the latter revealed, he felt, was the infinitely detailed “traces of real things” unmediated by the artist’s editorial eye. 33 If stereoscopic photos flaunted artistic conventions, then subsequent systematic attempts to photograph animals and humans in motion proved even more shocking. The first, and perhaps best known, such attempt was the photographing of a trotting horse by Eadweard Muybridge. In 1872 Muybridge was hired by Leland Stanford, a wealthy American railroad magnate, to photograph a trotting horse, supposedly to prove Stanford’s contention that the horse had all its feet off the ground during

75

a moment of the gait. However, Muybridge’s first attempts were not

successful, due partially to the very slow speed of the wet plates he had

to use. When Muybridge resumed work in 1877, he was assisted by John

D. Isaacs, one of Stanford’s engineers. “With a battery of cameras lined up along a track and with special shutters operated either electrically or

by a clock, he [Isaacs] made it possible for Muybridge to take a whole series of properly timed instantaneous pictures of the trotting horse.” 34 These photos were so successful that Stanford commissioned Muybridge

to photograph other animals in motion, including humans. By 1879, “these

photographs of animals in motion were known throughout the civilized world.” 35 Among those who became familiar with Muybridge’s work at this time was the French physiologist Etienne-Jules Marey, who had himself been studying both human and animal movement. The two men apparently established contact after Marey saw Muybridge’s photos in the French science journal, La Nature. Then, when Muybridge came to Paris to lecture in 1881, his first public appearance was held in Marey’s home. 36 While Marey’s enthusiasm for Muybridge’s work was genuine, he also recognized some technical flaws. For example, when Muybridge’s photos were viewed in a zoetrope, “the horse stayed in the same place and the scenery ran by.” 37 Moreover, Muybridge did not keep the temporal interval between snapshots equal. Muybridge “could freeze the individual moments in series, but he could not integrate the crucial variable of time. His images were spatially distinct but temporally blurred.” 38

These difficulties spurred Marey to develop his own device, a photographic gun, in 1882. This instrument allowed him to keep the time between exposures roughly equivalent, resulting in multiple images of an action on a single plate. Marey christened his invention “chronophotography.” Although his first experiments were somewhat disappointing, Marey continued to work and to refine his techniques in various ways. “He clothed men in black, painted white lines along their arms and legs, and had them run or walk against a black background while moving exposures were made on the same plate.” 39 The result was a linear graph of the motion of the arms and legs. Later, Marey “devised a camera with a

76

moving plate, so that each exposure was a separate picture.” 40 Like the work of Muybridge, Marey’s photos became well-known, being widely published in his own books and in popular scientific journals of the day. While Marey labored to perfect chronophotography, Muybridge was hired by the University of Pennsylvania in 1883 to carry on his photographic research on movement. This research resulted in multiple volumes, most notably Animals in Motion (1887) and The Human Figure in Motion (1901). Muybridge aimed with these studies to “create an atlas for the use of artists, a visual dictionary of human and animal forms in action.” 41 Muybridge was assisted in his work at the University of Pennsylvania by Thomas A. Eakins, a painter and master anatomist with a deep interest in movement. Eakins experimented with instantaneous photography himself, preferring, like Marey, multiple exposures on a single plate. It was Eakins’s contention that this approach allowed the sequence of movement to be followed more easily by relating one shape to another throughout the entire action. Eakins’s interest perhaps led Muybridge to anticipate “a great demand by artists who would substitute photographs for live models.” 42 However, the reaction of the rest of the art world to what instantaneous photos revealed about human and animal movement was much more mixed. Artistic Reactions to Instantaneous Photographs. Shortly after Muybridge’s lecture at the home of Marey, a second soiree for the photographer was held by Ernest Meissonier, a well-known French historic painter and expert on the horse. Two hundred luminaries of French cultural life attended the gathering, and Muybridge’s appearance “caused an overnight sensation. His photographs were hailed as conclusive proof that all four hooves left the ground during gallop, and his zoetropic device signaled the first dramatic example of the photographic synthesis of movement.” 43 Meissonier himself was not so enthusiastic about Muybridge’s photos, as they showed errors in his own painted portrayal of horses. Nevertheless, Meissonier based all his later work on photographic findings. 44 Other artists were also quick to adjust conventional methods of portraying the horse in motion. For example, the American painter Frederic Remington, is known to have adopted “a

77

mode of representing a horse in motion that bore a remarkable resemblance to a Muybridge photo.” 45 However, Muybridge’s work met with disbelief as well. The photographer Paul Henry Emerson found “nothing more inartistic than some position of a galloping horse, such as are never seen by the eye, but yet exist in reality, and have been recorded by Mr. Muybridge.” 46 Others argued similarly, proclaiming that instantaneous photos were “untrue and artistically incorrect” when portraying men and animals in strange attitudes that could only be seen “if the scene were illuminated by a flash of lightning.” 47 Thus, what could be seen as an asset — that instantaneous photographs revealed what normal vision could not perceive in rapid movement — was also seen as a liability by some artists and even some photographers. How valid was it, they asked, to paint a pose or to preserve an attitude that the eye could not even perceive? From this question, another objection was raised having to do with whether or not the instantaneous photos really transmitted an image of movement. As Daval observes, the photographs were “scientifically accur- ate and went beyond the limits of optical perception, revealing what the human eye is incapable of grasping; but they produced a curiously static impression…. [L]ifted from the context of its before and after moments, the snapshot may be disconcerting.” 48 In this sense, the disruption of the natural flow of action actually destroyed the impression of movement. The sculptor Auguste Rodin is known to have reacted strongly to this aspect of instantaneous photography. For example, in one conversation with Rodin, the writer Paul Gsell commented that when an artist portrays movement so as to contradict the mechanical accuracy of photography, “he evidently alters truth.” “‘No,’ replied Rodin, ‘it is the artist who is truthful and it is photography which lies, for in reality time does not stop, and if the artist succeeds in producing the impression of movement which takes several moments for accomplishment, his work is certainly much less conventional than the scientific image, where time is abruptly suspended.’” 49 The basis of Rodin’s objections to the static quality of instantaneous photos of movement is made clearer by his definition of movement as “the transition from one attitude to another.” 50 Whether in sculpture or in

78

painting, what the artist sees in a movement is its transformation and displacement. To capture the quality of this movement, the artist “restores its continuity on canvas, pieces together the sequence of moments which recreate movement in its continuity.” 51 This is what Rodin claims is done

in sculpture.

The sculptor compels, so to speak, the spectator to follow the development of an act in an individual. In the example that we have chosen [i.e., Francois Rude’s 1853 statue of Marshall Ney] the eyes are forced to travel upward from the lower limbs to the raised arm, and, as in so doing they find the different parts of the figure represented at successive instants, they have the illusion of beholding the movement performed. 52

Rodin also illustrated this point with his own sculpture of St. John. The figure appears to be vigorously striding, yet both feet are on the ground. As Rodin points out, an instantaneous photo of a model making

the same movement would have one leg off the ground, but such a position gives the appearance of a man suddenly stricken with paralysis and petrified. Rodin explains this appearance of paralysis in the following

in instantaneous photographs, the figures, though taken while

moving, seem suddenly fixed in midair, it is because, all parts of the body being reproduced exactly at the same twentieth or fortieth of a second, there is not progressive development of movement as there is in art.” 53 Daval points out that Muybridge and Marey were conscious of the curiously static impression their work produced, “so much so that they devised independently, a systematic montage of snapshots in order to transcribe movement.” 54 These devices, of course, were among the forerunners of cinematogaphy. 55 Influence of Instantaneous Photography on Avant-Garde Artists. Reaction in the artistic world did not divide itself merely into admirers

way: “if

and detractors, into those who imitated new views of movement in their representational work versus those who ignored photographic evidence.

A third group of various avant-garde artists responded to scientific photos,

not for the advantages they offered for correcting conventional

79

representation, but for the new kinds of images they introduced. These groups included the Cubists, Futurists, and Dadaists: “those movements in modern art which, taking advantage of the freedom offered by the fragmentation of the perceptual image, proceeded to evolve forms of art determined by either the imagination or the fancy.” 56 Among these movements, the Futurists were the most overt in their focus on movement. The 1910 Futurist Painting: Technical Manifesto proclaimed that all things move and change and “this dynamism is what the artist should strive to represent.” 57 As Read points out, an emphasis on dynamism began with the Impressionists, but they never solved the problem of representing movement in painting and sculpture. In contrast “the Futurist solution was somewhat naive: a galloping horse, they said, had not four feet but twenty, and their motion is triangular. They therefore painted horses, or dogs, or human beings, with multiple limbs in serial or radial arrangement.” 58 Whether naive or not, it was clear that some of the Futurists drew their inspiration from the work of Marey. For example, “some of Giacomo Balla’s paintings were almost literal transcriptions of these photographs.” 59 Another artist who drew inspiration from Marey’s images was Marcel Duchamp, whose Nude Descending a Staircase (1912) is known to have been inspired by chronophotography. 60 Read notes that the artist himself explained that Nude is not really a painting: “it is an organization of kinetic elements, an expression of time and space through the abstract presentation of motion.” 61 Indeed, as regards capturing movement in painting, Read gives Cubism, Futurism, and Dadaism a mixed review:

“In so far as they attempted to represent motion, these pioneers were to be overtaken by the cinematograph; their paintings remain plastic symbols for motion rather than representations of motion.” 62 Both Futurism and Dadaism ultimately turned away from painting with its virtual representation of movement, focusing instead on the actual incorporation of movement in performance art or cinematography. 63 However, one artist associated with the Italian Futurists was notable for his experimental representations of movement, namely Anton Giulio Bragaglia. In 1911 he first began producing photographic images of movement, for which he coined the phrase, “Photodynamism.” The

80

official debut of Photodynamism occurred slightly later, with the publication of his manifesto in an Italian newspaper in 1913. Bragaglia claimed that Photodynamism was a new art form, distinct from both painting and photography; he specifically dissociated it from chronophotography and cinematography as well. In Bragaglia’s opinion chronophotography could be compared to a clock on the face of which only the half-hours are marked and cinematography to one on which the minutes too are indicated. 64 Both of these mechanical media scanned and broke up the movement, shattering the action. Photodynamism, on the other hand, “marked not only the seconds, but also the intermomental fractions existing in the passages between the seconds.” 65 Consequently, the photodynamic pictures aimed to evoke the sensation of movement by capturing its continuity. The effect was achieved through long exposure while the subject moved. This resulted in multiple images of the figure, as in the work of Marey and Eakins, but with the addition of a kind of blurring of the moving body parts, which served “to link up each successive phase of the overall movement.” 66 The images, usually of a single subject, fell into two groups. There were figures carrying out specific actions, such as typing or sawing, along with images of transitional actions, such as rising from a chair, walking, bowing, etc. Bragaglia himself made much of transitional moments and his photos “represent an interesting complement to the painters’ attempts to capture the essence rather than the appearance of movement.” 67 Bragaglia’s work establishes a countertension to other instantaneous photographs. Muybridge and Marey exploited what the camera could do, revealing aspects of human and animal movement never before seen, ostensibly for scientific purposes. Their works provoked two antithetical reactions within the art world. On the one hand, some artists embraced the unique views of action provided by the photographs and incorporated this new realism into their paintings. Other artists rejected the photographic images, preferring to express movement rather than demonstrate it. The attitudes the latter artists gave their figures may never have existed, “but they are the more convincing because they translate as actual time-sequences.” 68 Bragaglia, identifying with the Futurist emphasis on dynamism, pursued the evocation of movement through

81

photographic means. But unlike the Futurist painters, he was not content to simply replicate the fractured images of chronophotography. Rather, Bragaglia’s work critiques the images of instantaneous photography by pointing out what is missing — transition and continuity. His emphasis on this omission parallels the philosophical discussion that also surrounded these instantaneous views of movement.

From Photograph to Mental Image: Bergson’s Philosophy of Movement At the center of the philosophical discussion of movement and change was the French writer Henri Bergson, “the most popular and most widely translated philosopher of his day.” 69 His lectures at the Collège de France, where Marey was a colleague, “became so crowded that a larger room had to be found to hold the overflow.” 70 With an audience that cut across disciplines, radiating “far beyond academic and literary circles,” 71 Bergson seemed to have opened “an outlook for which his age had been thirsting.” 72 And what was that outlook? Bergson himself acknowledged that “a philosopher worthy of his name has never said more than a single thing.” 73 According to Masur, “change was, for Bergson, the one single thing.” 74 By centering his ruminations on the experience of change in contrast with the conceptualization of change, Bergson had to grapple with space, time, and movement. He returned to these subjects over and over again in his writings. It is in such discussions that Bergson’s views on instantaneous photography can be detected, for, as Rabinbach noted, Bergson’s colleague Marey “is often invoked though rarely mentioned by name.” 75 For example, in Creative Evolution, Bergson proposes to portray the marching past of a regiment. Now, one could attempt this portrayal by constructing little jointed figures, Bergson suggests. But such puppets would scarcely reproduce the suppleness of live marching. Alternatively, one could take a series of snapshots of the passing regiment and project these instantaneous views rapidly one after another, as in cinematography. Bergson concedes that this would reconstitute the mobility of the marching group. However, he goes on to note that “if we had to do with the photographs alone, however much one might look at them we should

82

never see them animated: with immobility set beside immobility, even endlessly, we could never make movement.” 76 In other words, instantaneous photography and cinematography take a flowing movement sequence and break it apart into snapshots. If these frozen attitudes can be mechanically reanimated, they will give an illusion of movement. However, real movement is something altogether different. Bergson illustrates his analysis of why instantaneous photography (or cinematography) fails to be truly mobile and lifelike with an example in Matter and Memory. He proposes to move his hand from point A to point B, noting, “my consciousness gives me the inward feeling of a single fact, for in A was rest, in B there is again rest, and between A and B is placed an indivisible or at least an undivided act, the passage from rest to rest, which is movement itself.” 77 On the other hand, as the movement traverses space, it inscribes a line AB “and this line, like all space, may be indefinitely divided,” Bergson admits. 78 However, if the movement along this line is then represented as successive positions lying along this line, a series of imaginary halts are substituted for a flowing and indivisible whole. What Bergson goes on to point out is that this conceptual model of movement is incongruent with our lived experience of movement. We know movement as a flowing, indivisible whole, but we think of it as a series of immobile positions, infinitely divisible. In other words, our intellect seems to work on the flowing wholeness of lived experience very much like a camera works on movement. Moreover, just as photography and cinematography break up the spatial coherence of movement, they also disrupt its temporal continuity, segmenting the enduring wholeness of time into separate moments. When the snapshot-taking mind is focused on temporal change, “the understanding breaks it up into successive and distinct states, supposed to be invariable.” 79 This view “neglects the fact that these states are themselves changing and that each is related to its predecessor and its successor not as externally related things, but as interpenetrating linked experiences.” 80 This inability to perceive movement as an indivisible transition and time as a continuum of flowing change leads to a misapprehension of the essence of life. As Bergson points out, “it is not

83

the ‘states,’ single snapshots we have taken once again along the course of change, that are real; on the contrary, it is flux, the continuity of transition, it is change itself that is real.” 81 Consequently, Bergson adds an interesting conceptual dimension to the problem of representing movement, particularly as that problem is illuminated by instantaneous photography. What Bergson recognizes in these snapshots is a metaphor for how the intellect handles movement and change. His critique of chronophotography demonstrates that the snapshots will not serve the “scientific” study of movement because both space and time have been broken apart and consequently the indivisible continuity of movement that is its essence has been lost. “In these juxtaposed views one has a substitute for time and movement,” he concedes, but “time and movement are something else.” 82 Ontologically speaking, Bergson’s critique is more far-reaching, for it is this very snapshot-taking aspect of the mind that interferes in the apprehension of a reality in which everything flows, everything endures and changes, and life is mobility itself. But unless one can “reverse the normal direction of the workings of thought” through intuition, one will not be able to grasp this.” 83 In Bergson’s view, then, movement (and, by extension, being itself) may be known in two ways: intellectually and intuitively. In the first case, the mind works analytically, approaching the movement event from outside, like a camera. The representation of movement that arises from this kind of knowing is like that of instantaneous photos: movement becomes a series of positions and its temporal duration becomes a string of moments corresponding to each of the positions. While not a very dynamic or lifelike representation, this manner of conceptualizing is unavoidable when one needs to think about movement so as to act on it. As Bergson describes, “there is, between our body and other bodies, an arrangement like that of the pieces of glass that compose a kaleidoscopic picture. Our activity goes from an arrangement to a rearrangement, each time no doubt giving the kaleidoscope a new shake, but not interesting itself in the shake and seeing only the new picture.” 84 Intuition, on the other hand, knows the movement from within, as a continuous whole traversing space and flowing through time. In fact,

84

what distinguishes intuitive knowing from intellectual knowing for Bergson is the apprehension of time, not as a spatialized series of moments, but as an uninterrupted continuity that flows, connecting past, present, and future, much as a melody takes its being from individual notes but links them into an indivisible whole that is the tune itself. Intuition is the means through which one recognizes that “movement is

reality itself.” 85 The image of movement that one grasps intuitively is not

a snapshot-like view but one of a flowing continuity fluctuating endlessly. 86

Bergsonian Reverberations in Laban’s Choreutic Theory and Notation Many echoes of Bergson will also be found in the introduction to Laban’s posthumously published treatise, Choreutics. 87 For example,

Laban refers to the “snapshot-like perception of the mind which is able

to receive only a single phase of the uninterrupted flux,” noting that “the

sum of such snapshots is, however, not yet the flux itself.” 88 As for the

omnipresent reality of movement, Laban notes that “today we are perhaps

still too accustomed to understanding objects as separate entities, standing

in stabilized poses side by side in empty space. Externally, it may appear

so, but in reality continuous exchange and movement are taking place. Not for a moment do they come to a complete standstill, since matter itself is a compound of vibrations.” 89 These particular observations closely parallel those of Bergson in Matter and Memory. There Bergson points out that it is useful to fix a thing at a precise point, establishing a clear limit, and making action something separate from the thing. Nevertheless, there is a different reality hidden beneath such arbitrary images, for even “the solidity and the inertia of atoms dissolve either into movements or into lines of force.” 90 The way in which Laban describes space is also very similar to Bergson’s characterization. Bergson argues that space is not a fixed, homogeneous ground onto which movement is posited, “rather it is real motion that deposits space beneath itself.” 91 Laban similarly argues for

an interdependent relationship between space and movement: “we must not look at the locality simply as an empty room, separated from

85

movement, nor at movement as an occasional happening only

a hidden feature of movement and movement is a visible aspect of space.” 92 Thus, various observations in Laban’s introduction to his treatise on Choreutics strongly reflect an intuitive view of movement that can be seen as Bergsonian, for Laban affirms that movement is a continuous flux, an omnipresent part of life, and interdependent with a space that is not empty but alive with the uninterrupted waxing and waning of things in motion. Nevertheless, Laban’s observations also reflect a Bergsonian recognition that a snapshot view of movement is of practical use. Noting that a movement makes sense only if it progresses organically, Laban goes on to assert that “it is, therefore, essential to find out the natural characteristics of the single phases which we wish to join together in order to create a sensible sequence.” 93 In other words, Laban is suggesting

that the snapshot-like perception of the mind can be utilized to study movement, to compare individual phases within a movement, and to ascertain the “natural order” governing the sequencing of motions as they organically develop in space. 94 Bergson, of course, points out that when this snapshot-like perception is focused on movement, the temporal experience is translated into a geometrical form, typically a line seemingly traced by the moving body on the space surrounding the body. Laban does not take issue with this observation; he simply appropriates it. Movement, writes Laban, “is made up of pathways tracing shapes in space, and these we may call ‘trace- forms’.” 95 Notation makes use of trace-forms to record movement sequences. Directional symbols break the flowing action apart, representing single “spatial appearances” along the “definite path” of the movement. 96 Through this sequence of snapshots, the flowing unity of the movement may then be reconstructed from the notated score. Thus it can be seen that Laban’s allegiance to Bergson is twofold — he affirms the continuously flowing nature of movement but he is not loathe to make use of the instantaneous photographic views by which mental perception divides the flux and makes it available for analysis, documentation, and reconstruction.

space is

86

Space, Time, and Proportional Theory in Laban’s Combination Drawings Bergson complained that when movement is depicted as a line in space, it loses the temporal dimension of dynamic development and continuity. Laban was obviously sensitive to this problem. His combination drawings, which portray dancers surrounded by geometrical forms, provide insight into how he grappled with this issue. To begin with, an analogy may be drawn between these works and Rodin’s sculptural approach. Rodin’s approach, it may be recalled, consisted in compelling the viewer to follow the development of an action within the sculpted figure itself. Various phases of a movement were transcribed onto different parts of the sculpted body. The viewer’s eye was then directed, through compositional means, along a line through the sculpted form that followed the temporal development of the action. Thus the viewer perceived the progression of the action, and in this way an illusion of movement was created. Laban employs a similar strategy in his combination drawings, but with this difference. The progressive stages of the movement are not represented by different parts of the figure’s body. Rather, the temporal unfolding of the movement is projected onto the space around the body and represented by the trace-form. For example, in Plate K a dancer is depicted stepping onto the right leg and reaching forward while the left leg extends backwards in balanced countertension. The figural pose simply represents one phase of this action, while the trace-form surrounding the figure maps the ongoing sequence of movements that will follow this first step. Presumably the dancer can continue from the depicted starting position by tracing the design that hangs in the air around her body. Laban’s choice of an angular form to represent the sequential development of this movement is of further interest, because it demonstrates his creative amalgamation of techniques developed by Leonardo da Vinci and Albrecht Dürer. In his attempt to depict the moving figure realistically, Leonardo da Vinci had theorized a “second form” of the human body that could be visualized as the trajectories of the limbs around their joints. He conceived these trajectories as circular forms

87

projected on the space around the body. These circles were to be used to cope with problems of foreshortening, and can still be found in the figure drawing manuals of today. Dürer developed a different approach to the problem of foreshortening, one that is also still used today. He experimented with inscribing stereometric solids onto parts of the figure itself. These solids could be tilted and rotated in space to construct poses and calculate appropriate foreshortenings, then reconverted to the biomorphic shapes of the human figure. Laban seems to have integrated these two approaches in his combination drawings. The stereometric approach of Dürer is appropriated, but not applied to the figure itself. Rather, the solids are projected onto the space around the body, as Leonardo proposed, and used to describe, in spatial terms, the temporal progression of the movement. Clearly Laban was aware, like Leonardo, that bodily movement predominantly inscribes curves on the surrounding space. However, in order to record a movement, these curves must be related to some kind of directional referencing system. This is where Dürer’s solid geometrical forms became useful to Laban. Platonic solids like the cube, octahedron, and icosahedron partition three-dimensional space in a regular way, and their corners can be used as reference points for mapping movement pathways. When movement is mapped within a geometrical geography, the resulting angles of the trace-forms impose a rhythmic structure on the flowing curves of bodily motion through regularly occurring changes in direction. This is why Laban represents trace-forms

as polygons, or, as he puts it, “circles in which there is spatial rhythm, as distinct from time rhythm.” 97 An additional rationale for Laban’s use of a geometrical geography to represent movement arises from his observations of the congruence between range of motion and the angles of polyhedral forms. Laban notes that “anatomically it has been shown that the body and its limbs can be

moved only in certain restricted areas

which we called ‘zones’ of the

limbs. In these [zones] the moving limbs describe certain angles of rotations and flexion. The size of the angle is determined by the individual

structure of the joints.” 98 Laban goes on to detail the range of motion of various parts of the body, then compares these biological measurements

88

with the measurement of various geometrical angles found in the Platonic solid known as the icosahedron. Laban finds the angles of the icosahedron

and the angles of limb movement to be equal or in a ratio of 1:2 or 2:1 —

a proportional correspondence he describes as “quite astonishing.” 99 Laban also points out that various Golden Section ratios found in the

icosahedron parallel Golden Section ratios found in the human body. 100 He chose the icosahedron as the preferred stereometric projection for mapping trace-forms because of its kinship with the proportions of the human form and the range of motion of various limbs. While it occupies

a position of particular significance, the icosahedron was not the only

stereometric solid that Laban projected onto the kinesphere and used for

mapping trace-forms. All the other Platonic solids — tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, and dodecahedron — were used at least experimentally. Of these, the cube and the octahedron proved to be particularly useful as systems of reference for recording dance. While any movement consists of an infinite number of positions along

a trajectory in space, some of these positions seem to be more salient to the mover and viewer than others. Bergson described this phenomenon in the following way.

Of the gallop of a horse our eye perceives chiefly a characteristic, essential or rather schematic attitude, a form that appears to radiate over a whole period and so fill up a time of gallop. It is this attitude that sculpture has fixed on the frieze of the Parthenon. But instantaneous photography isolates any moment; it puts them all in the same rank, and thus the gallop of a horse spreads out for it into as many successive attitudes as it wishes, instead of massing itself into a single attitude, which is supposed to flash out in a privileged moment and to illuminate a whole period. 101

In other words, not only does our mental process break the flowing unity of a movement sequence into snapshots, it also accentuates and emphasizes certain snapshots more than others. Thus the memory condenses an image of the movement into a few characteristic poses or attitudes. Muybridge’s work may be seen to have first revealed this privileging of certain moments, because “his pictures startled artists,

89

physiologists, and many others, for they showed that the conventional representations of motion, such as a horse running, a man walking, or an athlete vaulting, were composites on the brain of the observer.” 102 Laban also seemed to have been aware of this “privileging” of certain moments.

This flux of time can, therefore, be understood as an infinite number of changing situations. Since it is absolutely impossible to take account of each infinitesimal part of movement we are obliged to express the multitude of situations by some selected peaks within the trace-form which have a special quality. The most characteristic, of course, are those which strike us by their spatial appearance, but we must remain aware of the fact that those selected for description are connected with one another by numberless transitory positions. 103

This observation raises the question of how such selected peaks and privileged moments are to be chosen from among the numberless transitory positions. This is where Laban’s choice of polygons rather than circles to represent trace-forms becomes important. While Laban certainly translates a movement in time as a line in space, he does not then break that line by an arbitrary temporal unit, as in a chronophotograph. Instead, he divides the line of the movement into regular spatial intervals. By so doing, Laban creates polygonal tracings that are rhythmic. The regular changes of direction at set distances, marked by the angles in the form, accentuate certain “spatial appearances.” For example, Laban based his system of spatial orientation on the cardinal directions: up/down, right/left, and forward/backward. Laban perceived these directions to be accentuated in the five positions of classical ballet, which have been handed down in the oral tradition of dance instruction as “the simplest means of spatial orientation in the art of dance.” 104 If these directional points are situated around the dancer’s body and connected by surface lines, an octahedral scaffolding results. Rhythmic circles traced within this scaffolding will accentuate the cardinal directions and the characteristic attitudes associated with classical ballet forms.

90

In Laban’s combination drawings, the “numberless transitory positions” are still visible in the continuous line of the trace-form, but the “peaks,” “privileged moments,” and “characteristic attitudes” can also be captured. This makes Laban’s work much more like the images captured by Bragaglia, where discrete positions of the moving figure are made to flow together through the blurring of the intermomental passages. Still, this may be begging the point. From a Bergsonian perspective, movement exists in space and time. Any visual representation, existing in space alone, appears destined to lose the dimension of time. But there must be some way to represent movement so that time, too, is integrated, just as the convention of perspective has come to be accepted as a convincing representation of deep space, even though the third dimension is actually missing. Laban resolved the problem of the representation of time in his notation system by the simple means of adjusting the length of symbols to indicate the duration of the actions for which they stood. This integrated quantitative time into the graphic symbol system Laban invented. On the other hand, time in dance is not merely a quantity; it also possesses rhythmic qualities that are roughly analogous to descriptive terms in music such as staccato, legato, forte, pianissimo, etc. Laban developed a rich descriptive taxonomy addressing these rhythmic dynamics. These descriptive terms and their symbolic representation have never been integrated entirely successfully into the Laban’s dance notation, however. Indeed, Laban appears to have believed that detailed recording of the spatial form and metric duration of bodily actions provided a sufficient representation of movement, one from which the dynamic rhythms could be extrapolated. The basis of this belief can perhaps be traced to ideas about the interrelationship of form and dynamics that were promulgated by the Art Nouveau theorists who dominated discourse about art during Laban’s years as a visual artist.

Art Nouveau and the Modernization of Form As noted in Chapter 1, Art Nouveau was an international movement that swept across Europe during the fin-de-siècle period (circa 1890 – 1914). While the French terms for “new art” have been applied to the

91

movement as a whole, Art Nouveau consisted of a number of local variations and designations. In Vienna, it was known as “Secession Style”; in Great Britain, “Arts and Crafts”; in Germany, “Jugendstil”; in Spain, “Modernista”; and in Italy, “Stile Floreale.” To further complicate matters, Art Nouveau as a label refers not only fine and decorative arts, but also to literature, theatre, and dance. Art Nouveau style can be perfectly embodied in the single objet d’art or “it can be a cohesive, integrated ensemble of construction and decoration.” 105 Despite these ambiguities, the prevalence and wide circulation of various publications devoted to Art Nouveau, the possibility for artists to display their work at international exhibitions, and the opportunity for designers of one nation to find wealthy patrons in another ensured wide dissemination of ideas, theories, and stylistic examples. 106 This has led Howard to observe that, Art Nouveau “is not a singular style but a movement in which certain formal characteristics recur and certain ideologies are expressed.” 107 Ideology unites the various manifestations of the Art Nouveau movement perhaps more obviously than stylistic features. As Greenhalgh observes, “Art Nouveau was the first self-conscious, internationally based attempt to transform visual culture through a commitment to the idea of the modern.” 108 This commitment to modernity was based upon recognition that the material conditions of European life had altered radically during the 19th century. If art was to find a role in these altered circumstances, theorist Meier-Graefe argued, “art itself must change.” 109 It was clear that modern objects needed to look modern; the question was how to achieve this. The initial response was to reject old art; that is, to turn away from the Classical and Renaissance models that had become dominant through their promulgation and institutionalization by the art academies. This rejection had stylistic implications. Hard-won techniques of achieving the illusion of three-dimensionality were abandoned, as was the insistence that the artist’s job is to reproduce visual reality. Rather than rehash what had already been done, Art Nouveau artists searched for new sources of inspiration and new modes of depiction. If art were to be a part of contemporary life, then the ordinary objects of everyday life had to be transformed into works of art that were within economic reach of the

92

common household. This led to a variety of artistic initiatives. Attempts were made to soften the division between applied and fine arts, to raise standards of public taste, and to utilize industrial means of production. Art Nouveau as a movement was egalitarian and visionary. By creating a “harmonious ensemble of equal arts,” the artists and designers aimed to transform European life. 110 This transformational movement was spearheaded by practitioners of the decorative arts, for it was the illustrators, bookbinders, furniture makers, fabric designers, jewelers, glass makers, architects, and interior decorators whose explorations opened new stylistic horizons and established the formal characteristics associated with Art Nouveau. These artists looked for new sources of inspiration and found them in nature and in exotic decorative pattern. They explored design possibilities of stylization, working with flat surfaces, exploiting the interplay of foreground and background, and creating pattern and ornament through

the skillful use of line. In the hands of these artists, “sinuous, sensuous,

serpentine

and created abstract pattern.” 111 While the examination of nature provided visual motifs for the Art Nouveau artist, the study of antique and non-European forms of ornamentation provided insight into how to generate decorative patterns. Sourcebooks of both types were mined by designers and led to two approaches — one characterized by an emphasis on recognizable organic forms; the other, by an emphasis on abstract line. 112 This distinction is one of degree, not kind, as both approaches utilize stylization. Even when an organic form is recognizable, its shape typically has been streamlined, flattened, its curves or angles enhanced, its symmetry or asymmetry exaggerated, and the pattern made more rhythmic through the repetition of elements. This process is simply continued in more abstract designs until the organic form that may have provided initial inspiration is abstracted to the extent that it can no longer be identified clearly. Through these design processes, Art Nouveau artists escaped from the bonds of realistic depiction, and pioneered techniques that led to the development of abstract art. Many significant Art Nouveau artists “added literary works to their artistic creations.” 113 These works, along with discussions taking

line defined fluid, attenuated forms, played over surfaces,

93

place in psychology and aesthetics at that time, provided a theoretical underpinning for the transformation of visual culture that Art Nouveau artists hoped to realize.

Empathy, Expression, and Abstraction During the latter part of the 19th century, developments in the psychological understanding of perception and cognition gave rise to new aesthetic theories. One of the most influential was the concept of empathy. The German aesthetician Robert Vischer was the first to introduce the term “empathy” into modern aesthetics, using the term “to describe the way in which we are able to project our feelings into the objects we perceive, thereby establishing a subjective, animate relation to the phenomenal world.” 114 In relation to the perception of objects of art, Vischer is sometimes seen to base his empathic projection on the physiological sensation of movement given by the eyes as their gaze roams. However, Vischer’s concept of empathy seems to rest as much on imaginary movement as on actual movement: “I transpose myself as a sensible and intellectual subject into the inner being of the object and explore its formal character from within … This kind of transposition can take a motor or sensitive form, even when it is concerned with lifeless or motionless forms. I can imagine

to myself that this pine tree is about to move, or has just now been moving;

I can entertain the thought of shooting up into space with it like a rocket.” 115 What is significant for this discussion is Vischer’s interjection of the body of the observer and its movement (both actual and imaginary) into

a theory of aesthetic form. This theme was carried forward by the eminent

German psychologist and aesthetician Theodor Lipps. Lipps was interested in how art communicated meaning. He hypothesized that meaning did not reside in the physical art object itself, but “was to be found in the empathic relationship forged between viewer and object.” 116 The Swiss art critic Heinrich Wölfflin also addressed this relationship in his Prolegomena to a Psychology of Architecture (1886). Wölfflin asks how it is possible that architectural forms are able to express a feeling or mood. His answer goes beyond that of Vischer, for Wölfflin refuses to conceptualize empathy as a response based solely on vision, noting that

94

“the architectural impression, far from being some kind of ‘reckoning by the eye’ is essentially based on a direct bodily feeling.” 117 Wölfflin argues that the elements of architecture — material and form, gravity and force — make sense to us because of our own physical experiences. That is, “physical forms possess a character only because we ourselves possess a body.” Moreover, “our own bodily organization is the form through which we apprehend everything physical.” 118 The theory of empathy, then, opens the way for an aesthetic subjectivity which is based upon bodily identification of the viewer with formal qualities in the art object. Meaning is not grounded in the extent to which an objet d’art resembles the object depicted. Rather, the potential for meaning resides in the formal qualities of the mode of presentation, which are of necessity more general and more abstract. This potential is released through the empathic identification of the observer with these formal qualities. This identification is possible because the viewer and the objet d’art coexist in the same ground of being in which the observers’ experiences of pressure and countertension, tempo, balance and imbalance can be related to similar qualities embedded in the work of art. Because the theory of empathy encouraged artists to look beyond the surface of the object to its more intrinsic characteristics, it became an important conceptual tool in the Art Nouveau artists’ search for new and dynamic forms. The influence of this concept is quite obvious in the work and writings of Jugendstil artists Hermann Obrist and his younger associate, August Endell. Obrist was well situated to work in a style that drew its inspiration from nature, for his initial field of study was botany. After abandoning botany for art, Obrist studied ceramics briefly, then trained as a sculptor at the Académie Julian in Paris before moving to Florence to set up an embroidery studio. Exhibitions of this work in 1896 established Obrist as pioneer of the “new art.” As Greenhalgh describes, Obrist’s embroideries “evoke rather than imitate nature,” they “float in space” as “tense, vibrant, and flame-like” designs. 119 Indeed, Obrist’s own writings reveal a fascination with movement, demanding dynamic energies and rhythm “not only of objects in motion but also of stable heavy masses.” 120 In Obrist’s designs, roots, stems, and

95

flowers were subject to whiplash-like contortions and spiral motifs. Similarly, his students were admonished to understand natural objects as images “full of expressive forces, full of linear, plastic, constructive movements of unprecedented abundance and astonishing variety.” 121 These ideas proved to be attractive to August Endell. Endell had studied philosophy and psychology with Theodor Lipps in Munich. A chance meeting with Obrist, however, turned his aspirations toward art. He rapidly established himself as a designer and architect. Together with Obrist, Endell became an eloquent advocate for Jugendstil, evoking the theory of empathy as a way toward a new art: “Though a circle may recall a ring and thereby elicit an association with faithfulness and eternity, that has nothing to do with the immediate power of the form itself.” 122 Instead of seeing forms as realistic representations or as symbols, Endell proposed a completely new approach, a Formkunst or form art. This would be “an art with forms which signify nothing, represent nothing and remind us of nothing, which arouse our souls as deeply and strongly as music has always been able to do.” 123 Endell then went on to spell out the empathic reactions aroused by various kinds of lines. Straight and curved lines, narrow and wide lines, short and long lines, and the direction of the line were all correlated with various sensations and qualities. As Weiss outlines Endell’s thesis, “length or shortness of a line are functions of time, while the thickness and thinness are functions of tension in Endell’s system. Thus lines or line complexes and, ultimately forms, which are only modifications of line complexes, can express all the nuances of feeling experienced in movement, which always exhibits both time, or ‘tempo,’ and tension.” 124 Endell’s views, controversial when published in 1897-98, were representative of widely-held assumptions of avant-garde artists that “attention to the specific details of the natural world was inconsistent with fulfillment of the expressive potential of art.” 125 Music — expressive, abstract, free from any necessity to refer to the natural world — came to be seen as an exemplar for the new visual arts. As Harrison and Wood observe, “August Endell and Kandinsky were among those for whom the apparently ‘universal’ expressiveness of music held out the possibility of an abstract visual art, its validity secured not by reference to the

96

appearance of the material world, but rather by the supposed basicness of certain formal principles.” 126

The Modernization of Form and Expression in Dance Just as proportional theorists and instantaneous photographers grappled with problems of representing movement, the avant-garde artists of Art Nouveau also wrestled with mobility in various ways. The visual arts were preoccupied with creating dynamic ornamental forms, while the performing arts struggled to open the theatrical space for movement and to free the performer’s body. Philosophical discussion addressed the experience of time, space, and motion, as aestheticians and psychologists

theorized about the kinesthetic sense and its role in empathic apperception of form. Within this fin-de-siècle vortex, Laban was shifting his own interest from visual art to dance. Other artists of the period, notably the Futurists, were also turning from the visual to the performance arts, favoring dynamic expression over static representation. Due to his determination to develop a notation system, Laban could not entirely forsake the representation of movement for its evanescent embodiment. It was vital to Laban that the dance leave a trace behind, and this forced him to continue to contend with the problems of representation. Consequently, the innovations in visual form that Laban witnessed through his proximity to the Art Nouveau worlds of Paris and Munich had important consequences for his emerging thoughts on dance, its theoretical structure, and its preservation through graphic representation.

It has been noted that the Art Nouveau movement aimed to transform

visual culture through commitment to the idea of modernity. Refrains of these ideological concerns can be found in Laban’s work. He was dedicated to finding a relevant role for dance in contemporary society. Like other artists of the period, Laban rejected historical styles and pursued new forms for the modern dance. As Wigman writes,

Laban told me once that it was the vision of a great work of art,

a combination of dance, music, and poetry, which started him on his way. But how was such a dream to become reality when the

97

chief instrument needed for the actual creation, the dance chorus, did not exist. The ballet dancer of that time was not fit for the dance as Laban envisioned. The modern dancer had not yet come into being. Laban had to build up the new instrument himself and the means of doing so. 127

This was particularly true of Laban’s choreutic explorations, which aimed to open spatial possibilities for the dance beyond the traditional ones oriented around the cardinal directions. The resulting theory was innovative, for as Preston-Dunlop observed, “Laban’s choreutic forms, nearly all inclinational and positively counter-stable, were a direct attempt by him to provide other ways of moving than that provided by the ballet which is based on stable forms.” 128 In addition to a quest for new forms, Art Nouveau artists aspired to create the total work of art or Gesamtkunstwerk, an orchestration of different art forms into a unified whole. Laban’s early experiments resonated with this aim. The Schule für Kunst (School for Art) in Ascona (1913) was not merely a center for dance, but included training in music and art. Laban’s subsequent school in Zurich (1915) advertised courses in Tanz-Ton-Wort (Dance, Sound, Word). Moreover, Laban’s synthetic leanings are quite clear in his views of dance itself. In his first book, Die Welt des Tänzers (The Dancer’s World,1920), Laban rhapsodically extolled the gestural power of dancing as an act that unifies feeling, thinking, and willing. If Laban abandoned the creation of Gesamtkunstwerk as a practical aim in the later decades of his career, he never forsook it as a theoretical aim. Dancing remained for him an orchestrated union of body and mind, a psychophysical Gesamtkunstwerk whose compositional principles awaited discovery. Art Nouveau artists not only created new art, they also generated novel theories. The emerging field of psychology contributed to the aesthetics of Art Nouveau, while the close connection between visual arts and music, dance, and theatre ensured further interchange of ideas. Three aspects of theory and practice seem particularly relevant to how Laban came to conceptualize space, form, and dynamics in dance. These include the theory of empathy, Art Nouveau approaches to the handling

98

of line as a formal element, and practical techniques employed to create patterns and visual ornaments. Expression. The relevance of the theory of empathy arises from the importance ascribed to the kinesthetic and visual senses in the appreciation of form. Empathy was believed to rest upon physiological experiences and the viewer’s ability to associate these with the formal characteristics of the art object. Empathy provided a basis for the aesthetic understanding of artwork that was neither naturalistic nor symbolic. This concept may have influenced Laban’s thinking as regards the relationship between form and expression. The theory of empathy suggests that the dynamic expression is inherent in the form and much of Laban’s thinking about affinities of effort and space would seem to rest upon the assumption that certain kinetic rhythms arise naturally in relation to the line and directional trajectory of the movement being performed. Line. The way Art Nouveau regarded the formal characteristics of line would also seem to have had an impact on Laban’s conceptions of movement form. Dance can be seen as creating two kinds of forms or “ornaments” in space. The first is the bodily form that arises when the dancer momentarily holds a pose or assumes a position. The second kind of ornament is the more evanescent form created by actual movement through space; these transitional “disappearing” lines are what Laban called “trace-forms.” Both types of movement ornaments are complexes of lines. The English theorists were amongst the first to explore “the hidden utterance of ornament;” that is, the effects that certain forms have upon the mind. 129 Jugendstil artists, notably August Endell, followed this idea through in a systematic way, attributing tempo and tension to various types of lines. Based upon these two parameters, Endell went on to suggest that line and line complexes could express “all the nuances of feeling experienced in movement.” 130 Endell also dealt with direction, attributing different effects to vertical, horizontal, and oblique lines. It is possible to see in this Art Nouveau theory the seeds of Laban’s concepts of spatial tension and the harmony of effort and shape. Pattern. Finally, line complexes create ornaments and lead to pattern and design. Art Nouveau artists studied nature for formal arrangements and patterns. They also mined antique and exotic styles of ornament.

99

Because these examples were not reproduced outright but used to generate novel designs, ornaments had to be analyzed to determine how they were constructed. Thus, part of the theory of Art Nouveau addressed the principles by which visual patterns can be generated. While the knowledge of pattern generation was applied by Art Nouveau artists primarily to two-dimensional surfaces, similar techniques can be applied to generate patterns in three dimensions. Laban appears to have drawn upon these principles of pattern generation to develop various choreutic sequences

known by analogy to music as “scales.” The exact design methods he employed are discussed in more detail in subsequent chapters. Abstraction. Art Nouveau was a style that looked to nature for form and structure and yet rejected naturalistic representation. Stylization was its byword. The degree of abstraction employed in the treatment of natural forms by the organic and linear camps was more a matter of degree than

a profound distinction. Nevertheless, a tension between the biomorphic

and the geometric within Art Nouveau can be detected. This was not just

a question of curves versus straight lines and angles. Rather it came to be

seen as a difference in aesthetic viewpoint. Wilhelm Worringer, in his 1908 work, Abstraktion und Einfuhlung (Abstraction and Empathy), hypothesized that the urge to abstraction stood at the opposite pole from empathy, which aims towards an identification with life and its vital forces. Consequently, sensuous and dynamic biomorphic forms, even highly stylized ones, invite “objectified self-enjoyment,” that is empathic identification. 131 Geometrical objects, such as pyramids or Byzantine mosaics, invite an opposite response. One does not seek to identify empathically with the life forces of such abstract objects, for their beauty lies “in the life-denying inorganic, in the crystalline or, in general terms, in all abstract law and necessity.” 132 The urge to abstraction in its geometric purity is, for Worringer, a withdrawal from the external world of nature and “the unending flux of being.” 133 Laban seems to have alternated between a biomorphic view of space and movement form and a geometric, architectonic vision. This is reflected in his drawings in which trace-forms are rendered as flowing curves (see Plate L) or alternatively drawn as crystalline scaffoldings (Plate K). A similar vacillation has been noted in his writings. On the one hand,

100

choreutic sequences are said to be organic phrases that can be seen to occur spontaneously in natural movements. On the other hand, the choreutic scales Laban identified are said to represent fundamental laws of space movement. Rather than replicating naturalistic movements, these sequences have been carefully constructed according to logical principles. Thus a tension between empathy and abstraction can be detected in choreutic theory. If one places Laban’s choreutic theory within an Art Nouveau context, choreutic sequences can be seen as a stylization of natural movement sequences. These geometrical patterns stand in relation to the biomorphic shapes of natural human movement as an angular ornamental border stands to the leaves and flowers from which it was derived. Like other Art Nouveau artists, Laban looked to nature, but what he created was artificial. The stylized geometry of movement pathways that Laban uses in his choreutic theory and notation system serves as a cognitive map for the mover, a crystalline abstraction through which the flowing biomorphic curves of natural movement may be conceptualized, recorded, and reconstructed. Harmony. In conclusion, the Art Nouveau movement instigated many innovations in theory and practice. Laban was able to draw upon these to stimulate his own theoretical and practical work in dance. For example, the search for modern forms led Laban away from the stable orientation of balletic tradition towards more oblique inclinations observable in naturally flowing movement sequences. Familiarity with the theory of empathy and its elaboration by Jugendstil artists such as Obrist and Endell encouraged Laban to hypothesize links between movement lines or trace- forms and dynamic, eukinetic qualities. An understanding of design and ornament allowed him to transform flat shapes into three-dimensional dance patterns. Even the Art Nouveau tension between biomorphic and geometrical forms proved to be fruitful in the development of a workable movement notation system. Indeed, the turning away from representation and naturalism towards stylization and abstraction that characterized the trajectory of the Art Nouveau movement was very important for Laban. As detailed in subsequent chapters, this “urge to abstraction” provided Laban with the

101

practical tools he employed to conceptualize elements of human movement, to develop a symbolic form of dance notation, and to outline a theory of movement harmony. Art Nouveau was particularly influential with regard to the last enterprise. For fin-de-siècle artists such as Obrist, Endell, and Kandinsky, music was the non-representational art par excellence, Dionysian in its effect yet Apollonian in its construction. Music became a metaphor of expression made valid, not through reference to the superficial world of the senses, but by appeal to more fundamental abstract principles of harmonic construction. The Art Nouveau theorists looked for these principles in the visual environment; Laban sought them in the dancers’ world.

102

Notes

11.

Hughes, Shock of the New, 6.

12.

Dictionary of Art, “Human proportion.”

13.

Vitruvius, Ten Books on Architecture, 72.

14.

Lawlor, Sacred Geometry, 44.

15.

Encyclopedia of World Art, “Proportion.”

16.

Hogarth, Dynamic Anatomy, 67.

17.

Critchlow, “Platonic Tradition,” 133.

18.

Bronowski, Ascent of Man, 157.

19.

Panofsky, Meaning in the Visual Arts, 65.

10.

Vitruvius, Ten Books on Architecture.

11.

Ibid., 73.

12.

Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception, 117.

13.

Panofsky, Meaning in the Visual Arts, 97-98.

14.

Prinz, Dürer.

15.

Strauss, Human Figure, 6.

16.

Petherbridge and Jordanova, Quick and the Dead.

17.

Panofsky, Meaning in the Visual Arts.

18.

Panofsky, Codex Huygens, 126.

19.