Introducing the Rudolf Laban Archive
Rudolf Laban (1879-1958) created a system of analysing movement characteristics, pathways through space, and the 'effort', 'shape' and 'drive' of a movement. Known today as Laban Movement Analysis, he also used the terms Choreutics (space) and Eukinetics (effort). Laban also developed a system of movement notation, known as Kinetography Laban or Labanotation for documenting professional dance practice. His work based in England after the second World War inspired educational dance, acting, therapy, and workplace assessment.
The Archive, dating largely from 1938-1958, preserves the unique personal archive of the 20th century's foremost movement theorist.
What is on Digital Dance Archives?
A selection of artwork by Laban of figures and geometric forms, as well as archival videos of Laban explaining his ideas and workshops held at the Art of Movement studios in Addlestone, with Lisa Ullman. The drawings include the platonic solids:
History and Context
Born in the Kingdom of Hungary, Austro-Hungarian Empire, Laban spent his childhood in the courtly circles of Vienna and the central towns of Bratislava, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Influenced by the 'romantic natural philosophy' popular in the late nineteenth century in Germany and the philosophy of Plato's Timaeus, he sought a disciplined but integrated understanding of art.
Having studied art in Paris, Laban went on to stage carnivals in Munich. Under the influence of seminal dancer/choreographer Heidi Dzinkowska, Laban began to concentrate on Bewegungskunst, more commonly called Ausdruckstanz, or the movement arts. In Switzerland during WWI, he worked with his student Mary Wigman on a new dance style, now called German Expressionist Dance, which took root in Germany in the 1920s. During this decade, Laban taught, choreographed, and performed in Germany, while developing his movement notation with a group of students, who included Albrecht Knust and Kurt Jooss.
One of his great contributions to dance was his 1928 publication of Kinetographie Laban, a dance notation system that came to be called Labanotation and still used today in many different contexts. His theories of choreography and movement served as one of the central foundations of modern European dance. This aspect of his work was closely related to his personal spiritual beliefs, based on a combination of Victorian Theosophy, Sufism, and popular fin de siècle Hermeticism.
Laban was appointed choreographer and director of movement for the Prussian State Theatres in 1930, a position he held when the Nazis came to power. In 1936, he organised the international dance competition held alongside the Berlin Olympics although he was dismissed from involvement in the Olympics themselves. In 1937, he left Germany for Paris, and the following year, joined Jooss at Dartington Hall in Devon, England.
Most of the material in the Archive dates from the final twenty years of Laban's life. During this time he produced a large volume of writings and artwork detailing his enquires into the phenomenon of movement. Laban's work in industry also developed throughout the 1940s, and with Lisa Ullman he opened the Art of Movement Studio in Addlestone, Surrey. In the final years of his life he published texts such as Modern Educational Dance and Mastery of Movement on the Stage.
|1879||Rudolf Laban born in Polony in the Kingdom of Hungary, Austro-Hungarian Empire|
|1902-07||Studies and works in Paris, as artist|
|1915||Established the Choreographic Institute in Zurich, working with student Mary Wigman on a new dance style, now known as German Expressionist Dance|
|1920s||Taught, choreographed, and performed in Germany|
|1927||Develops movement notation with a group of students, including Albrecht Knust and Kurt Jooss|
|1928||Publishes Kinetographie Laban, a dance notation system that came to be called Labanotation|
|1930||Appointed Director of choreography and movement for the Prussian State Theatres|
|1936||Organised an international dance competition held alongside the Berlin Olympics|
|1937-8||Leaves Germany for Paris and joins Kurt Jooss at Dartington Hall in England|
|1938-1940||Creates the majority of his artwork inquiring into the principles of movement|
|Early 1940s||Laban develops his work in industry, in collaboration with F.C. Lawrence, known as Laban-Lawrence Industrial Rhythm. The system analysed the movements of workers in factory production lines, and devised more effective means of carrying out tasks. Clients included Tyresoles, J. Lyons & Co., Pilkington's Tiles, and Mars Confections|
|1942||Moved with Lisa Ullmann to Manchester|
|1946||Ullmann opens the Art of Movement Studio in Manchester|
|1948||Publishes Modern Educational Dance|
|1950||Publishes Mastery of Movement on the Stage|
|1953||Art of Movement Studio moves to Addlestone, Surrey|
The Archive is located at the National Resource Centre for Dance, University of Surrey, and contains:
- Over 1,000 pieces of artwork
- Film footage, photographs and books
- Over 4,000 files of papers
- Diaries and notebooks