Laban Movement Analysis: What is it Anyway?

Laban Movement Analysis: What is it anyway?

When people ask me what Laban Movement Analysis is, I am always puzzled.  I have so many answers that I don’t know where to start. Simply, LMA is a system of analyzing movement. But somehow that short description seems to do it no justice.  It is a theory, a language, and an art.  For me, it serves my academic and analytic side as well as my creative self.

There are so many ways to explore the work physically and intellectually.  I love that it is an ongoing and ever-growing organism. BUT because of that it is often hard to articulate what it is and why it is useful, particularly to non-dancers.  I find it especially hard to describe the system in a few sentences; really, I need a few semesters, or perhaps a few lifetimes.

Once I have actually described it, the next question is always, well, what are the practical uses? What do you do with it?  The list of possibilities is endless.  The easy answers often roll off my tongue:  I can coach athletes and dancers for movement efficiency and healthful body mechanics, I can use the language to look at compositional elements in choreography, I can decipher body language in very specific situations, I can even use movement analysis in simple conflict resolution setting.  The list goes on.

These lists have become part of me.  In my courses, I have become so accustomed to the explanations and theories that I almost forget why I love this system.  And then serendipity waltzes in and throws me into a situation in which I am changed by LMA and I remember.  This happened to me today.

Recently, I have had the opportunity to study with a wonderful and well-respected dance professor in the area. He has been gracious enough to welcome me (a 35-year old, non-student, dance educator currently not educating) into his freshman technique class. I have to be honest, at first I wasn’t too excited about taking the beginning level of technique. But since I don’t have many options at the moment, I went for it.  Wow! I was pleasantly surprised.

As certified movement analyst, this teacher is an inspiration in many ways.  He encourages artistry through discussion of Effort, he clarifies intention by discussing the salient features of Shape and Shape Flow Support, and he inspires clarity with the use of Space Harmony.  His use of the LMA language and theories literally blow me away. And this is all information that I know cold.  Imagine how the students feel, finding these AH-HA moments daily.  But, in the end, I am most drawn in when he talks about how the LMA theories serve as a metaphor for life.

And that reminds me of how the system has changed my life.

So, that is my question to all of the readers.

Regardless of your level of expertise with Laban Movement Analysis, how has it changed your life? Share with us your perspective, and maybe we can use this info to be slightly clearer the next time someone asks, “What is Laban Movement Analysis?”