Magazine article Dance Teacher

Rudolf Laban

Magazine article Dance Teacher

Rudolf Laban

Article excerpt

The creator of dance notation BY RACHEL RIZZUTO

Rudolf Laban was many things-a choreographer; dance teacher; movement theorist, architect and performer-but he is best remembered for creating two systems to understand movement, both of which are still taught in college dance programs worldwide: Laban Movement Analysis and Labanotation. LMA is a map for clarifying and analyzing movement within the categories of body, effort, shape and space; Labanotation records movement in symbols, much like sheet music for musicians. The development of these two systems helped establish dance as a serious artform, earning it more acceptance in scholastic circles.

Rudolf Jean Baptiste Attila Laban (1879-1958) was born in Bratislava, Slovakia, to a well-off family. Although he initially attempted to follow in his father's footsteps, attending military school for a brief time, he eventually enrolled at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris at age 21. After studying architecture, stage design and drama, he became fascinated by dance, seeking to understand movement in a new way, without the confines of classical ballet technique. Laban termed his categorization of movement "choreutics"; today it is known as Laban Movement Analysis.

In 1913, he set up a "dance farm" in Switzerland, where participants grew their own vegetables, wove their own cloth and danced nude on the hillside (a precursor to Ted Shawn's retreat for his male dancers, Jacob's Pillow). By 1923, Laban had gained a following of students large enough to help him establish dance schools all over Europe. Recognized as a leading force in the European dance world, he was invited to choreograph the opening of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. After sending a notated dance to all his schools in Germany for them to learn, employing his own vertically staffed dance score, Laban's 1,000-dancer spectacle was canceled at the dress rehearsal: The Nazi government found it too focused on individual freedoms and not the state. …

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