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Rudolf Laban's Dream: Re-envisioning and Rescoring Ballet, Choreutics, and Simple Functional Movements with Vector Signs for Deflecting Diagonal Inclinations

Jeffrey Scott Longstaff


Several methods of movement notation, forerunners of modern-day Labanotation/Kinetography were published by Rudolf Laban in his 1926 book Choreographie. One of these has been referred to as vector signs because they represent movement as orientations (slopes) of lines through space. This article begins by comparing Labanotation direction symbols with Laban's earlier vector signs by looking at differences when simple sequences are scored in both formats. Concepts of space within the vector signs are examined, particularly Laban's idea of deflecting inclinations where movements are categorized as mixtures of two fundamental contrasting spatial and dynamic tendencies: dimensional stability and diagonal mobility. This framework was embedded in several of Laban's notation methods, with the vector signs receiving the most use. Following Laban's method, these signs are applied to re-envision ballet movements, and this is augmented by using the center-of-mass of any limb or coordinative structure as the guide for movement pathways, an approach with ecological validity and promoting greater connectivity. The vector signs are further explored in free-style motifs of simple functional movements. Considerations are then given to how vector signs can be used to envision Laban's choreutics as deflecting diagonal motions, an alternative to the point-to-point method that is often used. Finally, Laban's persistent desire that movement is notated as motion (rather than positions) is highlighted, a wish remaining an old dream. An appendix is provided as a tutorial on reading vector signs, including several possible translations of each sign into Labanotation direction symbols.


Rudolf Laban; Choreutics; Choreographie; Space Harmony; Ballet; Labanotation; Motif Notation; Vectors; Inclinations; Functional Body Movement

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