Laban's Views and Ideas of Effort

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  • Published : April 16, 2006
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Rudolf Laban (1879-1953) was born in Austro-Hungary. Laban became interested in the relationship between the moving human form and the space which surrounds it. He was a dancer, a choreographer and a dance / movement scholar. Laban was the first person to develop community dance and he set out to reform the role of dance education, emphasizing his belief that dance should be made available to everyone.

Laban believed that movement enables a man to recognize his physical potential and that movement also describes man. The expression and quality used in ones movement was acknowledged by Laban as Effort. The closest translation of Effort in German is "Antrieb." The definition of Effort is the outer manifestation of an inner impulse to move. Effort is also described as movement dynamic. Effort is divided into four different effort factors. Laban used these four factors to depict the way that individuals applied Effort. The four Effort factors are Space, Time, Weight, and Flow. Each of these Effort factors has two extremes which are called the Effort elements.

The first of these Effort factors is Space. The factor of Space shows how a person's movement is focused. The two elements of Space are direct and indirect. When using direct movement your focus is on a single point in space. Some examples of direct movement are trying to put your keys into a door to unlock it and how birds of prey get there food. It would be impossible to unlock your door if your hand was shaking everywhere. Also if the bird of prey wasn't direct about finding and obtaining their food they would go hungry. Indirect space has a multi-focused. I find it difficult sometimes to be truly indirect with some of my movements. Some examples of indirect movement are scattering chicken feed for chickens and leaves in the wind. The way you would scatter the food to many chickens and the way the leaves would glide and be blown around in the wind would be indirect movement.

The second Effort factor is Time. The two elements of Time are quick and sustained. Depending on the movement, quick and sustained can be easy or very difficult. An example of quick movement would be if someone was surprised from the front or behind and reacted very suddenly. For an image of sustained movement imagine floating and being suspended in water or trying to attain a balance. Quick movement must be of course fast but also have an ignition or spark of energy behind it and sustained movement must have very slow and continuous prolonged movement that is nonstop.

The third Effort factor is Weight. The two elements of Weight are strong and light. Everyone is different on how they use Weight in there movements. Some have a core of strong weight while others have a core of light weight. An example of strong movement is trying to move a very heavy object. If you don't use strong weight the object won't budge an inch. Examples of light movement are snowflakes falling in the sky and the fairies or creatures in classical and romantic ballets like the willies in Giselle or the swans in Swan Lake.

The last but not least Effort factor is Flow. The two elements of Flow are bound and free. The Effort factor flow shows how much tension is in a person's movement. Some examples of bound movement are being in a straight jacket trying to break free and also when I get nervous or stressed I tend to have a more bound flow. Examples of free movement is being carefree and letting go or feeling mellow and not stressed. I think that I am more inclined to move with free flow. Free flow also consists of having very little tension underlying in your movements.

Laban and his colleagues created certain symbols to show all the aspects of Effort. The motif for Effort is a diagonal line starting from the left going up to the right ( ). All of the Effort factors and elements have the Effort motif within them. Here is how the Effort factors and elements are written in Laban's language. The motif of Space...
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