Laban and Inclusive Approaches | Abbie's MA Research Project

In this blog, Sg2 Apprentice Abbie Thompson discusses her fascinating MA Research Project...

Investigating the potential of Laban’s Effort Actions as part of an inclusive choreographic approach

Over the summer, I worked on a research project for my Master’s degree investigating the potential of Laban’s Effort Actions as part of an inclusive choreographic approach. I worked on combining theories from Rudolf Laban with a few inclusive techniques that I had learnt from my first year with Stopgap as an apprentice dancer. Laban (1879-1958) was a pioneer in dance and movement; from observing how bodies move he developed frameworks to explain, notate and practice different kinds of movements in terms of the Body, Space, Shape, Relationship and Effort. You might have seen one of Laura’s home practice videos, Bound & Free Movement, which touched upon ideas that can be related to Laban’s work.

For my project I focused on Laban’s Effort Actions such as punch, press and slash which are devised from three of the motion factors - Weight, Time and Space - they are shown in the table below.

A few tools that I used within the choreographic process were Translation, improvisation and Open Language. I also analysed a couple of my past experience with other choreographers and their approaches to help me evaluate my method and develop my findings. There are now blogs and videos on Translation from Lucy, Lily and Laura that can be found on Stopgap pages which will provide more information on the topic.

A trip with translation by Lucy Bennett   |   Translation Principles by Lily Norton  |   Translation Tools for inclusive contemporary dance by Laura Jones

Within the project, I referred to Open Language as a vocabulary that provided potential for accessibility to movement. Translation was a tool that is used to share movement between bodies whilst retaining the chosen crucial elements - in regard to the intention & energy and/or the spine & direction and/or the rhythm & quality and/or the detail & focus of the movement. As well as holding each variation to equal value.

I found out that:

  • Laban Effort Actions have potential to be a good choreographic tool within inclusive practice.
  • It is important to not rely heavily on one source of information for the stimulus for a creative task such as visual, audial or physical. For one task I relied solely on audio cues which were sound clips to generate movement from without having other alternatives if a dancer needed
  • It’s more than okay to make mistakes, always better to acknowledge them and implement changes if necessary, rather than ignore that they happened.

Here is a video which is part of a section from my video documentation where I presented some of my findings. In this section there are some video clips from various movement tasks with a sound score by Hal Kelly and audio clips from interviews that I had with my dancers about this choreographic approach. These interview responses were raw and based upon personal experiences.

Working through lockdown presented itself with several challenges, such as lack of generic spaces to present research and limited access to libraries and other materials from practitioners but it also meant that I had to discover new ways of working. I was lucky that I had access to a farmyard shed which became part of my studio space and filming area- somewhere I never thought I would use in this project. Another valuable factor was that there was an increase of people sharing online resources and/or works. Beneath this blog is a section from the conclusion that was in my written document, hopefully it puts my some of my findings into more context if you are interested in reading it.

Reflecting on my project now a couple of months later I know there are parts of it I would have liked to explore further…. you never know, one day I may do my PhD!

Ciao for now !

Abbie Thompson


Section from written document conclusion:

There is great potential in using Laban Effort Actions within an inclusive creative process. Through my investigation and my creative process, I have found that Laban Effort Actions can be used successfully as a basis for various different tasks from improvisation to a sound stimulus to creating an Open Language phrase, which all of my dancers could access. Within this project, it has been suggested that due to the strong link between Laban Effort Actions and Open Language. It reduces the pressure of having to constantly think about different Open Language terms for movement, as using the table of the breakdown of motion factors it was always available to refer back to. Furthermore, using Translation as a creative tool, not only provides development of ability to analyse movement; it also maintained the qualities of each Effort Action after the sequences had been translated, supporting the advance integrity of Laban’s Movement Analysis.

Inclusive practice can be constantly overlooked by choreographers and practitioners. Possibly as they are unaware of what inclusive practice involves and/or what implementations they can put into their practice to make it more accessible. This investigation has illustrated a few inclusive approaches in which methods can be used in a choreographic process. From Laban’s Effort Actions, which are more commonly known, to Translation and Open Language which might be slightly newer approaches. This study has suggested that inclusivity isn’t a taxing concept, it provides a chance to develop skills within your practice.

However, I have also discovered that there are ways in which they can be developed and explored further. It is important to always have tools available; in one of the creative tasks, audio cues were relied on too heavily and on reflection there are so many visual cues and other aids that can be used to help show Laban’s Effort Actions which would advance this process. Another factor that was discovered was that tasks can be intense and mean that there is an information overload. Nonetheless it was observed to be beneficial to slowly introduce new ideas and concepts whilst providing support. Finally, one of the most important parts of any inclusive practice regardless of the approach, is the ability to learn and adapt methodology and be willing to change a choreographic approach to meet the needs of the dancers. I believe that Laban Effort Actions can be used in the future as a method to develop inclusive practice within the mainstream of the dance industry.

Resources:

McCaw, D (ed). (2011) The Laban sourcebook. London: Routledge  

Preston-Dunlop, V. (n.d). Rudolf Laban. Available here

Stopgap Dance Company. (2020). Bound & free movement. Available here

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