Choreutics

Laban, R. (1966 [1939] ). Choreutics. Annotated and edited by L. Ullmann. London: MacDonald and Evans

Preface

p.vii

Choreosophia” – an ancient Greek word, from choros, meaning circle, and sophia, meaning knowledge of wisdom – is the nearest term I have discovered with which to express the essential ideas of this book.

The wisdom of circles is as old as the hills. It is founded on a conception of life and becoming aware of it which has its roots in magic and which was shared by peoples in early stages of civilisation.

The original conviction of the extraordinary role which the circle plays in harmony, life, and even in the whole of existence, survived the many changes in mentality, mood and feeling which abound in history.

p.viii

There exist many systems, old and new, of dance notation and notations of movement with which the writer and reader are familiar. Today we need a system of recording which can be universally used, and I have attempted to forge a way in this direction.

Movement is one of man’s languages and as such it must be consciously mastered. We must try to find its real structure and the choreological order within it through which movement becomes penetrable, meaningful and understandable.

[words] are abstractions and, as it were, shortcuts in the flow of life.

Introduction

p.3

Forms of objects, as well as the shapes assumed by living organisms, wax and wane uninterruptedly. Yes forms of objects and living beings, when in quietude may suggest a “standstill” in the big unceasing stream of movement in which we exist and take part. This illusion of a standstill is based of the snapshot-like perception of the mind which is able to receive only a single phase of the uninterrupted flux. It is our memory which tends to perpetuate the illusion created by the “snapshots”; and the memory itself waxes, changes and vanishes.

The illusion of standstills creates an artificial separation of space and movement. Seen from such a point of view, space seems to be a void in which objects stand and – occasionally – move.

Empty space does not exist. On the contrary, space is a superabundance of simultaneous movements.

Cutting a film in pieces and heaping up the single pictures in a pile can never give the impression of a movement. Only when we let the pictures unroll does movement become visible.

By mixing the snapshots in a higgledy-piggledy fashion, we shall obtain a fantastic picture as in a dream-world, full of unexpected jumps, breaks, gaps, overlaps and repetitions.

pp.3-4

The mind recognises the unreality of such a film.

p.4

A movement only makes sense if it progresses organically and this means that phases which follow each other in a natural succession must be chosen.

It is, therefore, essential to find out the natural characteristics of the single phases which we wish to join together in order to create a sensible sequence.

We consider our snapshots separately only for the sake of analysing the characteristics of the whole flux.

[…] we must not look at the locality simply as an empty room, separated from movement, nor at movement as a occasional happening only, for movement is a continuous flux within the locality itself, this being the fundamental aspect of space. Space is a hidden feature of movement and movement is a visible aspect of space.

[…] matter itself is a compound of vibrations.

p.5

Movement is, so to speak, living architecture – living in the sense of changing emplacements as well as changing cohesion.

p.6

It is a curious fact that, not only for the searching mind of the scientist, but also for the child and the primitive man, the whole world is filled with unceasing movement.

Children and the man of primitive ages see the world through a bodily perspective, that is through physical experience.

Man of later times loses this view through his reflective delusions, and also because of his increasing tactile incapacity. He establishes stability in his mind as a contrasting partner to mobility.

p.7

[on the three aspects (the unit, movement and space)]

A synthesis of these three aspects operates constantly in each one of us. We are all emotional dreamers, and scheming mechanics, and biological innocents, simultaneously: sometimes we waver between these three mentalities, and sometimes we compress them in a synthesised act of perception and function.

p.8

[as opposed to previous forms of movement notation]

A multilateral description of movement, which views it from many angles is the only one which comes close to the complexity of the fluid reality of space.

Through its investigation and various exercises choreutics attempts to stop the progress of disintegrating into disunity. The bodily perspective, with all its significance for the human personality, can have a regenerating effect on our individual and social forms of life.

Through constant and conscious usage this effect can be deepened, which helps us to explain the role that dance has played in certain epochs of civilisation when a notable harmony was achieved.

To experience trace-forms from several viewpoints, integrating the bodily perspective, the dynamic feeling and the controlling faculties, necessitates a certain spiritual emphasis; this is unavoidable when penetrating into the real structure of human movement and motion in nature.

The approach from different sides is, however, aimed at the discovery of a unity of movement. It is, without a doubt, a fact that such a unity existed in ancient times in the paths of gestures which we have called trace-forms. Because it could not be explained, it assumed a magic significance and it is curious that even now it remains magical, in spite of being analysed.

Choreutics comprehends all kinds of bodily, emotional and mental movements and their notation. The choreutic synthesis embraces the various applications of the movement to work, education and art, as well as to regenerative processes in the widest sense.

p.9

A definite awareness of it [the choreutic aspect] becomes especially important in our own time with its universal upheaval, and its love-hatred of motion in life, sciences and the arts.

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