Monday, January 25, 2010

Physically Central, Peripheral; Spatially Central, Physical

Physically Central, Peripheral; Spatially Central, Physical
Submitted by Ann Hutchinson Guest – November 6, 2006
Originally published in Bullet-In-Stead!: Motif Issues From the Language of Dance Association, Issue 21 (April 2004).


Kurt Jooss always regretted that Laban, in codifying his Effort analysis, had dropped the factor of central and peripheral use of space and of the body, which had been part of Eukinetics, the quality of movement explored as part of his modern dance training. Because Laban's focus during the war was on the practical, everyday movements, the expressive content of central and peripheral were not needed. Instead he established the use of space in terms of direct and indirect. A comparison of the elements in Eukinetics with those in Effort is interesting.

As can be seen, Laban dropped focus on use of the body, but, importantly, brought in the aspect of flow, a contribution of particular value in both function and expressive movement.

Physically Central, Peripheral Movement can involve the central part of the body, that is, various parts of the torso, the most central being the waist, once could say the solar plexus. The movement may remain central or it may originate centrally and flow out. Each limb has its 'central' part and its peripheral part.

Of the torso, the shoulder (shoulder line) or the 'tail', the base of the spine, are the relative peripheral parts.

For the arm the central part is the shoulder and upper arm. The peripheral part is the hand. For the upper arm, the peripheral part is the elbow and when that is the focus of the movement, the lower arm and hand are passive, 'out of the way'.

For the hand, the wrist (the base of the hand) is the central part and the fingertips the most peripheral part.

Similarly, but with less ability to articulate, the leg has the hip and thigh as the central part, the toes being the peripheral part. Movements of the lower leg are more peripheral than the thigh. The ankle is the central part of the foot with the toes the peripheral part. Movement exploration for these various parts will reveal the possibilities, the degree to which the movement can be relatively or markedly central or peripheral.

Spatially Central, Peripheral For the individual performer, movement within the kinesphere is spatially central when it is in the area close to the body, the torso. Imagine a vertical column around the upright torso, a column within which the spatially central movements take place. In the upward direction, movement beyond the head would be emerging in the peripheral area. Peripheral space is at or near the extremity of the kinesphere.

Affinities Obviously central parts of the body move more comfortably in central space. Equally the physical extremities are often involved with movement in the peripheral space. The balletic use of arms and legs are good examples of this. However, the extremities, particularly of the arms, often make use of central space. Equally possible is the central use of the arms in movement peripheral space. This may occur with accompanying central torso involvement.

Indication of Physically Central, Peripheral
The symbols used for the physical aspects of central and peripheral are based on the already established use of a circle to represent body aspects: Ex. 1a shows a female performer, the almost complete circle indicating a person. 'Each one', 'each person' is indicated by 1b. An area within the body is expressed as 1c, while 1d is the repeat sign for physical lateral symmetry, i.e. a change in use of the sides of the body, but not a spatial change.

Instead of a full circle sign a half circle is used, 1e. A tick pointing inward toward the center indicates physically central, 1f; the tick pointing outward states physically peripheral, 1g. A partial arrow sign pointing outward, as in 1h, indicates transition from central to peripheral. Similarly, the partial arrow sign pointing inward states transition from peripheral to central, 1i.

Indication of Spatially Central, Peripheral In a comparable way, the established sign for spatial aspects, the white diamond, 1j, provides the basis for symbols representing the spatial aspects of central and peripheral. The white diamond is best known in its use as a space hold but it is also used to indicate size of movement, as in 1k (small size) and 1l, large size. On rare occasions the diamond is used as a repeat sign to indicate that spatially lateral symmetry should take place, but without an exchange of right and left sides of the body, 1m.

Only half of the diamond is used for spatially central and peripheral, 1n. The inward tick, 1o, shows spatially central while the outward tick, 1p, states spatially peripheral. Transition from central to peripheral is shown in 1q and a change from spatially peripheral to central is written as 1r
These signs for manner of performance can be explored with statements of 'an action'. In 1s physically central movements are featured. In 1t the right arm performs physically peripheral movements. Both arms perform physically peripheral movements in the spatially central area in 1u. These might be delicate arm movements lead by the hands (fingertips) moving near and around the torso. The reverse is stated in 1v, both arms are moving spatially peripherally, but physically central. This could be an emotional waving goodbye to a loved one.

The following examples use familiar space patterns for the arm. The path indicated by the direction symbols gives a clear indication of spatially central or peripheral usage. In 1w the right arm moves across from the left side to the right, a central path, it then continues on a peripheral half circle. The instruction is to perform all of it in a physically central manner. How exactly this will be performed will vary from person to person, but it may be the intention to allow latitude, hence absence on specific performance detail. There is a contrasting space pattern in 1x. The full circle is to be performed physically peripherally in 1y. The manner of using the arm, the quality, will be significantly changed. Finally, in 1z the same space pattern is performed going from physically central to peripheral.

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