Submitted by Jimmyle Listenbee - July 2, 2001
Spatial form, and the relationship and distinction between its being-ness and becoming-ness as applied to the human body, constitute the domain of Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) known as Shape. Of all LMA categories, Shape is generally perceived within the community to be the most confusing, while, during the past twenty-five years, it has been discussed with less and less frequency and thoroughness.
This state of neglect and confusion can be partially explained through the historical development of Shape-related concepts in the 2nd half of the 20th Century, when three primary theorists, working independently within separate programs, constructed integrated, self-contained systems pertinent and appropriate to their respective areas of application. Warren Lamb, a major collaborator of Laban, developed a system focused on simultaneous merging of gesture with postural shaping relative to the cardinal planes in order to analyze personal decision-making style. Judith Kestenberg, MD, a clinical psychiatrist, developed theory and notation for the directionality and dimensionality of shape flow. Peggy Hackney, MA, CMA, coherently defined multiple aspects of Shape and created a comprehensive system for notating them and their interrelationships.
Each of these three "theory shapers" worked/continue to work with colleagues in situations where they could/can further apply, test, develop and refine their theories collaboratively with colleagues in rich student-client laboratories. Lamb and associates operate Movement Pattern Analysis, a highly successful consulting practice (formerly known as Action Profiling®), whose range of application includes therapy, career guidance, and the evaluation and improvement of management teams. Kestenberg and associates conducted research and therapeutic practice with mothers and babies at the Center for Parents and Children in Roslyn, NY, where Dr. Kestenberg held the position of Co-director. Hackney and associates teach and continue to refine their theoretical system in the context of Integrated Movement Studies® (IMS), an institution offering certificate programs in LMA. The independent creative and fiscal successes of each of the three enterprises naturally enhanced its theoretical insularity: not only were these separate institutions focused on particulars pertinent to the application at hand, but, certain of their own theoretical grounding, they were literally too busy with their dynamic and effective work to concern themselves with pursuing consistency across the LMA field beyond providing comprehensive resources through scholarly publication (see bibliography) and general exposure through presentations at conferences, workshops and symposia.
Meanwhile, however, their work was generally recognized as being profoundly important and integral to the field, and so was therefore being referenced, introduced, explained and/or integrated into LMA certification curricula, in varying proportions of emphasis, depth and clarity. This created within the LMA community - for better and for worse - broad factors of recognition, respect, interest, and confusion; and shallow factors of consistent historical/theoretical knowledge and comprehension.
During this symposium we have an opportunity to revisit, and to further the process of including and reconciling perceived divergence through examining theoretical integrity represented in the concrete form of motif symbols. Therefore it seems appropriate to begin by focusing on Shape's simplest notion, that of a visible, palpable, motionless object; a space-occupying formation taken on by the human body, with consistent contours and static relationships among its parts; in a word: a pose. This notion is generally known in LMA as a "Still Form." Laban recognized four fundamental spatial forms, which parallel standard geometric increments of one-, two-, and three-dimensionality, as potential postural shapes that the human body may assume in various situations of support, level, and orientation. These are the four classic Still Forms of LMA Shape theory:
1. "Pin" - linear, elongated, one-dimensional;Working with colleagues in the context of IMS, through experimentation and evaluation over time, Peggy Hackney has devised notation symbols, presented below, for these Still Forms plus an added fifth one:
2. "Wall" - planar, flat, two-dimensional;
3. "Ball" - voluminous, rounded, three-dimensional; and
4. "Screw" - spiraling, twisted, three-dimensional.
5. "Tetrahedron" - tetrahedral, pyramidal.
Even when we begin at this seemingly bedrock level of Shape theory, a number of fundamental issues remain to be addressed:
1. The use of the word Shape in LMA contexts and beyond.Bibliography
a. Its history of overuse within the system2. The relationship of motion and destination in defining the meaning of "Still Form"
b. Its contemporary overuse in society
c. It's cognitive classicism in bridging communication with fields of Art and Mathematics.
3. Long term aspects of shape development within the human life span.
4. The immobility/mobility relationship of body parts in
a. "posture,"5. The lack of and/or need for a generic sign to indicate "any still form."
b. "dynamic posture,"
d. "being carried along" and
e. "body attitude."
- Hackney, Peggy. Making Connections, Total Body Integration through Bartenieff Fundamentals. Amsterdam: Gordon and Breach, 1998.
- Hackney, Peggy. "SHAPE: What's Shaping Up?" Berlin: Eurolab Conference, paper presentation, and 1993.
- Kestenberg, Judith and Mark Sossin. The Role of Movement Patterns in Development, Volume 2, Epilogue and Glossary. New York: Dance Notation Bureau, 1979.
- Laban, Rudolf von. The Language of Movement, a Guide to Choreutics, 1st American Edition. New York: PLAYS, INC., 1974.
- Maletic, Vera. "Laban Concepts and Laban Dialects: Issues of Shape." Laban Guild Magazine, No.77, May, 1988.
- Moore, Carol-Lynne. Executives in Action, a Guide to Balanced Decision-making in Management, 2nd Ed. London: Pitman, 1982. (Reprint with forward by Warren Lamb, 1992.)