Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Breath, Spatial Zones, Major Themes, Standardization

Submitted by Charlotte Wile - October 28, 2014
Written by Curtis Stedge, Richard Haisma, et al.

Following is a compilation of discussions originally posted on the CMAlist in September, 2014.

Note: Some e-mails from the original CMAlist discussion are not included in this reprint, as requested by their author. In addition, throughout this posting references to the left out e-mails have been replaced with [………].

Re: Breath Motif Symbol
Fri 9/5/2014 12:34 PM
From: Curtis William Stedge

Hello All,

Hoping this receives you well and in wonderful spirits.

I present the following on behalf of the Agape Center, Belgium LMA Program, Module III Class of August 2014.

During one of our many explorations into the realm of motif, as I am sure many of you have also experienced, we found that oftentimes, there was a lack of symbology that encapsulated concepts that we thought were necessary to the written documentation of our observations. And so, as many before us have done, we attempted to find a simple yet elegant container for the complex concepts we were trying to grab hold of.

Many of us found the need to motif breath as more than a way of organizing the body and therefore outside the realm of the developmental patterns/patterns of bodily organization. We felt the need to speak to breath as a motivator/initiator, the seemingly simple act of taking a breath, etc. among other things.

In creating a symbol,

  *  it was important for us to find a visual representation that agreed with our system's core understanding of part/whole, therefore it must be able to stand for the breath as a whole and for each part of breath, both the inhale and the exhale.;
  *  It needed to have a sense of breath inherent to the design;
  *  finally it had to be simple yet aesthetically pleasing.

After some tweaking of the original design, we arrived at the set of symbols below. The solid circle representing the container of the body, the circles of dashed lines representing breath/air being taken into and expelled from the body. We humbly offer these up to the Laban/Bartenieff Community at large for your consideration and use.

Curtis Stedge

Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Fri 9/5/2014 12:51 PM
From: Curtis William Stedge

Hello Again,

We were quite the ambitious group this summer, in Belgium, it would seem. I also present the following on behalf of the Agape Center, Belgium LMA Program, Module III Class of August 2014.

As mentioned in the previous email on breath, during one of our many explorations into the realm of motif, as I am sure many of you have also experienced, we found that oftentimes, there was a lack of symbology that encapsulated concepts that we thought were necessary to the written documentation of our observations. And so, as many before us have done, we attempted to find a simple yet elegant container for the complex concepts we were trying to grab hold of.

In motifing our observations this summer many of us found that rather than existing in one fixed spatial direction much of the movement we observed seemed to inhabit a more general area. For this, Karen Studd had presented us with the idea of Spatial Zones. In quickly adopting this idea though we realized that there was no symbol to represent the concept of a Zone. And so, as before, we set about the task of creating one.

After much discussion and scribbling round the group, we arrived at the set of symbols below. I have only presented High, Middle, Low as an example. However, the capital Z can be layered overtop of any spatial direction. We humbly offer this symbol up to the Laban/Bartenieff Community at large for your consideration and use.

Curtis Stedge

On behalf of: Romanie Bosman, Sarah Fdili Alaoui, Anneliis Jaanus, Curtis Stedge, Tjarda van Straten, Toranika Washington, Win Vanaken, with Faculty: Karen Studd, Alexandra Baybutt.

Re: Breath Motif Symbol
Fri 9/5/2014 1:00 PM
From: Richard Haisma

 AND, I bet some of our colleagues well versed in Motif will be asking, "Are so many dotted lines really needed to convey the idea? Since efficiency and speed of writing, particularly by hand, are major criteria, implying also that simpler is better, wouldn't half, or even a quarter, as many dotted lines serve the purpose?"


Re: Breath Motif Symbol
Fri 9/5/2014 1:14 PM
From: Tara Stepenberg

And I'm hoping that such symbols will be used only when the breath is somehow "different" or has a particular heightened manifestation than what is required for well-functioning/expressive movement. 

Good fortune
Tara (stepenberg)

Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Fri 9/5/2014 1:38 PM
From: Richard Haisma


Some questions:

1]  Laban talks about zones of the body: the zone of the arms, the zone of the head, the zone of the legs, etc. Would this use of the word zone supplant Laban's?

2]  Are these suggestions to indicate the limbs moving in a zone or the whole body? If the latter, Charlotte Wile has dealt with this in her book, "Moving About," in the chapter called "Altitude," where she has seven different signs for Very Low, Low, Slightly Low, Middle, High, Very High and Unspecified. How would these new suggestions differ?

3]  Again, in "Moving About," in the chapter on "Directions," there are clear symbols of moving into a zone, staying there, and/or preceding onward after having been in a zone. (see in particular page 66).  Again, how would these new suggestions differ?

I happen to be personally pleased y'all brought this up, because it serves sharpen my own use of Motif in relation to zones. Thank you.


Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Fri 9/5/2014 1:59 PM
From: Teresa Heiland

Hi Curtis, Richard, and others,

The idea of "zone," which was published by Charlotte Wile (2010) on p. 66, was published a bit earlier as spatial "areas" in Your Move (2007/8) by Hutchinson Guest & Curran on pp. 133-144. I think it was also included in Guest's first edition of Your Move (1983). An additional concept that might be interesting to look at is the concept of "freedom of choice" in a direction for a stated level in Your Move, pp. 145-149. These concepts seem related to the family of ideas you are working toward as well, so you might take a look at those if you haven't already. Enjoy!


Re: Breath Motif Symbol
Fri 9/5/2014 3:35 PM
From: Leslie Bishko

I love new symbols!

These ones speak to me. I imagine they could be integrated with other symbols, although the dotted lines would be hard to draw. Since the basis for these symbols is already distinctly different from others in our system, I wonder if drawing dots instead of dashes could be a useful simplification.


Breath Motif Symbol
Fri 9/5/2014 4:28 PM
From: Charlotte Wile

Hi Curtis and Everyone,

Perhaps the standard signs for "inhale" and "exhale" may be of use. They can be found in Moving
About: Capturing Movement Highlights Using Motif Notation, by Charlotte Wile with Ray Cook.

You can find the book on line at:


Go to page 311 in Chapter XVIII, "Away, Toward, Arrive" (see the glossary at the bottom of the page).

For an example of how the signs can be used in a score, see Ex. 71a on the same page.

Charlotte Wile

Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Fri 9/5/2014 5:44 PM
From: Charlotte Wile

Hi Curtis, Richard, and Everyone,

Re: "Altitudes" (which Richard talks about below).

You might also be interested in the paper I wrote for the 2011 ICKL conference, "Indicating Altitudes in Motif Notation." You can read it here:

Videos that accompany the paper can be found here:

Part One:

Part Two:

Charlotte Wile

Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Fri 9/5/2014 9:11 PM
From: Peggy Hackney

Dear Curtis,

I totally agree with Richard and with Teresa. I feel the area of Zones in the Kinesphere has many wonderful symbols already, including some that Ed Groff developed many years ago, that we have taught in our Integrated Movement Studies certification Program. I'll leave it to Ed to supply the symbols, because I do not have a clean copy of them.

I love it that you are working on symbology!! I'm still looking for symbols for "Yield & Push," "Reach & Pull," as I feel these concepts the Bonnie Bainbridge-Cohen developed are really important in our teaching, and I have always felt that we need A SYMBOL FOR EVERY CONCEPT WE TEACH. Over the years, many symbols have been suggested, but the criteria you suggested have eliminated lots of them in my mind. :)

Cheers to all the developers, and thanks for your work!!

Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Sat 9/6/2014 11:09 AM
From: Wanda Ottes

Dear all,

Like Peggy I too agree with the others. And it is good to share ideas and do suggestions about new symbols or better ones.

But I think we have to be careful to come up with all kinds of new symbols and / or improve already existing ones and already use them, without consultation and finally approval of those we think who can judge the best. So with Peggy I encourage all the developers to go on working on that.

All the best,
wanda ottes

Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Sat 9/6/2014 12:08 PM
From: Linda Nutter

Hi All,

Great conversation.  When it comes to new symbols, I always find a conversation that I had with Charlotte Wile to be quite enlightening.  Richard Haisma and I had been trying to work on a few new symbols (I can't remember what they were right now) and we showed them to Charlotte.  What I didn't know before that conversation, was that almost every baseline "shape" is already aligned with some kind of "family" of symbols.  So although I don't remember the details, we showed her a set of symbols and she said something like, "well if you use that shape as a baseline, everyone will assume that it's a symbol related to ______."  A few years later I started using her book for my class.  Throughout the book, she very clearly shows the etymology for the existing motif symbol families and it makes it easier to imagine how one might devise something new without crossing over into other symbol families.   The other thing to remember is that technically, you can devise and use any symbol you'd like in a motif.  All you have to do is draw it and put it in a glossary at the beginning of the motif.

For those of you who don't know about her wonderful book, you can obtain it here:  https://sites.google.com/site/movingaboutsite/

For whatever reason (I'm sure due much more to my own student brain than to the way my teachers taught it) my understanding of motif was always somewhat weak.  I thought of the system of motif as some kind of huge collection of somewhat unrelated symbols that I had to memorize.  Charlotte's book showed me that that was indeed not the case!


Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Sat 9/6/2014 12:10 PM
From: Linda Nutter

And I totally agree with Peggy that it would be great to have a symbol for every single concept that we teach.

Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Sat 9/6/2014 12:34 PM
From: Linda Nutter

Hi [.........] and Everyone,

Yes, I know what you mean about there being no formal theory network or approval process.  But I am not sure what you mean about "Motif as it is being used for movement analysis - not Motif as a derivative of Labanotation or LOD etc."  Motif IS a derivative of Labanotation…the two systems share many of the same symbols and concepts.  The manner in which Motif is laid out in Charlotte's book IS the manner in which most CMAs that I know use it for movement analysis.  Certainly there is very little difference (except for some issues of Shape and the fact that she does not cover horizontal phrase writing) between how it is taught in her book and how it is taught in the last two Certificate Programs that I taught on.

And while this is only convenient for those who live in New York, there are regular forums at the DNB where issues of both Motif Notation and Labanotation are discussed and examined.  Charlotte Wile is part of those meetings (I'm not sure if she actually coordinates and runs them) and I don't believe that anyone on the planet understands the distinction between Labanotation and Motif Notation better than she does!


Re: Breath Motif Symbol
Sat 9/6/2014 12:39 PM
From: Curtis William Stedge


Thank you so much for the suggestions your book presents. I am truly excited to hear from Linda Nutter that there is an etymology of symbology that has been attended to. So I will definitely be purchasing your book soon and can't wait to delve into it!

Richard and Leslie,

I agree wholeheartedly, there are too many dashes. Thank you for your spot on comments! I edited the previous design and below present two alternates. I still connect with the dashes as they seem to hold the symbol together better than the dots, if that makes any sense. Thoughts?


I strongly feel that Motif symbology by necessity must be simple in its design and in one's use of it. As Richard pointed out, "efficiency and speed of writing, particularly by hand, are major criteria." I understand that Motif has grown out of Labanotation however the core purpose for each I think is vastly different. Because of this I find the complexity of much of the Labanotation system too cumbersome for use in Motif. This is not to say that there is not value in Labanotation, there is a great deal of value and I for one find it at once beautiful in its complexity, and necessary in its role as a tool to decipher and reconstruct historical works. However, as necessity changes so too must that which fulfills necessity. With the technological introduction of the ubiquitous video camera the necessity for me lies not in capturing every detail of movement through the use of symbology but to as Motif provides, capture that which video does not always consistently capture, or that which the very human performer subtly changes with each performance.

Back to my initial point, for me, breath is such a basic activity that I think it does need its own symbol. When using Motif for my dance classes or for choreography, I would find it very useful, having a simplified symbol, to be able to Motif breath as an initiator; as an observable action separate from or as Tara offers a "heightened manifestation [different from] what is required for well-functioning/expressive movement; or when a movement phrase is thematically about breath.

My humble thoughts.
It is truly a pleasure to engage with all of you.

With deepest respect,

[Curtis’ attachments are shown below]

Re: Breath Motif Symbol
Sat 9/6/2014 1:19 PM
From: Linda Nutter

Dear Curtis,

I am so happy to see that students still see the value in ANY kind of notation!  A few years ago, I was very nervous that all of the hype over video documentation would overwhelm the very rational need for an ongoing system of symbology.  When you get Charlotte's book, you will see that she devotes the whole first section to the clear differences between Labanotation and Motif Notation and their different purposes and requirements.

I do agree that CMAs have a level of need that is not currently addressed in Labanotation, nor directly in Motif Notation.  Breath, patterns of body organization, BF, etc.  There is a whole level of somatic information that can be captured.  Even in the absence of current symbols, Motif Notation can respond to those needs by providing a basic foundation upon which those new need-specific symbols can be built.  And there is always the glossary aspect…which provides complete freedom.

Again, I am thrilled by you interest in this and would love to be in conversation with you as you go forward.


Re: [cmalist] Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Sat 9/6/2014 1:36 PM
From: Charlotte Wile

Hi Everyone,

You might be interested in these two compilations of previous CMAlist/LabanTalk discussions about standardization:

Charlotte Wile

Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Sat 9/6/2014 2:20 PM
From: Richard Haisma

Dear Everyone,

1]   First, before addressing […….] more philosophical issue of "consultation or approval by whom," I would like to make a slight correction in the factual narrative of your, [……..] posting. The symbols for the Major Themes of Inner-Outer, Stability-Mobility, Exertion-Recuperation and Function-Expression were not proposed by Antja Kennedy. Rather, throughout May of 2008 we had a community-wide and international conversation online, which I initiated and shepherded from beginning to end, which many people made milestone and triggering-of-imagination contributions to, which ended in a huge feeling of pride that consensus had been reached. (I have a complete documentation of the entire consensus-building process that led up to the creation of those symbols.) Subsequent to the creation of these symbols I believe I remember at least one of our colleagues (I think it was Peggy Hackney) saying she would try them out immediately in her classes, indicating a kind of "approval"  that in this community carries some weight. Other than that the only "official" approval these symbols received was the warm feeling of accomplishment we all felt after having arrived at them.

2]      Some time ago in conversation with Charlotte Wile the subject of  "how do we get a new symbol approved or disseminated out into the community," and her pleasingly practical answer was to just start using it, and then if people like it they will pick it up and it will spread by osmosis. If it's entirely new or unrelated to history, as Linda Nutter has just suggested, it can be glossed at the beginning of the motif. Likewise, it it's like a local "dialect" of Motif.

3]      That said, I feel the need to share my philosophy on innovation and development within the Laban-Bartenieff  "system"  in general.  When one looks at the whole  history of the "system" from the beginning several salient facts or events ought to be remembered:

a)  Laban himself didn't seek or desire an airtight system;

b)  Laban and Wigman together developed portions of the system together, then they split, and Wigman transmitted her understanding and interpretation of the system to her students, disciples and company members, one of whom was Hanya Holm; in the meantime Laban continued to develop in his own direction with other followers;

c)  Jooss and Sigurd Leeder, following Laban, developed their own understanding of the Laban work, which by the time it got to Switzerland with Leeder, had its own distinct flavoring and interpretations;

d)  Laban and Lamb in the 40s and 50s further developed the system, such that categories from previous eras now had significantly different depths; (this can account for differences, for example, in the understanding of Sustained Time Effort);

e)  in the U.S. Holm transmitted her understanding of the Laban-Wigman work to Alwin Nikolais, who then as a creative genius, rather exploded it into his new directions according to his theatrical needs;

f)  Lamb, Bartenieff and Kestenberg created entirely new categories within the system, such that those having come before them either did not know directly about or did not acknowledge as real (example:  not before the 90s did faculty at the Laban Centre in London acknowledge the category of Shape which Lamb-Bartenieff-Kestenberg had worked on);

g)  at LIMS in the 80s Jan Pforsich, et. al., developed the category of Spatial Tension, which those who had studied even with IB prior to that were thus unaware of;

h) in the 90s Peggy Hackney developed the category of Shape in a new direction, which is different than that taught or experienced by those not having studied with her.

One of the main points I wish to make, hopefully in answer to [……….] difficulty with the idea of "approval from whom," which difficulty I share, might be able to be stated with the rhetorical question of "Just who do they think they are, all of these people who took or bended or changed the "original" Laban material into their own purposes? Such a question implies an impregnable fortress of "original" material. Yet, as we can see, from a-h above, such never existed. So the question needs to leave the realm of the rhetorical and become quite practical:  "in the name of what do we develop the Laban-Bartenieff "system"?  My first answers have always been to: 

1]  "honor the ancestors."  Take a good look at what came before and why it was created;  to me, for example, aside from  thoroughly studying Charlotte Wile's text, just the mere perusal of her bibliography takes my breath away. Clearly, as one of our ancestors, she has         studied every in-and-out of symbol development that the "system"  has ever gone through, and deference to that kind of experience ought always to be made;

2]  what, within what has been already created, still needs elaboration or clarification? (Basic Body Action's theory, anyone? Definition of Spatial Tension, anyone? Decision about how many types of Effort Phrasing, anyone?)

3]  given the changing times, what do we now see the need of that our ancestors simply could not or might not have been able to see?

4]  changes ought not be made casually or based upon whims of personality;

5]  follow Occam's Razor rule not to proliferate or complexity unnecessarily. 

6]  the virtues of any "system" would seem to be that it be fundamental, capacious and versatile; does any proposed change further those virtues?

So, is there really a THING called Laban Movement Analysis?  It wouldn't appear so, yet ...

All the best,

Re: Breath Motif Symbol
Sat 9/6/2014 2:22 PM
From: Curtis William Stedge

To clarify, in my post below, I was referencing Tara Stepenberg's response to my initial post.

Not Tara Munjee, who's research, in the July 24 Research in Dance Education may be found under the article, "Single or Multiple? Looking at Location in Movement Notation."

I was just made aware of this and thought it may be of interest to everyone, as it is relevant to the discussion.


Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Sat 9/6/2014 3:35 PM
From: Charlotte Wile

Hi Everyone,

I thank Richard and Linda for their kind remarks about my contribution to the development of Motif Notation.

However, I would like to acknowledge the major role Ann Guest has played with her invaluable publications, including “Your Move.” Indeed, in my book “Moving About” I wrote, “This book is dedicated to Ann Hutchinson Guest. Her guidance and her seminal work with Laban scripts and concepts made this book possible.”

Charlotte Wile

Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Sat 9/6/2014, 2014 9:54 PM
From: Wanda Ottes

To all,

Once more I agree with Linda's responses. Specially with what she says about [………..] reaction that "Motif as it is being used for movement analysis - not Motif as a derivative of Labanotation or LOD etc." Motif IS a derivative of Labanotation.the two systems share many of the same symbols and concepts.Parameters are different in many arts and Motif Writing was a product of this kind of situation, of the need to write the idea behind the movement, which Valerie Preston-Dunlop produced as a variant, or an accompaniment to Labanotation. In fact it was first thought to be used for dance, but later MW was used to analyzing movement in general too.

The other question is, is there not a danger that the notator may invent for him/herself ways of getting down the movement, meaningful only to him/her? We are also writing for other people, not only ourselves. So what we write must be available to others and for that reason we have rules. But we also have orthographic choices.

The same movement can be written in several ways. The intent of the move can be captured within the rules. Because the notation has inbuilt descriptive choices, just as any good language does. Every symbol system has a threshold beyond which it cannot go. This is for instance true for mathematics, the spoken word or music.

Anne Hutchinson-Guest has been constantly concerned with stretching the boundaries of the Language of Dance in order to express in the score what the movement/choreographer says, means, intends. Shape writing is an example of her ability to provide a new comprehensive method for describing a movement in a way other than (but useable with) the conventional system. And the effort shave not always been easily accepted by the more conservative notators. But their comes a limit beyond which any system go in this effort. Provided that, what is wanted, has a base, it can be written, and ways can be found to get it.In Anne's book Your Move she writes in her Introduction that there are many years ahead in which to progress from the freedoms in interpreting Motif Description to the demands of structured forms. Motif focuses on the kernel of the movement, the central concept. But it is very important that we are aware that changes or new symbols have to be made in a way that transition in writing rules and placement of symbols occurs in progression from Motif Writing to structured description. Because MW is not only used by cma's, but by notators in general. That's the reason I was concerned, and still am, that we should not wish, that we can change or add old and new symbols without consensus of the experienced users and the people with the most know-how and authority (like Charlotte and Anne H-G).

Otherwise our great notation system will be a "mess". We need to be really sure if new symbols or changes can be used and/or are necessary, and are suitable.


PS: I just read the mails of Richard and Charlotte......so I need not say more about that!

Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Sat 9/6/2014 5:15 PM
From: Lucy Angell

Hi Richard,

Both within in and beyond the context of the conversation that provoked this email, just wanted to thank you for taking time to lay out your perspective and understanding in this way.

I am a newer 'disciple' (!!) of only about 7 years working and playing with the Laban system, and I'm working in Australia where there are very few of us as immersed in the Laban language and where we often feel far away from the bigger investigations. I am constantly playing with new interpretations, new ways of learning and teaching the material. Teresa Izzard and myself often ponder whether we are deviating 'too far' from what we were taught.

I find your email comforting and practically useful. Another perspective on the weavings of the history that has led me to where I am in my own knowledge, and a respectful acknowledgement of the slippery nature of intellectual property. For me, to honour what has come before is vital, just as is taking permission and ownership to make the work as relevant and fruitful in the now as possible.

I'll be keeping this as a touchstone and point of further research.

with thanks


Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Sat 9/6/2014 6:02 PM
From: Sandi Kurtz

A couple of additional thoughts, which do not really solve anything.

I think part of the difficulty we've seen many times with our working processes is also one of the strengths of the field -- its ability to spark and nurture multiple approaches to a challenge. In the L/N part of Labanalysis, there's a great deal of time and energy put into what my local school district refers to as 'alignment' (making sure that all the kids are learning the same basic skills in a progression no matter what school they go to or what teacher they have) -- as I understand it, one of ICKL's goals is to keep track of who's working on what problems and how they're solving them.  In (what I still think of as) the LMA part of the work, the processes are more free-wheeling and the ideas surrounding consensus are less firm.  This style has worked excellently well in many situations, but it does lead to moments where we find people either re-inventing a wheel when using an older one would be just fine, or assuming that some territory is unexplored, when in fact it has been pretty thoroughly 'plowed' in the past.

My impression is that many of us thought (hoped?) that the internet would help cut back on those moments, since we should be able to keep track more easily of who has done what in the past, but I'm not sure it's really working like that.

I very much appreciate Richard's pocket timeline below, and his admonition to "honor the ancestors."  I had a similar reaction to the bibliography in Charlotte Wile's book ('golly, I'm really behind in my reading!'), but just like any other set text, it reflects the time it was written/compiled.  A year from now, a decade from now, where will we find the 'close to definitive' list of what and who has gone before?

I've watched different consensus projects come and go, as have many of us, and although I'm not really suggesting that we establish a Laban Analysis version of the Académie française, perhaps we might think about something like the editorial board of the Oxford English Dictionary, which looks to see what words seem to have established themselves in the language, and then adds them to the 'big list.'

Of course, this would mean that we all have to agree to let someone else make choices, if we do not want to make them ourselves.  And that would be a major shift for the community.

sandi kurtz

Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Sun 9/7/2014 2:36 AM
From: Tara Stepenberg

Late night thought......really appreciate your comments sandi. I had similar thoughts this evening in the "wake" of is lively recent discussion of symbols and reflected upon the days of regular theory, multiple program faculty and education committee meetings, where issues of the kind that we have been discussing would be explored in some depth, with the outcomes flowing into the larger community and returned to small committees etc.

Time to sleep
May all benefit
Tara (stepenberg)

Re: Breath Motif Symbol
Sun 9/7/2014 5:46 AM
From: Ann Hutchinson Guest

I apologize for coming in so late on this, family matters have taken a lot of time.  I am not happy with the symbols presented as there is no sense of ‘going’.  It should be of interest to know what signs are used in Labanotation for breathing.  I find that they were not given in the 2005 edition of Labanotation, nor in the 2008 Your Move publication, although there we were not going into such details.  The last Advanced Labanotation book I would love to get done before it is too late, No. 10, is on Body Variations, No. 9 having been Spatial Variations.

The symbol used in Labanotation is of the chest: a circle within a square (sorry I can’t do the symbols here).  Inside the circle is an x (for ‘inside’) representing the inner part of the chest – the lungs.  This sign is followed by a vertical increase sign indicating breathing in, or a vertical decrease sign for breathing out.  The advantage of this representation is that timing can easily be indicated, and this can be quite significant, e.g. the difference between a very slow inhalation or a sudden, sharp intake.  Also considered and indicated were details such as breathing through using the belly (as I had to do after a serious childhood operation), or using the sides of the chest, the rib cage, or the front, etc. 

I realize that LMA people will consider the Labanotation indications as being too clumsy, and will want something much simpler.  Nothing tells me that the simple circle suggested refers to the lungs in relation to the other symbols for division of the body – upper body, right half, etc. 

I am very strong on the idea of families of symbols and logical development of new symbols.  I have contributed many to the system and believe I have a gift for that kind of logical progression.

Thank you for reading!

Best wishes to all,


Re: Giving Credit
Sun 9/7/2014 6:39 AM
From: Ann Hutchinson Guest
Thank you, dear Charlotte, for repeating your kind words.  I am so grateful for those earlier years when we were able to work together as equals.  And that, although we did not agree on every point, we were able to agree to be different and acknowledge the differences.

I have not been in on these later thoughts, discussions and developments as much as I would have liked, but will soon be picking up on some of the things that have been discussed recently, particularly giving some historical information where it seems needed.

With admiration and appreciation for all of you.


RE: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Sun 9/7/2014 7:23 AM
From: Sandra Hooghwinkel

Hi all,

First of all thanks to the efforts been made on thinking about ways to Motif essential aspects of movement, that seemed to be missing!

In the following discussion it became clear to me that these aspects apparently have been addressed in the works of Ann and Charlotte.

Also in the discussion it has been addressed is the need for Motif symbols to be simple and easy to use, so probably with less linguistic rules than Labanotation (symbols), which can be put together and thus state what you want, but have a more constructed feel to them in the end than to state the essence as a gestalt.

On the other hand, I too feel that consensus on the symbols would be necessary, to keep it useful as a worldwide system that we can learn and teach and understand amongst each other. I have no idea how that can easily be done though, in our wide spread community. Therefore I very  much appreciate the effort to find this consensus by Curtis and pears and I love this discussion that was triggered by it. Thanks for that!

My question is though, as we were introduced to the existing symbols (not sure if they are Labanotation or Motif?) which I was definitely not aware of: is there an up-to-date overview of Motif symbols that holds also the newer concepts? I mean, I love Charlottes book, and however useful it is for notators, it is not the kind of work a dance movement therapist would look up symbols in for the use in their practice, for example. There is this nice
little flipbook and also Anns book Introduction to Motif notation that are very accessible, but these are indeed (due to time and developments) missing quite a few essential aspects that we earlier spoke about.

I would love to have an up-to-date yet succinct reference of symbols that are applicable to LMA and Motif, not necessarily Labanotation. For me, this could just as well include the symbols mentioned before, but then at least we would know where to find them, coming from an LMA perspective and again not a notators perspective. Since I very much agree that Motif serves a very different goal and therefore has different needs and is also used in different ways than Labanotation!

Hope something is available already or being worked on at this moment?!?



Re: Breath Motif Symbol
Sun 9/7/2014 11:47 AM
From: Peggy Hackney

Dear Ann, Charlotte, and everyone interested in Motif,

Thank you all for weighing-in on both the Breath symbols and the Spatial Zone symbols!

In terms of "approval by whom," we used to assume (in the 1960s &1970s) that there should be a small committee of people who had been using theory and symbols a lot in their LMA work. This committee was called the Theory Committee. At the point in time when I'm remembering, Martha Davis was the chair of the committee, and there were about 5 people on the committee who were interested in using LMA in research and teaching. Charlotte Wile brought up the Theme Bow as our first "test case" for going through the process, which included consulting with world leaders, (such as Ann and others) and then testing the theory in teaching in our classes (mainly at the Certification level, but also elsewhere). We then were to bring the Theory or Symbol before the entire community at a LIMS Conference and have a vote. As I remember it, the process seemed endless---certainly beyond what most people would be willing to do. Perhaps others of you have different memories….

In the interest of giving a bit of history of thought that goes into making symbols, I just thought I'd send along something I presented at the Ohio State University Motif Conference in 2001, since it is difficult to remember the many many years of work that have gone into all these symbols. (Thanks to Jimmylee Listenbee for doing the Mind-Map.) The most important thing to me is to work with *keeping Motif simple, easy to write, and available to almost anyone*. My reservation about the Breath symbol that Curtis et al. offered is that it is difficult to write small and accurately
in rapid writing.

As you can see in my presentation and Mind-Map (attached), we have in any kind of notation both the possibility of "The Goddess of Clarity" and "The Demon of Hypermentality" (I chose those terms because of Laban's large polarities of The Demon and the Goddess in "The Mastery of Movement".

I chose the Figure of 8 form in the Patterns of Total Body Connectivity (PTBC) symbols, because already in fast writing during score notation, Labanotators were using the figure 8 as a short-hand symbol for whole torso, and in our Seattle Certificate Programs, we were already using the figure 8 on its side (the infinity symbol) to house the ideas of the large Themes in the LMA System, such as Inner-Outer. It seemed to me that also in culture at large, the infinity symbol seemed to represent a sense of "Wholeness." So…the Breath Pattern as a whole body connectivity pattern seemed to be easily represented by the figure 8 standing vertical with the open circle (like in the area of the center of levity, except in the very center of the symbol to show that it was affecting the Whole Body). At that point in my thinking I felt that we should use those PTBC symbols in bows, such as Theme Bows (Thank you, Charlotte, for that bow).

It occurs to me now, (after reading Ann's recent letter) that perhaps we could use Ann's suggestion of an Increase or Decrease symbol following that PTBC Breath Patterning symbol to indicate inhale and exhale for easy Motif notation of Breath. What do the rest of you think about that possibility? As Ann mentions, the use of the Increase or Decrease symbols would allow for timing possibilities. We could also just adopt Ann's way of doing it with the inside of the chest symbol (x inside circle). The PTBC symbol is very easy and quick to draw, however.

In summary, I'm happy to try using whatever the community feels is best. :)

Also….I don't seem to have the FINAL agreement on the Large THEMES of the system in terms of symbols. As I remember it, Antja's synthesis was not the final agreement. Does anyone have it? (I thought that INNER-OUTER had the tic going horizontally, rather than slanted).

Cheers to a lovely sunny morning here in Utah!

[Peggy’s two attachments are shown below.]

The Integrated Movement Studies perspective on Teaching

Motif Writing

Peggy Hackney's Viewpoint

Motif Conference at OSU
August 2-4, 2001

[©  2001, Peggy Hackney]

(Written from my mind-map a year later—July 14, 2002. Words in all CAPS are circled on my mind-map.)

In our Integrated Movement Studies Laban/Bartenieff Certificate Programs we teach Motif Writing as part of our Observation curriculum, because Motif is "AN OPEN INVITATION TO MOVE!" It galvanizes people into movement—it puts them in an exploratory mode as they play with moving the symbols. It's easy and it's FUN—and we believe it should stay that way (i.e., not get too complex in the scores). And, even more importantly, Motif leads to MEANING-MAKING. Our IMS approach is based on moving toward claiming our personal meaning making in both our movement and our observations.

Motif enables people to move or observe movement while paying attention to INTENT, using ELEMENTAL BUILDING BLOCKS of movement. When moving or observing in this way, people are coalescing bodily sensations, which are coming from the movement and bringing them into consciousness. This consciousness results in the perception of clusters of elements that are happening together and helps us to distinguish how they are similar/different one from the other. This differentiation can, of course, be DESCRIBED/RECORDED in symbols. This then leads to PATTERN RECOGNITION, which ultimately moves to personal MEANING-MAKING and INTEGRATION.

Of course how much differentiation is necessary to record differs with the context, and is certainly a necessary topic of discussion for us in Motif Writing. (I find that notation gives me the chance to use my inner "Goddess of Clarity," but there is also the possibility for my inner "Demon of Hypermentality" to be the bully. She takes out the fun and limits my ability to perceive pattern by obscuring the essence of the Intent with too much detail.)

Recognizing characteristic aspects of continuity and change and seeing how things repeat and are layered into pattern is one thing we are stressing in our IMS programs, because we believe that PATTERN RECOGNITION is important for our personal, artistic, and cultural growth. It leads to perception and appreciation of Style, whether that is personal, artistic or cultural. We like that Motif asks us to see and write about "What stands out in the movement," and "What comes together?" And/or "What's coloring the movement?" We do not write every little detail. This means that when we are working with Motif, we are already working in what Martha Davis called many years ago, "creeping interpretation." We are making choices according to the perceived Intent. When we commit to which symbol to use, we are making choices about what intention we are using or we see being revealed.

In our IMS Programs we teach the following little "mantra":

"In Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analysis

We Move/Experience
We Perceive (access the sensations)
We Describe/Record/Notate
We Make-Meaning"

Often students wonder why the use of symbols is important. Are they important? I continue to think that they are even though most of our students don't continue to use Motif Writing as a formal symbol-system in their application field after they graduate.

- Symbols train students to perceive Intent, and the chance to choose which symbols to use amplifies that perception. Students continue to use this ability in their application area, even if they are not using the symbols.

- Symbols give people the opportunity to attach a large number of movement experiences to one symbol. Symbols are containers, a way to hold on to the evanescent movement experience. The symbol then, like art, is a way to hold my many experiences of one type of movement (such as "Shape Flow"). When I have experienced that symbol in many different combinations with other elements, and I see a Motif that uses the symbol, I can then create the movement experience as a gestalted experience, because I can perceive the entire group of symbols together. When we use words, we are in a linear realm rather than in a clustered realm of the "multiple known" that symbols can provide.

Symbols encourage what Carol-Lynne Moore calls "movement thinking."

- Symbols are also international in a way that words are not. (This is particularly important in our current world scene.)

- And Symbols are, of course, also a visual inroad. Some students are drawn to learning visually.

In summary, our Integrated Movement Studies Laban/Bartenieff curriculum is not "about" Notation. Recording the movement is only one aspect of what we are teaching. Our emphasis is on Intent and Embodied Knowing. Symbols, and Motif Writing in particular, are tools.

We are training students to 

- use movement to further their own personal and professional INTEGRATION, 
- become more skilled as movers and movement thinkers, 
- personally claim their own embodied knowing, and
- move into the world with Intent and the full richness of who they are as human beings.

Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Sun 9/7/2014 11:37 AM
From: Linda Nutter

Hi Sandra (and Everyone),

Since you have Charlotte's book, I would love to hear an example of movement that occurs in a dance movement therapy situation that could not be written in motif as Charlotte has outlined it.  Usually, about a third of the students in my class are future DMTs, and we have no trouble recording movement phrases. Sometimes, if a concept they wanted to use didn't exist (or they didn't know it) they drew one, put it in the glossary and moved on.  Sometimes the motifs are very sparse and consist of only enough information to convey a flowing improvisation.  As I've said, the fact that a specific symbol has not been devised does not mean that the whole of the structure is not useful.  There are ways of writing pretty much everything--from movement that is defined only by an abstract theme, to movement with overlapping phrasing, to movement that is very vaguely defined in one section and more specific in another.  What I like the best about it (although this is what I struggled with the MOST at first) is that there is a way of moving from the unspecific to the specific within all the symbol families.  You could, for example, say "move an unspecified body part in an unspecified direction"! I suspect that that would blow the minds of some Labanotators.  This is not  LN.  Unfortunately, my materials are buried in a stack of boxes because I'm painting the room they live in.  If they weren't, I would take the time to motif some examples and attach them here.  I could do it off the top of my head, but I am quite certain that one small mistake in a symbol or concept would cause and uproar!

Much has been said so far about the goals and needs of Motif vs LN being different.  I think we can all agree that that is true.  I think that what is missing is a statement by someone about why they feel that this whole approach to Motif Notation (not Labanotation) is not useful to them.  What exactly is it?   It can't be that there aren't symbols for everything.  Symbols can be created.  It can't be the perspective that the notation takes (mover versus observer) because that would take us completely outside the realm of Laban theory.  The speed that symbols can be written?  The shapes?  I would agree that there are some concepts that are harder to capture in symbols than others.  I would love to see some groups of people working on those within the framework of what already exists.  It is my opinion, (and again, I am totally open to hearing other specific opinions) that the structure that already exists can be built upon.  I see no need to burn the house down.

I would understand if someone wanted to start from scratch and create something completely different…there have been many, many documented systems of notation going back to at least the 15th century.  I am not suggesting that Motif Notation as it exists right now is the ONLY way to think about movement or movement notation.  If you read Ann's book "Choreo-grahics: A Comparison of Dance Notation Systems from the Fifteenth Century to the Present," you find that she has outlined many different notations systems and perspectives.  Notation from the point of view of the mover, versus the observer.  Notation systems that conceive of the body in different ways.  Systems written horizontally versus vertically, etc.  There are systems devised by choreographers that are applicable only to their own choreography.  If we look at the three structured systems that seem to be the most in use worldwide, LN, Eshkol-Wachman, and Benesh Movement Notation, the differences between them are vast.  They look completely different and come from three entirely different perspectives.  I am not against new or evolved systems, but if something is to be used by a community of people (and not just by one choreographer, teacher, DMT, etc.) the inventor needs, as Richard suggests, to make a clear statement about why the existing system does not support the needs of the community. 

As I said, I think we've fallen into abstraction here.  We need examples of what can and cannot be recorded with the tools we currently possess. 


Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Sun 9/7/2014 12:51 PM
From: Gill Wright Miller

Hey Linda and all,

Just one small comment and a preference to add ... 

The minds of Labanotators would not be blown away by something like "unspecified movement in an unspecified direction." We were already doing that 40 years ago when I first started notating, and I still find it easy and satisfying to "merge" Labanotation and Motif concepts in a single score when the movement directions warrant it.

A second thought from a teacher of these notation/recording ideas: it's fine to say "Make it up and glossarize it" but the reality is it is difficult to read a score that is full of made-up symbols. I remember reading an annotated copy of Shakespeare in high school, having to look at footnotes every few lines to find out what the words I thought I knew (or could figure out) actually meant in the 17th century. It was a pain in the neck, interrupted my reading, and made me not get through much text at a time--and that's when the explanation was right on the same page! I assure you it became a much more pleasurable experience to read after I had learned much of that vocabulary.

In my teaching experience at the college level for 35 solid years, not knowing the vocabulary of symbols (I mean that in the broadest sense) is easily what keeps many movers from enjoying learning to read and write movement. Like other kinds of written communication, the more vocabulary we have, the more specific we can be when we want to. However, I would urge caution in making up symbols that satisfy the person who has seen the movement if or when the intent of the written document is to share movement with those who haven't seen it. I much prefer the coder search the system for an appropriate symbol or combination of symbols.

Specificity, by the way, is quite distinct from depth or length, of course. "I saw the boy" is similar to and quite different from "I saw my grandson" and different still from "I saw Campbell." These three examples are sentences of the same length (each only 10-14 letters).  The more vocabulary I know, the more choices I have about what is appropriate to say in each situation.

Re: [cmalist] Breath Motif Symbol
Sun 9/7/2014 1:13 PM
From: Jackie Hand

I am following the conversations with little time to add my say. In response to Peggy's query and based on something Richard sent out ages ago, I am attaching the Major Movement Theme Symbols I introduce in the LIMS Module programs. I am clear that they have not been standardized and that the students may run into other symbology.

Jackie Hand

[Jackie’s attachment is shown below]

Re: Breath Motif Symbol
Sun 9/7/2014 1:56 PM
From: Peggy Hackney

Thanks, Jackie!

I like those symbols for Inner-Outer, but I like the Exertion-Recuperation ones from the set that has Ex-Recup with the explosive slanted lines for Exertion and the Horizontal one for Recuperation. I believe it was the one that.........Antja had synthesized.


Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Sun 9/7/2014 2:22 PM
From: Sandra Hooghwinkel

HI Linda and all,

Indeed a list for things we need in order to make it more concrete would be great.

As for myself I would love to have symbols for the concept of Sequencing for example, to describe whether the mover is Sequencing Successively, Sequentially or Simultaneously. Without being bothered with body-parts and/or directions.

This is just one example. Breath Support, Basic 6 would be others. Yield and Push have been mentioned.

And maybe there are symbols for these as well that Im not aware of. Thats why I was asking if there is an up to date reference, so we can see whats already there by now and see what we could fill in.

I was referring to DMTs only as an example(!) of people who might have no notation background, but who may have very good use for Motif. As you have experienced yourself: people struggle to get the hang of it and turn away from it. Charlottes book is, however useful!, about 400 pages and that might, in such case, not be the best way in to become comfortable with Motif and/or easily find how to Motif specific concepts of LMA, like the above. With which Im not saying that it isnt possible to Motif almost everything! I think it is. But can we do this in a  clear and simple way with the symbols we now have? I think that is the question.

Best, Sandra

Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Sun 9/7/2014 3:41 PM
From: Linda Nutter

Hi Sandra,

I think all of your examples are good ones.  I agreed with Peggy early on that every single concept we teach should have a symbol.  I don't have Charlotte's book in front of me, but I know that one of the chapters in the back is "Symbol Paradigms."  Most of the symbols that are in common use are there in about ten pages. 

Symbols for sequencing (and others that you've mentioned) can be used in conjunction with the theme bracket…no need for body and space symbols at all.  I think that that is one of the misconceptions about the work. Yes, there are detailed ways to write about body parts moving in specific directions or into spatial zones…but that only way the work is used. 

I know that Moving About over 400 pages long, but many of those pages are indexes and appendices.  As you know, it is written workbook style with description, exercises and quizzes so that the learner can follow along and build on their knowledge (and symbol bank) as they go along.  I do know that many people give up as they try to learn Motif, but I also think that if you really want to use a symbol system that others can read, you must invest at least a little bit of time in your learning process.  Otherwise, you might as well use your own shorthand notes, right? 

Thanks for the conversation!

Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Sun 9/7/2014 4:07 PM
From: Sandi Kurtz

"is there an up-to-date overview of Motif symbols that holds also the newer concepts?"

And is it online?  (if not, should it be?)

sandi kurtz

Re: Breath Motif Symbol
Sun 9/7/2014 4:22 PM
From: Curtis William Stedge

Hi All,

A key question here that must be asked is, what exactly is the essence of breath? Is it an intake and expelling of air to and from the lungs? Is it the Expansion and Condensing of the lungs and therefore the container which holds the lungs? I may be taking air into my lungs during an inhale, however my lungs and the container of my chest are expanding outward. Is the air more important or is the body? What I see as an observer is not that I am taking air into my lungs, as to my eyes, air is invisible. However, what I do observe is that the torso is Growing and Shrinking. I don't mean that we should place breath within Shape, I am simply asking, what are our assumptions that we carry with the idea of breath? Each of us carries with us, our own experiences, ideas, perspectives. It would be foolhardy to assume that there is a single story even though we are attempting to arrive at a single point of agreement. Perhaps this is where the discussion should start?

I have no emotional ties to the symbols that arose from our group in Belgium. However, I am not fully satisfied with the symbols which use the lungs as a basis. As a dancer, choreographer, teacher, somatic practitioner, I find myself speaking about breath in more ways than body mechanics and the lungs inhaling and exhaling. With these symbols how does one speak to cellular breathing which comes to us from Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen's work in BMC? Or about the theme of breath, or breathiness which may perhaps simply be Effort but is not about body mechanics at all? Another thing about these symbols is that they do not offer a holistic view of breath, but a deconstructed view of the parts of breath. How does one speak to breath as a whole and not simply each individual part of a full breath cycle? I assume one could just place the inhale symbol over the exhale symbol and account for the whole breath that way (see attached).

Here again I see the problem with the continued reliance on Labanotation to define Motif. We are not concerned with such fine detail but rather the essence of that which we observe or are working with.

A question that may seem silly is, how do LMA and Labanotation relate to each other within the larger system of LBMS? Clearly LMA is influenced by Labanotation, but how does the work and theory that the LMA community has arrived at affect the continued use or evolution of Labanotation? If it is not affected at all then how can we expect LMA to hold to the precepts that Labanotation holds at its core? The relationship between all parts of the LBMS whole must be symbiotic, otherwise, to borrow from Irmgard, we are not an integrated whole but differentiated parts. I may sound like a broken record but I hold steadfast to this core value of part/whole and the many others that form the basis of our system.

Perhaps we would do well to gather together to lay down these core values that have both been passed down to us and developed in concert by many of you. Like a mission statement these would then guide our further collective development of the system. There are so many wonderful individuals fighting to legitimize what we do to the world at large and such disparity between closely held ideology can only hinder that work. I agree with Gill Wright Miller that a certain level of standardization is good for the entire community. So, I for one am for the idea of a committee with representatives from each of the various different parts of our wonderful community to come together and deliberate on standardization, that can then be presented to the larger community for acceptance.

Humbly, and with Deepest Respect,

[Curtis’ attachment is shown below]

Re. Thoughts on Recent Correspondence.
Sun 9/7/2014 5:47 PM
From: Ann Hutchinson Guest

Dear All, I am going to come in here with comments and a bit of history.

First, I know that Labanotators make use of Motif where it fits what is needed.  There is not such a separation in that respect as some people seems to believe.

It was years ago, in the early days of Mortif notation, that Forrest Coggan wanted his choreography notated; it was mainly structured (needing LN) but in several places he wanted the dancers to improvise, to find their own way of following a general statement of the desired movement.  If the dancers were learning the piece from video, they would just copy what the person filmed had done.  An example he gave was a person lying on the floor and vibrating.  In Motif we can indicate lying without stating that it should  be prone or supine, etc.  And the vibrating can be indicated in a general way, not specifying that it was mainly the legs, the torso, or whatever.  He was delighted to discover the general statements of Motif.

By nature I am a person who wants uniformity so that we can all understand each other.  But experience has revealed the problems entailed in such a pursuit.  Many years ago at the New York Dance Notation Bureau we had discussion sessions on Motif symbols with representatives of Labanotation (LN), Language of Dance (LOD) and LMA on hand.  It soon became clear that even for the most basic symbols, their meaning and use, there was little consensus.   We made a chart of how things stood – the symbol, the name, the meaning and its application.  The exercise culminated in providing us all with an awareness that these differences exist; no motion was made to tackle the differences and find greater unification.

As use of the Motif symbols is so central to our use of LOD, we feel we have a greater acquaintance with them.  A few years ago, at a Motus Humanus conference Carol Lynne asked me to give a couple of sessions on Motif as used in LOD.  It seems (and I have heard this from other sources) LMA students are not comfortable with the Motif symbols and their use.  The people present enjoyed my sessions and responded very positively.  Carol Lynne said the sessions had been very clear and helpful.

When I was present at several IMA sessions I became aware of one noticeable difference between how LOD uses Motif and the LMA usage.  In LOD we focus on the Verbs, the list of basic actions which we call the Movement Alphabet. The quality, the expression, the dynamics come later and give color to the basic actions.  In grammar a sentence needs a verb.  In LMA, as I experienced it, the focus is more often on an effort, on shaping, with no verb, no action indicated.  Basically in LOD we state what you are doing and how you are doing it.  Stating the Effort by itself is fine, one finds a movement that makes it possible.  How much do these different approaches make a difference? Who can say?

I acknowledge that I am not au fait with the finer, more intricate areas in the use of Effort Shape, I could certainly use an intensive course on the fascinating developments in recent years which go far beyond what Irmgard was teaching.

Before I close tonight I want to say a word in regard to Richard Haisma’s history sent on Sept. 6th.  To my knowledge Mary Wigman was not involved in contributing to the development of the notation system.  How much Hanya Holm knew it, I am not sure.  Certainly she had Irma Otte Betz teach it at her New York Studio.   Betz had met Laban in 1926 when he visited the States and subsequently learned the notation through correspondence.  Alwin Nikolais had an intensive course in LN from Helen Priest, but, as a musician, thought music notes would be more practical and so evolved his own system which used the same movement analysis as LN.  Of course Nik’s great contribution was those extraordinary choreographic works.  I fear that very few of them were filmed.  I have recently been writing up a fairly detailed history of the development of Labanotation and Kinetography Laban.

I hope some of the above is helpful and of value.

Happy moving!


Re: Breath Motif Symbol
Sun 9/7/2014 5:59 PM
From: Linda Nutter

Hi Again,

Curtis - I was glad to get your note and experienced a bit of a thrill that you chose to take on what is probably one of the most controversial topics not only in our community, but in the field of dance.  Ahhhhh…..breath….so basic, so complex, and as you have beautifully outlined, so nuanced and deep.  I'm not sure what direction your studies take you, but in discussion a few years after the publication of her controversial book "The Phenomenology of Dance," Maxine Sheets-Johnstone was asked if in hindsight, there were any other topics that she wished she had addressed.  The first thing she said was "breath,"  indicating that it was such a primary component of the lived moving experience, and that she was sorry that she had not devoted a chapter to it.

I really appreciate how you've unpacked different ways of experiencing and talking about breath….but still, I must tell you that I do not think that what you are describing has anything whatsoever to do with the problem of Labanotation and the development of Motif.  Both systems can record broad or specific aspects of a movement experience.  You say "we are not concerned with such fine detail but rather the essence of that which we observe or are working with."  Yes, that is most often (not always) true about Motif.  That is why Motif, and our whole approach to it, is NOT Labanotation.  I have utmost respect for what you are trying to do here, but I think you have a limited idea of Motif Notation.  If we (the whole Laban community) were to somehow manage to come up with 100 ways to think about the experience of breath, and 100 symbols to depict those experiences, we would STILL be able to integrate that into the existing structure of Motif Notation.

There have been many attempts at trying to bring the LMA community together for purposes of standardization.  I have been a CMA for twenty years…many of those attempts pre-date me.  I have always been one of the people interested in standardization.  To be very honest,  what I have found is that it is difficult to ask people to give up theory or even symbols that they have been working with successfully for many years.  People in our community are tied to their teachers, to their teachers' perspectives, and to the version of the theory that is taught in their certificate programs.  I certainly include myself in that statement. Sometimes these differences are subtle, sometimes they are not.  I believe that the vast majority of us hold a common core understanding of the Laban/Bartenieff work.

Over the years, my own perspective on this has changed. I once wrote a lengthy article for Movement News passionately outlining why I felt that we had to find some standardization within BF.  We had to be working with and publishing the same principles, the same movement themes, the same exercises, etc.  Over the years, I've watched people literally change peoples' lives with their "version" of BF.  I have come to believe that it doesn't matter WHAT you call Inner/Outer…is it a theme?  Is it a principle?  Is it a concept?  All that matters is that you can facilitate a moving experience of Inner/Outer that helps people examine the theme in the context of their lives and their movement.  CMAs from all different programs have had incredible, moving success in their teaching.  They are using the work in ways that truly helps people in all walks of life.  I have always been a supporter of theoretical gatherings that tried to cross the boundaries of the various sub-communities within the broader community…but I have let go of my need for total standardization across programs.  An example of this is your statement "I don't mean that we should place breath within Shape."  That is the only thing in your note that shocked me.  It was my understanding that even though there are various versions of the Shape theory being taught, I thought we were all in agreement that breath, as the basis of Shape Flow, was always taught within the overall context of Shape.  Live and learn.  ;)

For now, I think I've said enough.  I'm quite sure everyone is tired of hearing from me.  I leave it to others to continue with this discussion and I send a huge thank you to you and your colleagues, Curtis.  Change can only occur when people like you step forward, ask questions and give opinions.  You have inspired me this weekend.


Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Mon 9/8/2014 5:04 AM
From: Rena Milgrom

Hi to all,

as I am reading all the exciting conversations about new Motifs, I have to really agree with Wanda Ottes in the first place. All the others are correct about the need of organic changes and development of the system etc etc., but one of the attraction of not only Motif system is, that students respect, that this is kind of a universal language and that they possibly can read notation/motif from anyone who writes it ( despite of the many possibilities we can choose from). As I am meeting different teachers of LMA throughout the world, it is already questionable, that there is a few quite different schools/ approaches of the theory and of course everyone claims their right. This does not look very appealing to people I am sorry to say. It brings more question marks than is healthy... I guess one of the solution would be international conferences, where changes could be presented, discussed and agreed upon and afterwards make sure the informations travel around.

Cheers, Rena

Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Mon 9/8/2014 8:16 AM
From: Karen Bradley

First of all, thanks to everyone for responding to Curtis with such respect; he is one of our current students and his classmates have engaged in rich conversations about motif and the value of the process of evolving it.

As Linda said so beautifully, this is a living language, with underlying grammar and a very general map. I remind us of Jeffery's post, in which he pointed out again, that Laban himself began with an entirely different approach to notation, and adapted to the needs of his community.

I am currently working on grant requests to digitize, re-analyze and disseminate Alan Lomax's Choreometrics films, for which Irmgard and Forrestine needed to adapt LMA to an entirely different altitude, in order to unpack movement behaviors and practices that were shared within a dance culture; much of this language is derived from LMA but includes other measures as well.

To me, the use of which symbols, which altitude of observation, is based entirely on the level of detail necessary for the task at hand. In some aspects of Laban-based systems, much detail is necessary, for purposes of replicability, for example.  In others, impression is important: what is coming across as significant? In others: what changes? In others: what is shared?

The symbols are there to be used, as needed. New symbols can be developed for these and other purposes. There is no authority here; no one is "right", even Miss Anne, the developer of much that we use, is open to considering new ideas and approaches, after all! I use Charlotte's book as an encyclopedia of sorts, and even it has symbols I have never seen before and others I have seen are not there, but so what? I am grateful that she created it!

As for a conference that addresses all of this, I hope those who wish such a thing will step up and create it, and invite us all to it. We have not had much interest in creating such a venue; although small conferences have happened in recent years, not all have heard about them or been invited to participate, so it really would take a group of folks in a particular location to make such a thing happen. It would also take some start-up funding from a grant or university-sponsored planning group. If anyone wants to get serious about such a thing, I think this listserve is a good place to organize from.

My best to all!

Karen Bradley

Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Mon 9/8/2014 8:51 AM
From: Wanda Ottes

Dear all,

This past weekend I was at the west coast of Holland together with my partner to visit and take care of his dad, and I did not have time to sit down quietly and read all the comments my short reaction, about what [...........] called somewhat angrily "consultation"and "approval", has provoked. Good [........]  did it that way, because it triggered the discussion even more! (Thank you [............] for your honest comment!).

Though I often feel a bit living in one of the outer edges of the Laban world, since I work with LMA in more than 30 years in this little spot in the world, called Holland (because the most activity is as we all know in the States, as Rena also mentions), but at moments like this, I know I live in the middle of it. So today I sat down and quietly read all. I love what you bring forward, and and like to thank you all for contributing to this very important discussion.I feel very close to you all, and once again I am so grateful for the fact we have this cma-list to have discussions like this.

After reading the reactions, I am glad I had this good moment to provoke this discussion, to just give a wake-up call......at least someone has to do it, is n't it! Because it now turns out that I am of course not the only person who have this thoughts. And like many of you I agree with the fact that there actually should be a kind of international board, counsel, advice team, or just give it a name, to bring some clearness in the many questions that at times pops up by all of us, about symbols and signs in LMA, LOM, MW, etc.. Confusion about different use of symbols, unfamiliarity or ignorance about the use of one or another, etcetera, is a weakness of us and the system we work with to the outer world. The outside world will not take us seriously if we do not have arranged our business well. Besides is n't it very important for all of us to know, we all should use the same system, wherever you live, teach or work? Because wasn't it Laban's goal to give the world a system understandable for everyone without many words? To work on it, to develop it to ONE UNIVERSAL SYSTEM. It does not work when we think up all different little "own" systems, because at the end the whole system will collapse and fall apart. Actually we all together have a portion of responsibility for the progress and expansion /improvement of Laban's legacy...or am I wrong?

For me, the phrase QUOTIDIAN LAPIS is my life motto, and means "a rock every day" It is also related to the following little story I would like you to tell as a metaphor for the way in which you can make the most solid structure. It is from the novel "The Dead" by Erwin Neutzscky-Wulffs (1996):

"Every day a man collects stones in his boat, and rows to a lake, where he throws them into the water. Day after day, year after year. On a nice day all these stones form such great hopes on the bottom of the lake, that the top of it appears above the water. After several years, the hope stones grows to one small island, where the man can scatter earth and plant a tree."

All those fantastic persons, like Ann, who give their whole life for all this to happen, we should respect and trust as long as possible, because they are the ones who made it possible for us all, to have this great system of symbols to work with. They are the pioneers, our forerunners, our way showers. So let's listen to what they have to say, let's have faith in each other, let's discuss, let's get consensus...... let's get to work!! Let's collect all those little "stones" and let us build together our island, where we can plant our trees and flowers, where the seeds can spread out......

Have a good week!
Warm greetings,

Re: Major Themes Final Version May 2008
Mon 9/8/2014 12:17 PM
From: Richard Haisma

Hello Peggy and Jackie and Everyone,

I am a little  mystified as to how the version of the Major Themes which Jackie yesterday sent out became considered to be the final version. As I had been monitoring the whole process of creation of those symbols in April-May of 2008 the symbols for Inner-Outer and Exertion-Recuperation were as Final Versions, not chosen by me but by consensus, those attached below.

[It was Antja Kennedy who unlocked the key to Exertion-Recuperation, but one final version appeared after that, with the 4 diagonal lines exploding outward for Exertion.  As to Inner-Outer, the diagonal slant in that left-right direction as I recall was preferred as the opposite diagonal slant of the Mobility-Stability symbol. I just discovered now that tho I did retain the entire correspondence during the communal creation of these symbols, I unfortunately did not retain the documents of the actual symbols that each individual had made leading up to the final version. So I could send out that correspondence if anyone wished. I'm recalling that the only hesitation we all had about the final version was the horizontal line indicating Recuperation, as if that might possibly indicate Recuperation-as-Passivity, but I think we all decided to live with it because we all know better.]


[Richard’s attachment is shown below.]


Re: Major Themes Final Version May 2008
Mon 9/8/2014 12:29 PM
From: Jackie Hand

Hi Richard,

I don't think anyone I taught thought that the ones I showed were a final version. I didn't. I put them out there as the ones I had seen and that were working for me. Sorry if it came across that way. I didn't see Antja's until they were posted here the other day.


Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Mon 9/8/2014 1:10 PM
From: Marie Boyette

I love the opportunity to read, listen, and learn from all of you who have been working so diligently over the years to preserve and enhance this great body of knowledge.

I'm curious about a theme that I am noticing in these discussions- it seems there is a commonly held belief that in order to gain credibility and value in the world, we must achieve uniformity. I wonder if that is true. Now I haven't been a CMA for very long, so its possible I just haven't yet run up against the "powers that be" and pressures for uniformity in my professional work outside of the CMA community yet. In my short experience as a CMA- the work, when applied, speaks for itself. I teach in an acting program, and despite the Laban name being known in the acting world, I am rarely asked by name to bring my Movement Analysis skills to the table. (Everyone is far more interested in fight choreography, "movement" coaching, getting the body "relaxed", and all the other fun flashy skills that come with being a movement teacher in the acting world.) Despite not being asked, I bring it anyway, analyze the movement that is happening and work towards the movement goals stated, and 100% of the time the people I work with are impressed, moved, and intrigued by my work. In my short experience, the way to gain credibility for the LMA work is to USE it, to affect positive change and shifts in every context and opportunity we are able. Presenting the world with a unified version of "the one system" of movement analysis seems like it might paralyze a living growing body of work. Every individual CMA (part) who is out making a difference in the world is contributing t0 the whole of our community gaining the recognition we deserve.

I was doing a little bit of reading about Financial analysis (and I'm no expert on it for sure!), but it seems that even in financial analysis (a field that deals with numbers, ratios, and facts) there are still multiple approaches to generate data, organize it, and make meaning from it. Financial Analysis isn't a field that has to justify its existence (that I am aware of), even though it faces its own set of theoretical challenges.

I suppose my question is really one of function versus expression. Functionally a CMA is going to use whatever branch of the Laban legacy, whatever symbols they are familiar with, in order to get the job done: observe, organize, and make meaning of movement. Must we strive for uniformity of expression if the symbols we use are working of us to make meaning of what we are seeing? Obviously we must have some uniformity, otherwise in the end no meaning can be made from what is observed. If the specificity of the communication to others, the read-ability, is the most important part of motifing, then is motif writing the best communication tool for that? Read-ability doesn't seem to be such a problem in Labanotation. If it must be read clearly, is Labanotation the better tool?  There seems to be a very fine line we walk between movement analysis as a finely time honed art and a developed science. I wonder, how fluid can we be, while still being able to uphold our functions as analysts and respecting and honoring the legacy of those who have gone before us? The primary merit of clashing, discussing, and reaching consensus on symbols and ideas appears to me to be that it further hones our abilities as analysts, and the better we get at making meaning from movement, the more the work we do will speak for itself!

With much respect, and hoping the new kid on the block hasn't kicked a hornet's nest,

Marie Boyette

Re: Thoughts on Recent Correspondence.
Mon 9/8/2014 1:27 PM
From: Richard Haisma

Hello Ann,

My timeline that included Wigman, Holm, Nikolais, et. al. was not at all about any kind of notation, but rather the idea of Laban's total legacy  having developed in different ways throughout the decades, arriving only since the 80s or so at what we refer to as LMA, and thus drawing into question whether or not the Laban legacy was ever going to be ONE THING, or could ever arrive at a complete consensus. Since, to me, the answer to those questions is in the negative, I used the existence of the timeline to point up the need for, at the very least, some kind of guiding principles if one is contemplating change within the Laban legacy, whether within the LMA theory or within Motif.

I believe most, if not all, of Nikolais' works have been filmed. Unfortunately, I've also  been told that one cannot see or purchase the evening long, or full-length, works because Murray Louis, in wishing to market them as successfully as possible, made the artistic decision, based upon his feeling that college students which would probably constitute the majority of that market would be too impatient to sit thru a whole dance from beginning to end,  to make the films available only as composites of several of Nik's pieces in each video, with no one video showing a whole piece. Beyond that, Ohio University in Athens OH retains his archives, where all of the whole dances might still exist.


Re: Major Themes Final Version May 2008
Mon 9/8/2014 1:32 PM
From: Wanda Ottes

Hej Richard and Jacky and all others,

Well, is this not exact an example of what we are talking about in our discussion about final versions of symbols?

This proves once more and once again how much we need a sort of umbrella organization, where after consensus is decided how our notation system and /or parts thereof can be used officially.

No more confusion, no more discussions like this.


Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Mon 9/8/2014 2:03 PM
From: Gill Miller

Dear Marie,

    You wrote: "... it seems there is a commonly held belief that in order to gain credibility and value in the world, we must achieve uniformity."

What I am hearing in this discussion is not a question about uniformity in the *analysis* nor even in the *system*, but rather
uniformity in the symbols. (Do we value that or not?) You and I might disagree about the primary stress in a movement, but when we are referring to directional shape, we use the same symbol to denote it on paper.
And by uniformity, I don't mean "exact and limited" but rather a
uniformity of logic and reasoning--"of similar form or character to others." I aim to strike a balance between what is already taught and known to others and what I "make up" to capture what is happening before my eyes or in my body, so that many can read it; that is, so the written text is comprehensible.


Re: Thoughts on Recent Correspondence.
Tue 9/9/2014 4:35 AM
From: Ann Hutchinson Guest

Hi Richard,

You are right, after I had written my piece I realized that you were talking about Laban’s work in general.  But what you wrote grew out of talk about Motif Notation and I thought it might be a good thing for people to know more about how those Laban people – Wigman and Holm – had used or had not used the notation.

How interesting about the Nikolais archives; Murray Louis made an unfortunate decision, comparable, perhaps, to Diaghiulev refusing to allow filming of the Ballets Russes repertoire –a loss to the general public.

I always read your comments with interest.

Best wishes,


Re: Giving Credit
Tue 9/9/2014 10:38 AM
From: Ellen SHAPIRO

Dear Richard;

Thank you for the beautiful clarification. This is the part that holds me still:  1] "honor the ancestors."  Take a good look at what came before and why it was created.  Adding needed symbols and checking them out is great, changing existing system's symbols is not a good idea, without very deep understanding of its uses and application, is not such a good idea.   Yes, I tend to be a traditionalist.  I plan to keep this discussion and share it with students as needed.  I do think Motif can handle a lot of creativity, if it is documented, and footnoted.  I find motif is very helpful for myself still....And yes, I rely on Ann's book, and Charlotte's brilliance and your own!  I am in good company.  

Best, Ellen

Re: Spatial Zone Motif Symbol
Tue 9/9/2014 5:24 PM
From: Wanda Ottes

Hej all,

First I decided not to give any comment, but though I am not aware that I have written something wrong (because angry and being honest seem right common) I think the reaction in the last mail on this subject witnesses an unprofessional attitude and was deadly for this thread.....which indeed is stopped.What a pity!. For me a discussion is particularly important to just explain opposing viewpoints and perspectives. and thus common points to be agreed.I do not wish to discuss in this way, because that leads to nowhere.

Therefore, I suggest we let rest this subject for a while, and think about it. At least I do not comment anymore on this subject for this moment. and wait until someone is starting it again. After this having said, thank you all for you comments, it was a very clear and transparent discussion about something very important.

All the best,

Re: We Focus On the Positive
Thu 9/11/2014 11:15 AM
From: Wanda Ottes

Dear all,

In a personal discussion [.........] and I both accepted that each of us had a point. But rather than seeking to diffuse blame or making awkward excuses, we focussed on what we can do to improve the situation from this point on. This showed we're stepping up to our challenge or accepting our points, and that we're finding solutions.

[...........] and I discussed and came to the following conclusions:

While we do agree that we as humans are instinctual in our survival responses we do not think that this is the only thing that is part of the response - it seems to knee jerk, and we think there is much more subtlety involved, also in relation to different interpretations that may be in play, both cultural, language and personal style. We do not have authorities in this sense . we do not think that some one is necessarily an authority because they have historical perspective or they have experience. So does [............], so do I. But none of us all are somehow designated as the authorities in Motif primarily, because there is not entity in place to create this - LIMS? Laban London? Eurolab? Integrated Movement Studies? Still a lot of questions to be solved, and many discussions in the near future.

[............] and I would not like to reinforce any perception in the community that we were somehow "fighting", which then makes it seem as if there are sides - which then people may feel that they are on - one side or the other - this will cause separation and not moving our community forward together towards a shared goal. This duality is not what we believe we are after, rather than the whole of the Mobility/Stability balance - both are needed for either to be effective - In other words both our voices are needed in this dialogue, like all of yours. Instead of allowing your amygdala to hijack your thinking reactions, you better make sure you stand your ground......and [..........] jokes, that this is of course always good advice, unless being chased by a tiger! Rather, take it as constructive advice or a timely warning that is worth heeding. Stay calm and focus on doing or deciding better next time.

We smoke the pipe of peace!

with regards,

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