Monday, December 14, 2015

LN and LMA History Question

Submitted by Mei-Chen Lu - December 14, 2015

Following are the compilation of email correspondence regarding Labanotation and Laban Movement Analysis development entering college dance programs on the CMA list serve during November 12 to 14, 2015.

November 12, 2015

Discussion #1, by Gill Wright Miller

Does anyone know, or have a sense of, when LN and LMA starting (or hit a tipping point) entering college dance programs in the United States?

Gill Wright Miller, PhD
Professor and Chair of Women's and Gender Studies
Professor of Dance 
Denison University
Granville, OH  43023

Discussion #2, by Susan L. Wiesner

I know Virginia Moomaw had her grad students (UNCG [The University of North Carolina Greensboro]) recording their thesis projects in Labanotation. She joined the university in 1945 (I believe).

Susan L. Wiesner PhD, CMA
LIMS Archivist and Moving Stories Fellow
2011 ACLS Digital Innovation Fellow
RCL Subject Editor: Dance

Discussion #3, by Ann Hutchinson Guest

That’s right, and the scores were complete and neat.  When Herb Kummel at DNB refused to allow me to have any scores for educationalm purposes, Virginia [Moomaw] sent the best examples from UNCG [The University of North Carolina Greensboro].  Herb said the choreographers would not allow it, I wrote the choreographers and they were open and willing. A dark chapter in DNB history!

Ann Hutchinson Guest

Discussion #4, by Susan L. Wiesner

They are beautiful scores. You can find them in Special Collections, University Archives at UNCG (Greensboro, NC). There's a wealth of archival material there, theatre and dance!

Susan L. Wiesner

Discussion #5, by Gill Wright Miller

How well I remember! I was working at the DNB when Herb was the Executive Director.

But I am asking when college and university program began offering LN and LMA in their curricula--perhaps as required courses for a dance major, for example—on a consistent basis. 

Denison offered LN in the early, early 1970s—that’s where I was first exposed to it in a systematic way. But I don’t know if we were “early adopters” because the Ohio State University [DNB] Extension was so close or because lots of post-secondary schools were already offering it, or… I am trying to put our adoption into historical context. 

And then when was LMA introduced to college and university programs?

Does anyone have a sense of these?

Gill Wright Miller

Discussion #6, by Susan L. Wiesner

I would contact the archivist at UNCG, to find the earliest thesis which included the Labanotation scores, as a start. They can also pull up old syllabi from Moomaw's courses (and course catalogs) (I did some research on early dance curricula when I was there as a post-doc and the course catalogs go way back). They (UNCG)  also hold old records from AAHPERD, when discussions took place regarding dance curricula in general, and probably included some discussion re: LN and LMA. Erin Lawrimore is the uni archivist ( And the AAHPERD files were well hidden in a small closet-like room. Don't know the current status.
best of luck!

Susan L. Wiesner

Discussion #7, by Tara Stepenberg

If this is useful (I haven't looked at all the threads of this discussion)  - I taught a LN class at SUNY Brockport beginning in l967.

The Philadelphia Dance Academy under the direction of Nadia Chilkovsky required LN of all their Elementary, High School and College Students when I taught there in l965-66.

When I went to the Boston Conservatory of Music in l959-60 LN was a required course for all dancers and of course LN was a required course at The Juilliard School when I attended beginning in l960.

I began to teach LMA at Hampshire College and then for the Five College Dance Department beginning in l973.

Tara Stepenberg

Discussion #8, by Mei-Chen Lu

Ann [Hutchinson Guest] probably will know better.  She was invited by Martha Hill to teach Labanotation at the Juilliard school in 1951? 1952?  Was not that counted as the first “college” where offered Labanotation course?   Helen Priest Rogers, and Lucy Venable taught Labanotation at Connecticut College Summer Program in 1948.  Helen taught notation in Mount Holyoke College from 1953 to 1975.  

Mei-Chen Lu
Director of Library Services
Dance Notation Bureau

November 13, 2015

Discussion #9, by Peggy Hackney

Hi, All, 

I received my Advanced LN Certificate in 1966 (while I was in Ethiopia in the Peace Corps). Immediately when I came back to NYC (in January of 1967), I went to the DNB, which was then on 12th street and 5th Ave.  When I came in, and talked with Mickey Topaz and Lucy Venable, they welcomed me, and said that I could go into the Notator Training Program, which I did (worked with Lucy on "Negro Spirituals.") ....AND they said that since I had a BA in Psychology from Duke, I should definitely work with Irmgard Bartenieff! 

So...I immediately joined the first Effort Shape training program, and we all became Certified in 1968. (In order to pay for my E/S classes, I became the Janitor for the DNB....Later I "migrated" upward and became the book-keeper for the DNB, in addition to teaching Elementary LN there. I also wrote the Elementary Correspondence Course in LN, which came out around 1968 or 1969.

I was teaching Labanotation at Sarah Lawrence College in 1968-1971, when Bessie Shönberg was the Chair of Dance. It was a required course for Dance Majors). ( I received my MFA in Dance there in 1971) I continued teaching there until 1976, when I joined the Bill Evans Dance Company. 

When the State University of New York at Purchase was built, with its performing arts emphasis (I believe the is was in 1971) , I taught what was then called Effort-Shape (now Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analysis). Bill Bales was the chair of the program and LMA was required for all dance majors, as LN had been at Julliard. I stopped teaching there in 1976 when I joined Bill Evan's company and began touring the USA.

Herb Kummel chastised me for becoming a professional dancer rather than staying in NYC at the DNB and working on Dance Scores)! I agree with Ann that Herb's time at the DNB was a "dark time." Herb did not value Irmgard at all! I felt he was one of the major causes of the Effort/Shape part of Laban's work broke off from the DNB.....I felt that all of Laban's work should stay together! (I realize that there are many different opinions on this.)

One of the aspects of history that really fascinates me is the role each person plays in the dissemination of a major field of work. The "field of the Laban Work" is not some abstract concept. It is made up of the personalities and work of many individual people and their passions!!

warm wishes to all,
Peggy Hackney

Discussion #10, by Wanda Ottes

Hi all,

May-be some info about the "first" in the UK is also interesting:

My former teacher Marion North was one of the important and key persons in British contemporary dance of the last century, leading the Laban Centre for 30 years.

Marion studied at Homerton Teacher Training College, before undertaking postgraduate study at the Art of Movement Studio in Manchester in the 1950s. The Studio had been set up in 1946 by Rudolf Laban.

Under Marion’s leadership, the Laban Centre became a pioneering institution that considerably raised the status and range of dance study in the UK.

The Centre’s history reads as a list of ‘firsts’:

Laban established Britain’s first BA (Hons) Dance Theatre in 1977, the first MA in Dance Studies and first PhD programme in dance in 1980,
the first MA in Dance Movement Therapy (in collaboration with Hahnemann University, Philadelphia, USA) in 1985,
the first MA Scenography [Dance] in1999, and
the first MSc in Dance Science in 2001.

Wanda Ottes

Discussion #11, by Ann Hutchinson Guest

Wanda, so good to have this information, thank you!.  I would like to point out one thing.  It was Lisa Ullmann who established the Art of Movement Studio in Manchester.  Everyone automatically gave Laban that credit and I know Lisa regretted that she was overshadowed and not give the credit.

The first dance department at a university was established by Jane Winearls at Birmingham University.  I know that Andy Adamson can give details on that.

Good to get this history out there.

Ann Hutchinson Guest

Discussion #12, by Wanda Ottes

Dear Ann,

You are completely right, and sorry for that I said it was Laban himself, but of course it was Lisa who established the studio in Manchester.

Let that be clear! All credit for that to her.

All the best,
Wanda Ottes 

Discussion #13, by Carol-Lynne Moore

Dear History Buffs,

I agree with Peggy — the field of Laban work is made of the personalities and work of many individual people.

Consequently, it is worth remembering Dr. June Layson, an Art of Movement student and founder of the Dance Studies program at the University of Surrey.

This was also among the earliest university dance programs in the UK.

Moreover, Dr. Layson was instrumental in creating the National Resource Centre for Dance (NRCD), that is based in the University of Surrey library.

The NRCD holds many important collections of the works of Laban luminaries including Rudolf Laban, Lisa Ullmann, Warren Lamb, Joan Russell, Betty Meredith Jones, Audrey Wethered and Chloe Gardner, as well as records from ICKL and the Laban Guild.

Carol-Lynne Moore

November 14, 2015

Discussion #14, by Shannon Glasgow

Hi History Buffs,

You may be interested in Sarah Chapman's (Hilsendager) dissertation "Movement Education in the United States: Historical Developments and Theoretical Bases". Movement Education Publications published it in 1974. 

It has been many years since I have read it and I do not remember if it examines higher education. But it does look at influences from Germany and England, including Laban's work, in k-12. Sarah's work also discusses the influence of Margaret H'Doubler, Dewey, Gertrude Colby, Bird Larson, and Teacher's College. 

Shannon Glasgow

Discussion #15, by Deborah R. Brandt

I found the dissertation below while searching for Sarah Chapman's work [Toward Embodied Education, 1850s--2007: Historical, Cultural, Theoretical and Methodological Perspectives Impacting Somatic Education in United States Higher Education Dance]. Both can be purchased through ProQuest.  Dragon's dissertation seems to be very thorough and references Laban and Bartenieff and Chapman's work numerous times.  It may add information to this discussion, if it has not already been mentioned.

Shannon, my mother studied dance education at Teacher's College in the Physical Education Department in the late 20s or early 30s.  She often mentioned the influence of H'Doubler, and Larson on her growth as a dancer and dance teacher.  I am excited you brought up these names because it helped me learn more about the philosophy of movement education and the purpose and meaning of dance that shaped her and therefore my involvement and philosophy re: dance and movement.  It never before occurred to me that she must have been influenced by Laban's work, and I unknowingly followed.

Deborah R. Brandt


  1. I Doris Green can firmly state that Labanotation was introduced to Brooklyn College in September 1969. I had created Greenotation for African instruments while in high school in the fifties and was looking for a system wherein I could write the corresponding dance movements. A dancer who lived on the next block told me this and I became an undergraduate student overnight. I took my first classes in 1969 with Professor Betsy Martin.

  2. Sorry, I made a mistake Labanotation was introduced to Brooklyn College in 1962, not in 1969.