My study blog

Labans movement analysis (LMA)

Posted by lednum on November 20, 2006

LMA was developed after Laban’s death by his students. LMA has four main categories:


The body category describes structural and physical characteristics of the human body while moving. This category is responsible for describing which body parts are moving, which parts are connected, which parts are influenced by others, and general statements about body organization. The majority of this category’s work was not conducted by Laban himself, but finished by his students. Irmgard Bartenieff was instrumental in the creation of this category.

Several subcategories often included are:

  • Initiation of movement starting from specific body parts.
  • Connection of different body parts to each other.
  • Sequencing of movement between parts of the body.
  • Patterns of body organization and connectivity, called Patterns of Total Body Connectivity, Developmental Movement Patterns, or Neuromuscular Patterns


Effort, or what Laban sometimes described as dynamics, is a system for understanding the more subtle characteristics about the way a movement is done with respect to inner intention. The difference between punching someone in anger and reaching for a glass is slight in terms of body organization – both rely on extension of the arm. The attention to the strength of the movement, the control of the movement and the timing of the movement are very different. Effort has four subcategories, each of which has two opposite polarities.

  • Space: Direct / Indirect
  • Weight: Strong / Light
  • Time: Quick / Sustained
  • Flow: Bound / Free

Laban effort graph


Laban effort graph

Laban named the combination of the first three categories (Space, Weight, and Time) the Effort Actions, or Action Drive. The eight combinations are descriptively named Float, Punch, Glide, Slash, Dab, Wring, Flick, and Press. The Action Efforts have been used extensively in some acting schools to train the ability to change quickly between physical manifestations of emotion.

Flow, on the other hand, is responsible for the continuousness or ongoingness of motions. Without any Flow Efforts, movements must be contained in a single initiation and action, which is why there are specific names for the Flow-less Action configurations of Effort. In general it is very difficult to remove Flow from much movement, and so a full analysis of Effort will typically need to go beyond the Effort Actions.


While the Body category is responsible for talking about parts of the body and connections within the body, it is ill suited to discussing the way the body changes shape during movement. The Shape category of analysis is much more thorough in this regard.

There are several subcategories in Shape:

  • Shape Forms describe static shapes that the body takes, such as Wall-like, Ball-like, and Pin-like.
  • Modes of Shape Change describe the way the body is interacting with and the relationship the body has to the environment. There are three Modes of Shape Change:
    • Shape Flow: Representing a relationship of the body to itself. This could be amoebic movement or could be mundane habitual actions, like shrugging, shivering, rubbing an injured shoulder, etc.
    • Directional: Representing a relationship where the body is directed toward some part of the environment. IT is divided further into Spoke-like (punching, pointing, etc.) and Arc-like (swinging a tennis racket, painting a fence)
    • Carving: Representing a relationship where the body is actively and three dimensionally interacting with the volume of the environment. Examples include kneading bread dough, wringing out a towel, or miming the shape of an imaginary object. In some cases, and historically, this is referred to as Shaping, though many practitioners feel that all three Modes of Shape Change are “shaping” in some way, and that the term is thus ambiguous and overloaded.
  • Shape Qualities describe the way the body is changing (in an active way) toward some point in space. In the simplest form, this describes whether the body is currently Opening (growing larger with more extension) or Closing (growing smaller with more flexion). There are more specific terms – Rising, Sinking, Spreading, Enclosing, Advancing, and Retreating, which refer to specific dimensions of change.
  • Shape Flow Support describes the way the torso (primarily) can change in shape to support movements in the rest of the body. It is often referred to as something which is present or absent, though there are more refined descriptors.

The majority of the Shape system was not developed during Laban’s life, and was added later by his students. Warren Lamb was instrumental in creating a significant amount of the theoretical structure for understanding


One of Laban’s primary contributions to Laban Movement Analysis is his theories of Space. This category involves motion in connection with the environment, and with spatial patterns, pathways, and lines of spatial tension. Laban described a complex system of geometry based on crystaline forms, Platonic solids, and the structure of the human body. He felt that there were ways of organizing and moving in space that were specifically harmonious, in the same sense as music. Some combinations and organizations were more theoretically and aesthetically pleasing. Like with music, Space Harmony sometimes takes the form of set ‘scales’ of movement within geometric forms. These scales can be practiced in order to refine the range of movement and reveal individual movement preferences. The abstract and theoretical depth of this part of the system is often considered to be much greater than the rest of the system. In practical terms, there is much of the Space category that does not specifically contribute to the ideas of Space Harmony.

This category also describes and notates choices which refer specifically to space, paying attention to:

  • Kinesphere: the area that the body is moving within and how the mover is paying attention to it.
  • Spatial Intention: the directions or points in space that the mover is identifying or using.
  • Geometrical observations of where the movement is being done, in terms of emphasis of directions, places in space, planar movement, etc.

One Response to “Labans movement analysis (LMA)”

  1. household inventory blank sheets

    Labans movement analysis (LMA) « Lednum

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