Phrasing is a foundational Pattern

The Phases of the Moon are perceived as Phrases in the moon’s cycle

Phrasing is key to movement – All movement is change. From simple to complex, changes in body position, location in space, muscle tension, focus (etcetera) create the patterns of our actions. Understanding movement is through the process of recognising and interpreting the patterns. Phrases are containers . They hold the content of intention. They allow a large whole to be organised into smaller increments (or units of change ) as illustrated in the above photo of the cycle of the moon. Unlike another Foundational Pattern – the pattern of Thematic Duality, Phrasing is temporal as it is a sequence through time. Phrasing is one of the ways that the phenomenon of Time is part of Movement Analysis and LBMS.

A series of linked actions, connected through sequences of time, create the phrases of our human movement. Phrases may be seen at different “levels”, from a more macro to a more micro perspective. For example: seasons of the year, to months, weeks, days, hours, is starting from a more macro way of phrasing time and becoming increasingly more micro in how we parse sequences of time.

Aspects of phrasing include duration or length of phrases as well as if the phrases are discrete or overlapping, where one phrase blends into another.  In addition, if there is an emphasis in a part of the phrase, for example at the beginning or ending, this too can create a pattern or type of phrasing linked to its meaningfulness.

A phrase is often described as a “complete thought” in language. In this way a phrase , is both a whole in itself, as well as a part of a greater whole (Part/Whole theme).

Phrasing creates and supports meaning.  Below are some language examples of this idea. * The words below, in example “A”, are somehow meaningless until the phrasing creates the containers for the content and intent in example “B”.

(A) That that is is that that is not is not

(B) That that is, is; that that is not, is not.

When we change the Phrasing, we change the meaning as illustrated in using the same sentence with 2 different phrasings (below)

Woman without her man, is a savage. – -or – – Woman: without her, man is a savage.

Examples of phrasing can be found in phenomena of all kinds. Phrasing can be seen in everything from functional structural designs (architecture and engineering come to mind) to the expressive compositional phrasing of music, poetry and dance. Language as it is sounded, spoken and written is phrased in its patterns. Learning movement, teaching movement, re-patterning movement all are dependent on the phrasing of movement.

Body Phrasing – In looking at the phrasing of human movement we can start from identifying the functional phrasing of body organisation. For example, kinetic chains, or the neuromuscular initiation and sequencing of actions are examples of Body level Phrasing. Does a sequence progress from the upper unit and sequence to the lower unit, for example? Or from the distal end of a limb to its proximal end, or vice versa?

Unsupported or “disconnected” movement often is the result of breaks or interruptions in the sequence of a body phrase and may be a key, both in identifying a problematic pattern as well as finding a solution through re-patterning the phrasing of the movement.

More BESS Phrasing – In addition to Body aspects of Phrasing, we can also look at spatial (Space Component) and dynamic (Effort Component) aspects of movement phrasing (Space Phrasing and Effort Phrasing) .  Understanding the spatial and dynamic aspects of a phrase may assist in clarifying the intent of the mover.

A spatial phrase creates a pathway – or several pathways – through the mover’s space (the Kinesphere). Such a phrase might be seen in a linear progression in the Vertical Dimension from high to low, or a sweeping Planal arc, or in a more complex spiraling sequence through the 3 Dimensions of Space.

The dynamic Effort changes in action support both functional as well as expressive aspects of the phrasing of movement. Looking at the dynamics of a phrase we can see what changes, what is emphasized, or if there are accented moments.  These Effort Dynamics including their phrasing reflect the mover’s attitude and intent underlying a sequence of actions.

Emphasis in some part of a phrase at the beginning, or in the middle, or at the end – creates an identifiable type of phrasing pattern. Emphasis may be observed in Space or Dynamics/Effort or Body or Shape Phrasing. In other words Phrasing can be observed and experienced in all the BESS Movement Components.

Rhythm and Phrasing are interconnected concepts. Patterns of duration, holding and emphasis create rhythm , thus rhythm is linked to the concept of phrasing. Rhythms are linked to repetition and patterns emerge from repetition.

Rhythmic patterns can be seen in space through movement ( as well as the rhythms seen in art and architecture of line, design proportion) . Rhythm divides or breaks up the ongoingness of Flow (here addressing Flow as baseline from which all patterns emerge). The rhythms of our flow become the phrasing patterns of our movement sequences.

Fundamental Rhythms – The nature and feeling of duple and triple ( 2’s and 3’s )

TWO (2) is a statement of a line, an ongoing progression. But also creates the simple clarity, of beginning and ending. And in this way it describes opposites. Two ends of a continuum creating an either/or polarity. This duality can describe a harmony of balance and symmetry.

Examples of duality in the LBMS organisation of perception and experience of the patterns of movement can be found in:

            LBMS Themes – Inner/Outer, Exertion/Recuperation, Function/Expression Mobility/Stability as well as other themes often addressed including: Simple/Complex, Self/ Other, Beginning/End, Part/Whole, Macro/Micro

            Effort – Condensing/Indulging creating the 2 Elements of each Factor ie. Light/Strong, Direct/Broad, Free/Bound, Quick/Sustained. Effort Phrasing which emphasises either the beginning (Impulsive) or the end ( Impactive) of a phrase

            Space – the phrase of the progression of space which connects the two ends of each Dimension, the two ends of each Diagonal, the two ends of each Diameter.

            Body – our bilateral symmetry and our organisation relative to our form for example in the rhythm and phrasing of our walking. And in a more macro phrase sense beginning (our birth)/ end (our death) And all the many duple rhythms of our biological existence – inhale/exhale, heartbeat, ingestion/excretion etc. etc.

            Shape – The Concave/Convex Relationship, the Gathering/Scattering actions and in Shape Flow linked to the 3 dimensional of our form through lengthening /shortening, bulging/hollowing and widening /narrowing, The Spoke-like Directional mode in actions towards and away from self, which in turn is based in Self/Other duality. Other examples in the Shape category are the oppositional polarities of the Core Shape Qualities – Spreading/Enclosing, Advancing/Retreating, Rising/Sinking

THREE (3) is often curvilinear in its nature but can also create the form of a triangle Which in turn can create a loop or cyclic progression around the closed triangle. In a 3 rhythm there is more differentiation as the idea of the middle emerges. This suggests more complexity and a shift in emphasis to what happens between the beginning and the end. The process becomes even more important – the life between the birth and the death – the dash between the dates on a tomb stone depicting the date of birth and date of death which has always seemed such a reductionist way of recording the phrase of one’s life!

Rhythms of 3 can also create Stable Triangular patterns and can be linked to aspects of our Dynamic Alignment (Body Component ) through our bony architecture but also to all the BESS components such as what we identify as a 3 ring as a Spatial sequence.

Examples of a tri-partite rhythmic patterns in the LBMS system of organization of perception experience of the patterns of movement can be found in:

            Body – our experience of the volume our 3D form, true spirals in gradated rotation of the whole body kinetic chains connecting flexion/extension, abduction/adduction & inward/outward rotation as well as in the progression from 1D to 2D to 3D.

            Effort – Effort is constantly fluctuating as we move between and among the constellations of the States and Drives and the link to 3 can be seen in how each Drive combines 3 of the 4 Effort Factors and in addition how each Drive is supported by 3 “Cluster States” linked to the Drive.

Space – A phrase of 3 directions linked as 2 pathways in theTransversal progression of: Flat, Steep, Suspended in Icosahedral Scales including the Axis and A or B Scales. (These are Space Harmony Scales practices in LBMS Movement Analysis training programs)

Space Harmony – In the Harmonic structure of the rhythms of Space, in the Transverse A & B Scales of the Icosahedron, Rudolph Laban identifies the Steeple type phrasing as a “bipartite rhythm of diagonal directions” (The Language of Movement: A Guidebook to Choreutics p 154). He goes on to identify the Flat, Steep, Suspended phrasing as a type of tri-partite rhythm through which to experience the space harmony of patterns of human movement.

More about Phrasing and phrasing types

Please read this.      I see what you mean.

Please read this.      I see what you mean.  or I see what you mean

Please read this.      I see what you mean.  or I see what you mean

Please read this.     I see what you mean.

Try clapping a simple 3 rhythm accenting the 1 over and over. Switch to the 2nd beat. Switch the accent to the last beat. What is the nature, feeling or mood in each case?

 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3       1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3        1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 

Impulsive Phrasing – the emphasis is at the beginning of the phrase. It may be abrupt – as when happens when someone interrupts. It may be aggressive or intrusive. It may also be excited – the initiation of a big new idea – “I’ve got it!”. Or being impressed “Way to go!”. Impulsive Phrasing can also be found in duple rhythms such the double pulsing often used in jump rope. 

Swing Phrasing – the emphasis is in the middle of the phrase.  It builds to a climax then recedes. An example may be cracking a whip (preparation – snap – withdrawal). A wave breaking on the shore, skipping rhythm. Although a Swing type phrase requires 3 parts – a beginning, middle and end – you will frequently find rhythms of 2’s and 3’s layered. As in the common 6/8 meter which can also be experienced as duple feel with emphasis on 1 2 3 4 5 6.  In LBMS the interconnectedness of 2’s and 3’s can be seen in the States associated with a Drive or the nature transverse movement and more specifically the pathways of Transversals in space. Where the 2D nature of each individual plane is interwoven through a cycle (pattern) of moving through all 3 Planes. In addition, the relationship of the (2 D) Planal Diameters experienced as deflections of the 3D Diagonal

Impactive Phrasing – the emphasis is the conclusion. This can be about being definite it builds up to a conclusion. It may be authoritative, or absolutist used to show determination or resolve.   “That’s It!

Phrasing style is an important aspect of one’s baseline Personal Movement Signature.

So far so good –  but what exactly is a Phrase?  A phrase is often (to use a word I heard CMA Carol Lynne Moore apply to the concept of the Dynamosphere) a “fuzzy” concept in LBMS. It is fuzzy in that the edges are unclear. Although perhaps unclear is a poor word choice as it is clear to the individual observer. According to CMA and non-verbal communication researcher Martha Davis, observers each seemed “to have an individually consistent approach to delineating phrases. However, the observer’s recording very often differed from each other. They do not appear to share concepts of phrase boundaries.” This would seem to resonate with the idea that Phrasing can be viewed from both a Macro as well as Micro perspective – something we do all the time as we shift our attention to the phrasing of a day morning, noon and night, to seasons of a year, or patterns of time into epochs. We do this as well in LBMS, looking both at the BIG movement picture as perhaps revealed through the larger lens of a particular theme, or in a small movement unit of a single action. Like fractals larger patterns are composed of smaller patterns which, when magnified, become the larger pattern.  Theme of Part/Whole

*Thanks to my WM colleague Esther Geiger (CMA) and her husband Joel for reminding me about these examples from language

Post by KStudd – Updated Summer 2022 from earlier document of 2015