What is the Laban/Bartenieff Movement System (LBMS)?

The Laban/Bartenieff Movement System (LBMS) is a comprehensive system used in understanding multiple aspects of the patterns of human movement.  LBMS methodology incorporates a theoretical framework and clearly delineated language for describing movement.  The system is used to identify, represent and interpret both macro and micro patterns of human movement.  As a system of analysis, LBMS is unique, as it identifies and codifies both the qualitative as well as quantitative aspects of movement.  In other words, the system takes into account both functional as well as expressive content of actions.  The system is also capable of identifying and differentiating what are universal patterns common to all humans, from group patterns, including culturally relevant patterns, and from patterns that identify unique characteristics of an individual.

Human movement is a multi-layered phenomenon including relational aspects of the mover to themselves and to their environment supported by body organization and the nuance of subtle shifts in dynamics. As a “system” LBMS allows us to identify the parts of the complex whole of movement. LBMS looks at the “what”, the “where” the “how and why” of action through an analysis of the components of movement: Body, Effort, Space and Shape (BESS). LBMS also addresses the rhythm and phrasing of movement within its situational context. This  system is defined through relationships of its interwoven parts combining to form a dynamic whole .

Human movement is generally examined in highly specialized contexts and not well understood as a larger body of knowledge.  Examples of this would be the anatomical actions of joints in the language of kinesiology or the specialized movement vocabulary of sports or dance techniques.  However, the phenomenon of human movement itself is our primary extension system and the basis of human comprehension and understanding. Our perceptions and experience of our moving bodies is the foundation of all subsequent extension systems we humans create including language and tools. The process of perception is embodied, our experience is embodied, our knowing is embodied.  LBMS provides a framework for delineating this foundational body of knowledge.

The LBMS system is the culmination and ongoing development of the philosophy, theory and practice of Rudolf Laban and Irmgard Bartenieff.  Laban’s work explicated human movement patterns by mapping the space of human movement and delineating the qualitative, energetic aspects of action linked to the mover’s attitude Effort theory.  Laban’s work was added to by many of his students and protegees most notable Irmgard Bartenieff.  Bartnenieff’s life work included not only dance, but also practice as a physical therapist and becoming a founder of what developed into the discipline of Dance Therapy as well as cultural research describing movement with ethno-musicologist Alan Lomax.  Bartenieff as a physical therapist utilized Laban’s ideas in working both with polio patients and dancers to repattern movement in order to optimize both functional and expressive aspects of body action.  The combination of Laban’s Space Harmony and Effort Dynamics with Bartenieff’s explication of fundamental aspects of body patterns coalesce into a rich system for perceiving the patterns and possibilities of human movement in any context.

Studd Dec. 2018