Labanotation (LN) or Kinetography Laban is a notation system for recording and analyzing human movement. It is one type of Laban Movement Study, originating from the work of Rudolf Laban and having been developed and extended by many practitioners, notably Ann Hutchinson Guest.
Labanotation and Laban Movement Analysis have both developed from Laban's investigations into movement, but each has specialized in different directions and are now separate systems regulated by separate professional bodies.
In the 1920s Rudolf Laban, working with many of his colleagues, developed a system of movement notation that eventually evolved into modern-day Labanotation or Kinetography Laban.
The difference between Labanotation, as used in England and the United States, and Kinetography Laban, as used in much of Europe, lies in the attitude toward further development. Both acknowledge that the system is based on spatial analysis, in contrast to many other notation systems that are based on an anatomical analysis. Laban was not as anatomically aware as we are now. His interest lay in spatial models and concepts. Members of the Dance Notation Bureau encountered the need for incorporating new movement descriptions, for example, to convey the motivation or meaning behind movements. These needs were then covered. However, Kinetography Laban practitioners tend to believe that the spatial description is sufficient, that is, rather than the intention and the expression of a movement, just the facts of spatial placement are enough. The difference is largely the choice of movement description and a reliance on past methods.
Labanotation — also called Kinetography in Europe and South America — uses abstract symbols to define the:
- Direction and level of the movement
- Part of the body doing the movement
- Duration of the movement
- Dynamic quality of the movement
Direction and level of the movement
The shapes of the direction symbols indicate nine different directions in space and the shading of the symbol specifies the level of the movement.
Each "direction symbol" indicates the orientation of a line between the proximal and distal points of a body part or a limb. That is, "the direction signs indicate the direction towards which the limbs must incline". 
The direction symbols are organized as three levels: high, middle, and low (or deep):
Part of the body doing the movement
Labanotation is a record of the facts, the framework of the movement, so that it can be reproduced.
The symbols are placed on a vertical staff, the horizontal dimension of the staff represents the symmetry of the body, and the vertical dimension represents time passing by.
The location of a symbol on the staff defines the body part it represents. The centre line of the staff represents the centre line of the body, symbols on the right represent the right side of the body, symbols on the left, the left side.
Duration of the movement
The staff is read from bottom to top and the length of a symbol defines the duration of the movement. Drawing on western music notation, Labanotation uses bar lines to mark the measures and double bar lines at the start and end of the movement score. The starting position of the dancer can be given before the double bar lines at the start of the score.
Movement is indicated as "the transition from one point to the next", that is as one "directional destination" to the next.
Spatial distance, spatial relationships, transference of weight, centre of weight, turns, body parts, paths, and floor plans can all be notated by specific symbols. Jumps are indicated by an absence of any symbol in the support column, indicating that no part of the body is touching the floor.
Dynamic quality of the movement
The dynamic quality is often indicated through the use of effort signs (see Laban Movement Analysis).
The four effort categories are
- Space: Direct / Indirect
- Weight: Strong / Light
- Time: Sudden / Sustained
- Flow: Bound / Free
Dynamics in Labanotation are also indicated through a set of symbols indicating a rise or lowering of energy resulting from physical or emotional needs, e.g. physically forceful versus an intense emotional state.
Centers for education and information
- The Dance Notation Bureau (New York) - The Dance Notation Bureau's mission is to advance the art of dance through the use of a system of notation. Correspondence courses in Labanotation are provided.
- International Council of Kinetography Laban / Labanotation (International) - The International Council of Kinetography Laban / Labanotation promotes standards and development of Labanotation / Kinetography Laban through publications, international conferences and published proceedings.
Motif Description is a subset of Labanotation that depicts the overall structure or essential elements of a movement sequence.
Notes and references
- Interview with Ann Hutchinson Guest (August, 2012).
- "Handbook for Laban Movement Analysis" Written and Compiled by Janis Pforsich. copyright Janis Pforsich 1977
- Hutchinson, Ann. Labanotation or Kinetography Laban: The System of Analyzing and Recording Movement (1954, 1970, 1977). New York: Theatre Arts Books. pp. 164-170.
- Knust, Albrecht. Dictionary of Kinetography Laban (Labanotation); Volume I (1979). Plymouth: MacDonald and Evans. p. 14
- Hutchinson, Ann. Labanotation or Kinetography Laban: The System of Analyzing and Recording Movement (1954, 1970, 1977). New York: Theatre Arts Books. pp. 15, 29.
- Laban, Rudolf, and Lawrence, F. C. Effort. (1947). London: MacDonald and Evans.
- Hutchinson-Guest, Ann. (1970). Labanotation: The System of Analyzing and Recording Movement. 4th revised edition (2005). New York: Theatre Arts Books. (First published 1954).
- Hutchinson-Guest, Ann. (1983). Your move: A New Approach to the Study of Movement and Dance. New York: Gordon and Breach.
- Hutchinson-Guest, Ann. (1989). Choreo-Graphics; A Comparison of Dance Notation Systems from the Fifteenth Century to the Present. New York: Gordon and Breach.
- Knust, Albrecht. (1948a). The development of the Laban kinetography (part I). Movement. 1 (1): 28–29.
- Knust, Albrecht. (1948b). The development of the Laban kinetography (part II). Movement. 1 (2): 27-28.
- Knust, Albrecht. (1979a). Dictionary of Kinetography Laban (Labanotation); Volume I: Text. Translated by A. Knust, D. Baddeley-Lang, S. Archbutt, and I. Wachtel. Plymouth: MacDonald and Evans.
- Knust, Albrecht. (1979b). Dictionary of Kinetography Laban (Labanotation); Volume II: Examples. Translated by A. Knust, D. Baddeley-Lang, S. Archbutt, and I. Wachtel. Plymouth: MacDonald and Evans.
- Laban, Rudolf (1975). Laban’s Principles of Dance and Movement Notation. 2nd edition edited and annotated by Roderyk Lange. London: MacDonald and Evans. (First published 1956.)
- Preston-Dunlop, V. (1969). Practical Kinetography Laban. London: MacDonald and Evans.
- LabaNotator - New modern Labanotation editor for Microsoft Windows
- Calaban - Labanotation editor for Microsoft Windows
- DNB Correspondence Course
- DNB Movement Observation and Motif Notation Course
- DNB Notated Theatrical Dances Catalog
- DNB Theory Bulletin Board - DNB Theory Bulletin Board is a forum for exchanging ideas about Labanotation and Motif Notation
- International Council of Kinetography Laban
- Introduction to Labanotation
- Laban Lab (learn the basics of Labanotation)
- LabanTalk Listserv (Subscribe to the Laban Talk listserv to communicate with the Labanotation and Kinetography Laban community)
- LabanWriter - Labanotation editor for Apple computer
- Language of Dance - Adaptation of Motif Description
- LED and LINTEL - a Windows and X11 mini-editor and interpreter for Labanotation
- Motif Description
- Motif Notation