Exactly one year has passed since my fanciful time travel presentation at Motus Humanus. One year to let thoughts that were emboldened by not being obliged to result in anything but momentary entertainment actually take root and start seeking the light.

I just re-read the transcript of that talk and still stand by what I said — the conceptual and practical developments that could make a difference in the presence and reputation of Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) in the world.

So where are we now? What progress has been made? “Take action. Don’t wait for consensus,” I was told over and over again by various LMA colleagues after that talk. If anything, I would wish to help concretize a process for making change, so that at the very least, we would not be able to say that we were held back by lack of knowledge of *how* to move forward or lack of collaborative tools for doing so.

Here are a few of the digital developments of this past year:

  • The Dance Notation Bureau launched its Motif Notation Online Course, coordinated by Charlotte Wile.
  • Reed College released a beta version of its iPad-based KineScribe Motif writer. An excellent beginning, with a ways still to go.
  • Integrated Movement Studies (a.k.a. the West Coast LMA certification program) moved to an experimental one-year program, with an upcoming online component.
  • New LMA Wikipedia pages were added, instigated by Sandra Hooghwinkel and others.
  • The online, open-access “Journal of Movement Arts Literacy” was launched by Teresa Heiland and others.
  • A number of discussions on some of the most essential issues facing LMA today erupted and subsided on the mailing lists, with indeterminate resolutions.

Exciting stuff. And yet some of the fundamental issues remain, especially around standards and how they (and their variations) are documented. Once again, I challenge those of us who have the privilege of being able to explore and disseminate this system to grab hold of one piece of whatever it is that excites you about carrying it into the future, to a new generation, and run with it.

For my part, I am stepping up to take on these two pieces (and would love help)…

Standards Capture and Versioning

In my talk last year, I named two contexts in which standards needed to be established:

  • The LMA framework itself
  • Criteria for certification

At the moment, I’m most interested in the former. Specifically: how might we be able to articulate what LMA consists of?

For starters, I can think of the following categories:

  • Terms/concepts and their symbols
  • Motif grammar (and Motif-specific symbols)
  • Labanotation grammar (and Labanotation-specific symbols)
  • Space Harmony scales
  • Hands-on interventions (for those programs with a hands-on, touch-based component)

Obviously, suggesting that LMA can be reduced down to lists of individual elements is rather ridiculous, but I think it can provide a starting point for deciding what is and what isn’t part of the system, single terms being easier to start bar fights over than complex, interwoven relationships.

I would love to brainstorm how best to capture the LMA lexicon, document it, and post it publicly. As mentioned previously, I’m leaning toward version control techniques inspired by software development.

And speaking of software, this brings me to my second interest…

Standard File Format for Movement Notation

This is way under-the-hood stuff, but we need a standard, universal file format for encoding movement notations, a universal medium of exchange that would allow any notation written by any program on any device to be read by any other program on any other device that supported the file format.

Innovators could then freely create tools on whatever platform they’re drawn to, knowing that the output of their programs could be read by anyone else. A small thing, but without it, any endeavor risks dying in isolation.

I (and whoever joins me) will undoubtedly look at MusicXML and other digital formats for inspiration.

Your Invitation

There is so much more to be done, and so much room for guiding LMA down the river of these next few years. I hope you will follow your intrigue and your passion, and join me in creating a stable, sustainable, yet ever evolving place for LMA in the world.

And if my particular interests above appeal to you, please contact me directly or leave a comment. We’ll have fun! :)

P.S. Expect a new version of Moving Space for iOS to come out soon!

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8 Responses to One Year Later (and Four To Go Til 2017)

  1. wanda ottes says:

    Dear Brenton,

    Like last year I can say the same:
    ” Wow, a very cool piece, and I endorse and support it from the beginning till the end.
    I love and recognize your way of saying things (read: being critical).
    But I think it is the best way to express exactly the “defects” of this potentially universal system, now called LMA, and unfortunately still used by a small group of people.”

    I followed by saying your story there was a bit wishful thinking, and I am afraid it still is.
    But today I also think it is really time we have to make a “Blue Print” of LMA’s future, so it will not muddling in the way it does until now.
    It is time to let the world know, we have a big and great universal tool to offer.
    On the other hand, we do not even know exactly how many people in the world are using LMA and for what purpose.
    We do not even know how often LMA was borrowed (or may-be even misused) to develop other systems.
    There is too much we do not know….from each other.

    So I can finish my comment with those same words as last year:
    “We Labanistas are all still pioneers on our own, but we should be better all evangelists in one community, not in two hundred ninety eight different ones….all being king or queen on our own little island.
    Having respect for each others part in it, may it be to a greater or lesser extent, sharing and working together as much as possible, and showing the world what a BIG THING we have to offer.
    Let’s do it now!”

    Thank you so much for your words and your great heart for the LMA community.

    • Brenton says:

      Hey Wanda, what a great idea! To launch a little research project to find out who is actually using LMA. It seems true that we don’t really know for sure how many Labanistas there are, as there is no single communication channel to reach them all, although the two mailing lists come close. (Why two? And I’ll ask again, “Why not public?”) I wonder how such a project might start…? 😉

      • wanda ottes says:

        Brenton, we can at least think about or brainstorm a bit about the how!
        I remember Jeffrey-Scott Longstaff came with that same idea some time ago, but nothing came out of it.
        Lesley Bishko once proposed to use her website labanmovementanalysis at spruz.com, but that website is at this very moment off line, and possibly closed by Lesley. I guess it is, but do not know for sure, because of the fact it hardly was used by Labanistas. It was a great stage for collecting all users of LMA world wide…. I am going to ask her.
        But what is the lesson we learn from this?
        There must be a way to organize something….a kind of international organization for LMA users……

        • Leslie Bishko says:

          The Spruz site has slipped away into the ether due to …. negligence! I’m looking into what it would take to revive it.

          Today I came up against some problems with the list serve, and I’m really eager to move the community and dialogue to a different resource. The topic comes up every now and then, and we remain on Denison’s resource. I feel a social media strategy coming on for migrating our masses! But I don’t know what that could be. If feels like an Axis Scale though.


  2. Hi Brenton,

    I also ask you (and everyone) to check out the following sites, where very preliminary but promising work on LMA is being carried out:


    We have a lot of work to do, but the good news is that we have work to do! Thanks for all YOU do!

    • Brenton says:

      That is so cool, Karen! A picture being worth a thousand words (and a movement being worth at least 60 pictures a second :) ), my favorite picture is the one on this page.

  3. marilyn mclaughlin says:


    I just wrote you a very long response and then erased the whole thing because there is just way to much to say here. My frustration is huge and I do have the energy to do something about it, but I cannot do it alone and the fact of a splintered …dare I say “LMA community” has always and continues to surprise and greatly disappoint me. I can speak to all that you mention here, but would much rather take advantage of doing so voice to voice, or face to face any time, if you are ever so inclined.

    I had this conversation briefly with Janice last year when you all were starting the on line program but…..

    Anyway, I would love to have a more in depth conversation.

    Marilyn McLaughlin

  4. marilyn mclaughlin says:

    Bottom line…lots to do and happy to catch your fire here!!! Thank you!

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