I recently had the honor of presenting at the 2012 Motus Humanus Roundtable. My piece was a fanciful imagining of the state of Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) in the world in 2017, presented as a retrospective of the previous 5 years, and tackling the question of what obstacles had prevented LMA from reaching a larger audience up until 2012. It covered everything from theory, to training format, to Facebook.

Afterwards, Carol-Lynne Moore, president of Motus Humanus, said to me, “That was a juggernaut.” Reading the transcript below, you may well agree.

While my proposals were the result of many weeks of reflection on and discussion about the state of LMA in the world today, my goal was not so much to insist on a particular course of action, as to provide seeds for further discussion and to see, having laid out a number of options, in which direction the inexorable process of change would want to flow.

My outline:

  • Remembering 2012
  • LMA in 2017
    • Observable vs. subjective branches
    • Alternative lexicons
    • Notation
  • Interlude
  • What made the difference
    • Online presence
      • Branding
      • Authoritative references
      • Community
    • Training modalities
    • Standards
  • Recap
  • The Changemakers

So without further ado…


Retrospective from 2017: Technology & the Socialization of LMA

The Unstoppable WaveWhat the heck happened? These last 5 years have been a whirlwind! We always knew it was good stuff, but who could have predicted that Laban Movement Analysis would have exploded in the ways it has into so many facets of society. We’d been waiting for this renaissance for decades and then suddenly it was upon us, like a Strong Free wave, Carving and Spiraling, uniting our species in a new level of awareness.

At this point, I think it’s useful to catch our breath and take stock of what happened. It was no accident. The seeds had been planted years before, but for them to come to fruition, the right forces needed to be set in motion by a courageous few, following impulses that were a mix of common sense and extraordinary vision.

Today, June 9th, 2017, I’d like to take a look at where we were before the renaissance, where we are now, and the specific actions that made the difference, bringing Laban Movement Analysis to its tipping point, the beginning of a new era of embodiment and movement literacy. After my talk, we’ll have a Q&A period, so jot down any questions you have as we go, and bring them up at the end.

Feline A-Scale on YouTubeJust so you know, I’m not going to cover that crazy period known as the Transverse Times at all, though really, it merits its own entire presentation. I mean, YouTube videos of cats doing scales; Laban porn sites based on the Effort States and Drives… I leave these stories for another day. I’m not going to touch them.

Remembering 2012

Let’s talk about 2012.

It’s probably hard to remember what it was like back then, because so many things have changed. Embodiment was still unknown as a mainstream concept. Most people thought it was a form of demonic possession, or else some kind of plastic surgery. “Buns of steel” and “six-pack abs” were still popular concepts, and though the mainstreaming of yoga was prompting an expansion of the concept of fitness beyond simply strength and cardio, the general public still felt awkward, disconnected from their bodies, and a vague awareness that something vital was still missing.

The body lived a double life, on the one hand exalted in public media in mostly superficial ways that included pushing it to extremes for the sake of adrenaline or entertainment, and on the other hand unacknowledged for its inner richness, for the quiet authority and power it offered if you took the time to listen to it.

In the performing arts, those who should have been closest to an intimate and deep communication with their bodies were still estranged from them. Young actors still mostly thought of themselves as talking heads, with physical action only undertaken to satisfy functional theatrical needs. Training for dancers wasn’t much better. They were mostly taught to mimic idiosyncratic, but for some reason still ballet-based, styles with a minimum of real connectivity training.

What were these people *doing*?

You would have thought that Laban’s work would have been hugely known then. After all, it was and is the *only* comprehensive system in existence for describing human movement with a high degree of granularity. And in the years following World War 2, his ideas had a major influence on movement education in England. Even the great Pina Bausch — moment of silence — could directly trace her movement lineage to Rudolf Laban.

But the fact was: Laban’s ideas were still only practiced by a handful of followers, who were themselves divided into separate groups, each teaching their own version of the system. Clear and consistent standards for certification had not been established. Heck, practitioners couldn’t even agree on the names of the two main notation systems. Was it Labanotation, Structured Description, Kinetography Laban? And was the second one Motif Description? Motif Writing? Motif Notation? Language of Dance?

Actually, it gets worse: they couldn’t decide whether to call him LA-ban or La-BAN. Let’s take a poll: Be honest. Who says LA-ban, raise your hand? Who says La-BAN?

Now *if*, in your college-level dance class of 2012 — you know, the one that you taught — you *actually* had a student who had not only heard of Laban but had studied some of his ideas, I bet you 5 Euros that person was traumatized by notation. I bet they would even agree with using the word “traumatized” to describe their experience. Anyone want to bet against me? [A few hands go up.]

But now, having established that not-so-happy state of affairs, let’s take a look at Laban’s presence, or lack thereof, on the Internet.

Why the Internet? What’s so important about the Internet? Well, unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last 20 years, you know that the Internet has been one of the single most significant technological developments in the last half century. It’s become the de facto standard medium of communication between people across the world and is the single most used portal for accessing information.

However, if you look at LMA’s online presence in 2012, you could pretty accurately say that it was non-existent. If you searched for “Laban Movement Analysis” in Google, the most comprehensive (and according to some, possibly evil) search engine on the planet, you would have gotten back almost exactly half the number of results you’d have gotten by typing in “underwater basket weaving”.

What about blogs? Anyone can start a blog for free and start posting articles there. The collective number of blogs and blog posts about a topic provide a sense of how much community buzz there is around that topic. It represents a kind of social conversation. In 2012, according to some ballpark estimates, there were over 450 million blogs online, written in English, on just about every conceivable subject you could imagine. So how many of these blogs were dedicated to Laban-related activities? Let’s see… Ummm. [Counting on fingers] Three. Ouch.

Okay, forget Google. Forget Bing. Forget blogs. Ah, they’re stupid anyway. Let’s say you really, desperately wanted to learn about Laban Movement Analysis, so you turned to… Wikipedia! Whew, at last some helpful information, even a definition of LMA. But on the other hand, it was just a little surprising to find that the entire LMA system, as known by Wikipedia and apart from its notation, fit on two webpages.

Well, two was better than nothing, and it didn’t matter because in 2012 everyone was busy all the time, so you didn’t want to have to read more than two pages anyway. But now you *did* want to go jump onto Facebook and see which of your friends was talking about LMA.

You were on Facebook back then, weren’t you? Because if you weren’t, you were missing out on where a large percentage of the world was spending their time. In 2012, Facebook had more than 900 million monthly active users. If it were a country, its population would have been almost 3 times the population of the United States. Back then, on average, more than 300 million photos were uploaded to Facebook each day, which comes out to more than 200,000 photos per minute. In one study, students spent between 6 and 10 hours each week on Facebook.

You may or may not have been one of those 900 million users. You might have been a regular poster. You might have been a lurker. You might have objected to the whole concept for any number of reasons, including lack of privacy. But the fact was that a lot of people were spending a lot of time there, and information that people cared about was disseminated far more rapidly than through almost any other means of communication known previously, including email. If you wanted to reach people, you needed to go where the people were. And in 2012, more often than not, that was on Facebook or any of the other large social networks.

That said, the number of Laban-related comments, discussions, and events flying through Facebook airspace was nearly zero.

Looking back at 2012, I think you could say that the main challenge that LMA faced was that it had not positioned itself in a way to reach or foster the next generation of practitioners. It just wasn’t set up to grow. There was little effective outreach beyond the fold of people who were already body-aware. The system needed to find a way to make itself relevant.

LMA in 2017

Fast-forward 5 years. It’s a very different world.

Movement is everywhere. Well, that sounds pretty ridiculous because people were always moving before. But “movement” as a concept, something to talk about, something to start fights in bars about, has taken off. And people aren’t just talking about movement. They’re writing it. With symbols. A report released this year indicates that movement literacy, for the first time, has been achieved in a majority of the world’s population.

We have movement teachers, movement counselors, movement tutors. The standard movement education curriculum now begins with birth and goes all the way through high school. In fact, three of the High Council on the Mars colony went through this exact training.

With the establishment of movement training prerequisites in all major career fields, LMA consultants are highly sought after. Of course, for liability reasons, they are required to be certified, so needless to say, enrollment in cert programs is high. In the States, insurance companies have been some of the most persuasive advocates for widespread movement training. People who move well in their bodies live longer and have fewer accidents.

These companies also funded the invention of zip-on motion capture suits, which have become a standard diagnostic in every household. Family members routinely profile their movements while doing daily tasks to make sure they are moving optimally, and the attached feedback device provides suggestions for making improvements in the form of short Motifs. With heightened awareness of how we all move, a handful of independent designers have created custom lines of clothing, tailored to different movement signatures.

In 2015, Time Magazine named Laban Movement Analysis “System of the Year”, and President DeGeneres declared last year to be the “year of the high-resolution embodied life”.

Meanwhile, the growth of LMA’s presence online has been just as explosive. There are now 235 active blogs dedicated to LMA with thousands of followers. Granted, half of them are sensationalist garbage, and another fourth have no practical value whatsoever. But you have to take the chaff with the wheat, and the remaining blogs consistently post high quality content.

YouTube videos are now accompanied by Motifs of whatever movement appears in the video. Inspired by Pandora, the Movement Genome Project was launched late last year, as a free online tool to help users choose which recreational movement activities they should do, based on their movement tendencies.

The LMA Wikipedia pages have been expanded into a complete chapter of several hundred pages, curated by several moderators. It contains links to the Global Movement Inventory, an enormous collection of video examples of every single and combination cluster of LMA qualities. People regularly submit new samples, which are then categorized by observation committees in weekly Skype conferences. The maintainers of this inventory are right now in discussion with the Lomax Project to migrate over their videos as well.

Clearly, the world has embraced its moving self. And LMA along with it. But what about the system itself? How has it changed? I’ll mention three highlights.

Objective vs. Subjective Branches

As we all know, the biggest theoretical development in recent years has been the division of LMA concepts into two families: Observable and Subjective. Rudolf Laban set out to create a framework for describing movement that would be as objective as possible. His goal was to create a system that would bring the clarity of scientific discernment to the ephemeral phenomenon of movement and allow for inter-observer reliability. For the most part, Laban Movement Analysis, as it was known in 2012, had achieved this goal, and its concepts fell into what we now call the Observable qualities.

We have since acknowledged that the experience of movement contains a subjective component, known only to the mover yet equally powerful and influencing of the movement. This component benefits just as much from a clear and precise vocabulary of description.

For example, when I initiate a Spreading, Scattering motion to Right Side Low with Diminished Bound Flow and Lightness, I also want a way to articulate that I’m responding to an action image — that of scattering my father’s ashes — and an expanded sense of identity — that of feeling my connection to the generations that have gone before me. These internal foci profoundly affect my experience of the movement, though they might be invisible to you. Up until the addition of the Subjective qualities, Laban Movement Analysis gave me no way to language these experiences.

And so, the Subjective vocabulary of description has been developed. Within it, we now recognize new terms: Attention, its quality and location; Impulse Origin, based on Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences; Identisphere, the size of one’s perceived identity; Sensorisphere, the reach of one’s perceived sensation; and all the rest. Provisions have also been made for re-classifying Subjective qualities as Observable, as our perceptual abilities continue to evolve.

Alternative Lexicons

The second development I want to highlight is the proliferation of alternative lexicons, different words for the same concepts. It was a group of skateboarders in Portland, Oregon, who started the movement. They had been some of the first to jump on the movement literacy bandwagon, mostly due to Thrasher magazine starting to publish Motifs of all its front-cover skateboard moves and creating a free LMA training online targeted at skateboarders. This group in Portland felt that a number of the standard Laban terms weren’t cool enough for the street. They replaced a number of terms, mostly Efforts, with their own, so now instead of a move being Quick, Strong, Diminished Bound, it’s Flash, Grind, Chicken. They also made up new terms that represented common LMA clusters that occur in skateboard moves. Most importantly, they published what they’d done in a series of blog posts that went viral on Facebook, bringing them to the mainstream.

The rest is history. Once people saw they could tweak the terms, different groups came up with alternative lexicons to fit their needs. As Karen [Scherwood] mentioned [in her talk], the golfers use “rhythm” instead of “phrasing”. Obviously, this has made it challenging to find common ground for discussions among the different groups. On the other hand, tailoring the words has allowed these groups to identify more closely with the LMA concepts, and the result has been the spread of LMA into unexpected new demographics. Time will tell whether things become too fragmented, and we need to re-establish some common ground.


The last significant development to LMA I’d like to mention involves notation.

Movement literacy is now a universally recognized necessity. When I say “literacy”, I’m really talking about two aspects: knowing the conceptual building blocks of movement and being able to write them down. We’ve arrived at the point now where every single concept has a symbol, allowing us to express any LMA idea completely using notation. This is very cool. Why? Because symbols are cool. And powerful.

People everywhere are using movement notation. Choreographers are using it to quickly jot down movement phrases that arise in the creative process and to give movement assignments for the generation of new material. Therapists use notation to catch and record recurring movement patterns in clients. Computer animators use notation in their discussions of animation tools and technologies. Politicians use notation in the margins of their speeches to craft more precise somaticoverbal messages to their listeners.

Notation is everywhere, but one aspect of notation that’s changed is that it’s no longer used to archive dances for reconstruction. At least, not in the way it was done before. To talk about how archiving is done now, we need to first look at the differences between Motif Notation and Labanotation, as they existed in 2012.

Labanotation was created to capture every action of every body part in a movement, a snapshot of the totality. Which made sense, given that one of the goals of Labanotation was to be able to reproduce the movement exactly at a later time.

Motif Notation, on the other hand, was designed to record just the movement highlights, the key events, as interpreted by the notator. Used descriptively, it represented a prioritization of perception. You chose to include some things but not others. Used prescriptively, as a way to dictate the movement that one was supposed to do, it represented a prioritization of intention. Whereas Labanotation indiscriminately recorded everything, Motif Notation told you what to focus on.

Now let’s look at what’s needed for movement archiving, say, for later reconstruction.

As a baseline, we know we need to capture what all the body parts are doing. Pretty obvious, right?

But is that the end of the story? If I told you, a contemporary dancer, that for a given movement phrase, you needed to move your right arm over here with this Effort quality, and your leg over here with this Effort quality… in other words, if I gave you a complete physical description of the movement, would you feel that you could truly inhabit the dance, living it in the same way that its original performer did?

Of course not. To recreate the full experience of movement, you also need to capture the mover’s intention, perhaps a focus on a *particular* body part, or maybe an image, or a feeling.

Clearly, both of these are important: the pure physical description of what the body parts are doing, and the mover’s intention (and attention).

Labanotation used to be the only technology we had to record the former. In conjunction with an expensive, highly trained notator, of course. But now, with advanced video capturing ability built into our very telephones, there simply isn’t any need for using notation to capture the complete inventory of movement events. Three takes with a video camera from different angles, and you’re done, you’re outta there! And you no longer need a notator on the other end either, to go and translate the captured data back into physical movements. You just play the video.

So, for purposes of capturing the purely physical phenomenon of movement, the writing was on the wall, so to speak — notation was no longer needed and no longer practical.

But what about the second aspect of archiving movement — recording the mover’s intention? Here, notation is the *perfect* tool for the job! And guess which notation? Motif Notation. Once the overall movement picture is captured with video, the mover’s intention can be specified using Motif Notation, whose whole reason for existence is to expresses the mover’s focus. And now that Motif has been supplemented with the symbols and grammar of the Subjective branch of LMA, one can easily use Motif to express more poetic, emotional, and even spiritual impulses for movement.

For purposes of archiving movement, we now have a powerful duo: video and Motif Notation, letting each technology do what it does best. And now with holographic video cameras dropping in price, affordable 3D movement capture is just around the corner.

So is Labanotation dead? Not quite. With its main use case gone — that of indiscriminate recording of all movement — it could have vanished. However, a number of people preferred the practical aesthetic of its staff, whose equivalent in Motif would have been required inordinate numbers of body part symbols. So what they did was to prepend the Labanotation staff with the sign for “any body part involvement”, indicating that only key movements would be shown on the staff, not all movements by all body parts. This effectively allowed them to write Motifs on a Labanotation staff. Nice! This looser Labanotation continues to survive, especially among a small sect of Rosicrucian notators living on Vashon Island off the coast of Washington state.

All right. We’ve talked about the current state of the world, on and offline, and noted how LMA itself has evolved, highlighting the *addition* of the Subjective qualities, the development of alternative lexicons, and the rise of video and Motif for archiving.

When you look at where we started in 2012, the gulf between there and here seems enormous. But we all know that the greatest of changes starts with single steps by motivated individuals. Next we’re going to talk about what I feel are the key factors that set the ball rolling in the years following 2012.


Playing "Flash Obz"

Playing “Flash Obz”

But first, let’s take a moment of Recuperation. I’d thought we could do a few rounds of one of today’s favorite pastimes among the movement literati. You know what I’m talking about, right? Based on the old-school flash mobs, it’s… “Flash Obz”! (“Obz” for “observation”.) Take out your cellphone.

[Next, we watch a YouTube video, and people are given the question: “What LMA words would you use to describe the mover?” They text their answers to a particular phone number, and the words they’ve sent appear in real time on the video screen, courtesy of PollsEverywhere.com. Then, in a separate poll, they answer the following question: “Give an example of movement using Indirect Space Effort”. Their answers to this question are fascinating and will appear in a future blog post.]

What Made the Difference

All right. Welcome back. We talked about 2012. And we discussed where we are now, halfway through 2017. What are some of the key factors that pushed movement literacy and Laban Movement Analysis into the limelight?

Online Presence, Training Modalities, Standards

We’re going to talk about three areas: online presence, training modalities, and standards.

Online Presence

“Online presence” can be thought of as the sum total of all the ways that LMA is seen on the Internet, whether on dedicated websites, mentioned in blog posts, listed in Wikipedia, or Twittered, Facebook Liked, StumbledUpon, Pinned, or Google Plussed.


For our first stop in the discussion of LMA’s online presence, let’s talk about branding. Often reviled by non-marketing people as a foul-tasting word, associated with manipulation and corporate greed, “branding” is simply your online identity, the thing that sets you apart and makes you unique. It’s how you are seen. Everyone portrays themselves in some way. Everyone is seen in some way, whether they like it or not. Go Google yourself and click into the links that pop up. The sum total is how the Internet-browsing world sees you. Are you happy with it? Does it represent you? Have you represented yourself well?

Back in 2012 Laban Movement Analysis had no clear online identity. If you searched for the meanings of terms there were very few references. It was not only unclear what exactly the system was, but also who would want to use it. Part of the problem was that certification programs were still being marketed very generically, trying to appeal to everyone, with the result that only those who were already in the somatic fold were stepping up to enroll.

A new team of graphic designers was hired to revamp LMA’s image, and position it as a contemporary and sophisticated framework. New marketing materials and new websites were created, targeting very specific populations — movement therapists, yoga practitioners, leaders of the change sector, business executives. Each was geared to serve its population best. And the efforts paid off. Interest in the system began to swell and has since hit the ceiling.

Even though different sites portray LMA in different ways, the brand as a whole has become sophisticated. And cool.

Authoritative References

In addition to cleaning up and modernizing its image, LMA also needed a set of online references people could turn to when they wanted more information. The building out of the Wikipedia pages was a perfectly fine start and gave people a relatively trustworthy place to go.

Soon after, other sites sprang up, offering their own definitions of the terms or focusing on aspects of the system less developed on Wikipedia. Or even disagreeing with the Wikipedia references. And this was really just fine. The wealth of viewpoints only increased the amount and depth of online dialogue.


Which brings me to a final aspect of online presence — community.

To foster an online community meant that LMA practitioners had to develop new habits and be willing to reveal more of themselves online.

The various LMA discussions that had previously been taking place on closed mailing lists needed to be opened up to the public and indexable by search engines.

LMA practitioners had to learn how to blog about their observations and curiosities, not as something extra or forced, but as a normal part of their process of exploring and researching LMA. It was a way of routinely logging their insights and experiences. Once people accepted the inherent vulnerability in posting their observations, they found a kind of delight in the fact that nothing they did was wasted. Who knew who would experience an “a-ha” moment when reading their words? In a sense, this community of content generators represented a kind of continually evolving collective knowledge base, documenting its progress along the way in the permanent archives of the Internet.

This new community of Labanistas blogged regularly, created interest groups in Facebook, built tools and apps using newly standardized file formats for representing notation, and through their active, vivacious, fun, insatiable, curious, inquisitive presence online, demonstrated that LMA had social relevance and longevity.

Let’s now look at how people get trained in the system.

Training Modalities

This was the second fundamental shift that helped usher in the Laban renaissance.

Faced with overall declining enrollments and struggling with how to communicate the value of this system to a larger audience, the organizers of the various certification programs asked themselves if perhaps a fundamental opportunity was being missed. One of the great difficulties in marketing the system to the general public stemmed from an inherent strength in the system itself — it was applicable to everyone. But “everyone”, as a demographic, is impossible to reach. In order to grab the hearts and minds of a new generation of practitioners, they needed to limit, not expand, their target population, and what they did next was to reshape how the system itself was being taught.

Recognizing that not everyone was interested in all parts of the system, they took the full two-year certification program and broke it down into the structure we know today: a Core Module, consisting of basic connectivity and movement literacy; and Extensions, which are application-specific modules tailored to the needs of specific practitioners.

In the certification trainings, the Core Module is a two-week, full-time training that everyone takes. It’s the common baseline. And we have sports coaches, dancers, business executives, musicians, process workers… all in the same room, learning the same stuff. Many people report back that this community-building aspect is one of their favorite parts about the core training.

Then we have the Extensions. This is where the depth happens. It’s where practitioners dive into the specific theory and applications of their particular disciplines. Choreographers learn about movement generation, composition, and group dynamics from a Laban perspective. Business executives learn about team building, leadership, and Movement Pattern Analysis, and can opt for a full MPA certification.

The credential one receives specifies the particular extension studied. Just last week, my sister received her CLMA with the Aquatic Sports Extension, and she’s now headed to the Talking Dolphin project in Belize.

By offering Extensions as add-ons to the Core Module, outreach has become a lot easier, as each Extension program can be marketed very specifically, rather than as a one-size-fits-all training. Also, the conciseness of the Core Module allows it to be offered as an in-service, which is now required in many businesses, schools, and hospitals.


As the Laban renaissance was beginning and the number of opportunities for people to study LMA increased, the question of certification standards arose, and this is part of the third fundamental area that needed to evolve in order for the renaissance to come into full blossom.

When we talk about standards, we mean establishing consistent expectations in two areas: the conceptual framework of the LMA system itself, and the criteria for attaining certification.

But why standardize in the first place? There was a desire by many in the LMA community to present a more coherent and consistent body of work to the world. There had always been certain discrepancies of language and of theory in the various training programs, and these had always co-existed relatively peacefully.

But now, with the socialization of LMA and greater critical inspection by the general public, it was felt that coming together and resolving the differences among the different branches of the system would lead to greater trust in the system and greater adoption, since people would know that the knowledge they gained in any one program could be used anywhere.

The challenge was that the system was continually evolving, and different people liked different versions of the system. Whether because they had been taught a particular version in the past, or because they felt a specific version was closer to Laban’s original intention, or because they simply disagreed with particular changes, the age-old debate between preservation and evolution came to the forefront.

Like any artist, Laban himself had never rested on what he had already done. He was always exploring, re-considering, innovating. But if change was inevitable, how to track what had gone before? How to preserve the state of things and also allow them to develop?

The answer, it turns out, came from the world of software development, where exactly these questions had been pondered and addressed. In software, you have a bunch of programming code which changes over time, and it is vitally important to be able to track exactly what was changed at each step of the way. Sometimes you need to refer to the state of the code at an earlier time. Sometimes a change to the code will break things, and you need to revert back to an earlier version.

In response to these needs, a methodology was developed that allows one to archive the state of the code at any given moment, like taking a snapshot, while allowing development to continue, secure in the knowledge that one can always revisit previous versions.

This is exactly how the Internet standards committee, the W3C, establishes and maintains standards of communication on the Internet. It meets regularly and every now and then publishes new standards, using a new version number.

In 2012, Laban Movement Analysis had none of this. Developments to the system were made occasionally, sometimes in committee, sometimes by individuals, without a formal process of agreeing on changes and without a way to track the system’s evolution. As a result, changes were haphazard and hesitant.

Finally, however, a group of excited volunteers came together in a series of Skype conferences and founded the LSD Consortium, whose initials stood for “Laban Standards Development”. For the first time, a core lexicon, symbols, and grammar, were agreed upon. This was the LMA 1.0 standard, and they published it online in the 6 languages of the United Nations.

Practitioners were invited to use this standard as a basis for their own explorations. At the same time, provision was made for splinter groups to name and even publish their own modifications of the base standard. In the software world, these are called forks. While forks were discouraged due to the possible fragmentation they might cause — everyone doing their own thing — it was acknowledged that full consensus on the standard might not be possible, and so rather than shutting out dissenters, they were given space to formally express their differences.

It turns out that this was a good idea. The whole idea of the Subjective branch of LMA started out as a fork developed by the Moscow Laban community, which was later accepted and incorporated back into the main LMA standard.

Meanwhile, certification standards received the same treatment. A different group was established for this: the SPCA, or “Standard Practices Certification Authority”. As you might imagine, they work very closely and very regularly with LSD, and it’s their job to determine the content of the Core Module and oversee the Extensions. The SPCA hears from the various sub-committees which represent each Extension, and like the standards established by LSD, their recommendations are also maintained in the form of version-controlled, publicly available documentation.

Establishing standards for the conceptual framework of LMA and for its teaching had a profound effect on how LMA was portrayed to the world. It provided solid ground for both educators and practitioners to stand on, and by incorporating best practices from the world of software development, it gave a way to honor and refer to past incarnations of the work, while allowing for LMA’s continued evolution.


So, we’ve talked about the barren landscape of 2012. We’ve surveyed some of the highlights of what we enjoy today in 2017. Let’s remind ourselves of the 3 main areas in which the Labanistas of 2012 took action to carry the system forward to a new generation.

Online presence: LMA needed to change its image, it needed authoritative online references, and its practitioners needed to go from being online content consumers to content generators. They had to learn to blog regularly, to get active in Facebook and other social networks, and to build the on- and off-line tools that would make LMA useful and fun.

Training modalities: LMA needed to recognize that “one-size-fits-all” usually fits no one, and by re-organizing trainings into a Core Module plus Extensions, it was able to better meet the needs of casual and professional movement aficionados.

Standards: LMA needed to find the common ground among its practitioners, establishing a consistent body of work and pedagogy, and using version control as a tool for evolution.

The Changemakers

The Changemakers Revealed

(Snapped secretly before the presentation)

So, there’s one more little detail. You’ll notice that in order to protect the innocent, I haven’t spoken the names of the instigators of the Laban renaissance.

You know who you are out there. I imagine that you’re secretly harboring the satisfaction of what you created. It was you, wasn’t it, who felt something was missing, something was getting in the way of the world seeing the full power and glory of Laban Movement Analysis. You knew you could be the evangelist of something that would change the world forever. Well, I salute you. We owe the golden age of Laban Movement Analysis to your insight and courage.

Before I open the space up to questions, I’d like to acknowledge Peggy Hackney and Lisa Wymore, for being my sounding board as I was preparing; Barry Blumenfeld, for sharing his work with LoD and kids; and Terese, Teo, and Tessa, whom I abandoned for 4 days to come here.

My contact info is on the screen, if you want to reach me.

Thank you.

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3 Responses to Retrospective from 2017: Technology & the Socialization of LMA

  1. wanda ottes says:

    Dear Brenton,

    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 he “defects” of this potentially universal system, now called LMA, and unfortunately still used by a small group of people.
    Your story here is a bit wishful thinking, but at the same time it could be the “Blue Print” of LMA’s future.
    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.


  2. Lynne Bauer says:

    As I read this my first true thought was…guess I am not the only one who gets frustrated that LMA is not known in the general public and that not enough “groups” share their knowledge frequently to discuss ways to present this important body of work.
    Weekly I receive mail from participants in the ADTA and hear of their workshops,and correspondence between their members. It is nonstop but not in the LMA community. Although I would like to use LMA as an individual modality I have decided to
    use it under the auspices of yoga as it is more commonly known.
    YES would like to be part of a regular group that can augment the growth of LMA….why not set up semi-annual meetups and foster some excitement to apply LMA to the areas that yoga is presenting to the public such as: LMA for golfers, LMA for arthritis, LMA for back problems, LMA for musicians, etc.
    I’m open if others are willing…just takes a small step to get started.

  3. Rena Milgrom says:

    Thank you Brenton for your wonderfull work. I feel the same as many others in this community. I am on the island of Czech Republic, the only one here with LMA and decided I have to put it out to the public. I have managed to organize a programm of LMA for non/dancers and just call it Consciouss Body. If I call it simply LMA, nobody will be interested. Amazingly, more and more people are looking exactly for this kind of material and now it only depends, how we call it. Every year people hear and respond to a different word expression, depending on what they hear in the esoteric, exoteric or scientific world. This is perhaps, why we are only the little kings in our small communities and only we know, that we belong to our worldwide LMA community. I wish I would have better idea than just call it your own way but never forget the LMA/BF to follow underline, so that people see it and remember it. In any case, I would like to part of the community, participate and share.

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