|TH 2400 - 01
Movement for the Actor I
LABAN and KINESICS
"Form and Feeling"
|Fall Semester 2012
Instructor: Bruce Cromer Herbst Theatre CA, MW 10-11:50
Office and Office Hours: T148K, MWTH 12-1 (other times by appointment)
“Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of
nature. For anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to
hold, as’twere, the mirror up to nature...” HAMLET, Act III, Scene ii.
Course Objectives: To aid the young actor in character work by learning Body Language (kinesics) and modified
Laban movement analysis; these techniques will be applied to the physical study and imitation of classmates (and
monologues). Students will thereby have their own gestures and postures defined by each other. Ideally, this course
will enable students to use or omit their personal mannerisms more consciously in their acting, and give them a broader
repertoire of physicalizations for their character transformations. Work will be connected to Robert Cohen’s ACTING
POWER theories regarding Tactics and Obstacles. This course lays the groundwork for period style classes in the
Junior and Senior years of the PATP; the instructor intends the course to aid Sophomores in their Character class.
Tentative Course Outline:
Week One (August 27, 29) Laban Energies
Week Two (September 5) Laban Energies
Week Three (September 10, 12) Cohen Tactics (Reading from ACTING POWER)
Week Four (September 17, 19) Cohen Tactics (Reading from ACTING POWER)
Week Five (September 24, 26) Eyes, Faces, Touches, Gestures
(Reading from IDIOT’S GUIDE: pgs. 1 through 90)
Week Six (October 1, 3) Positions, Space and Time, Postures of Power, Deception
(Reading from IDIOT’S GUIDE: pgs. 91 through 102, 113 through 152)
Week Seven (October 8, 10) Emotions
(Reading from IDIOT’S GUIDE: pgs. 153 through 166)
Week Eight (October 15, 17) Closeness, Courtship, Signals
(Reading from IDIOT’S GUIDE: pgs. 190 through 225)
Week Nine (October 22, 24) Gendered Gestures and Codes of Culture
(Reading from IDIOT’S GUIDE: pgs. 305 through 329)
Week Ten (October 29, 31) Physicalizing Songs
Week Eleven (November 5, 7) Monologue or Song
Week Twelve (November 14) Monologue or Song
Week Thirteen (November 19) Scenes
Week Fourteen (November 26, 28) Scenes
Week Fifteen (December 3, 5) Scenes
Professional Skills (Attendance and Attitude) - There are 27 classes this semester; missing 20% (6 classes) will
earn you an F for the course. Two lates constitute one absence. There are no excused absences for this course!
You are expected to come to all sessions punctually, prepared, with assignments completed, ready to work and discuss.
Discussions are informal but don’t chat when others are trying to work or share their thoughts. Sweats or tights with soft-
soled shoes are required. No food is allowed in the studio, but you may have a water bottle. Keep all personality
conflicts outside the space, please. No active cellphones, computers, etc. are allowed in the studio; be sure they are
turned off before each session begins.
Movement Sheets - Written assignments will be due at the end of each Wednesday class session, regarding either
reading, class exercises, or “field study” topics about classmates. These will be graded on their thoroughness (two full
8 ½ x 11 pages), authenticity, and application of class content.
Impersonations (Field Studies) and Monologues - During the semester, you will observe and record the kinesics
and Laban observations of two classmates. In the final weeks of the course, you will perform a physical impersonation
of them. Costumes and props will be allowed for these improvised demonstrations of what you’ve learned about
duplicating their mannerisms. You will be subjectively graded by the instructor on the authenticity and thoroughness of
You will also apply Laban and Body Language choices to a one-minute monologue or song, and a scene.
Required Texts (in bookstore):
COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO BODY LANGUAGE, by Peter Andersen.
ACTING POWER, by Robert Cohen. (You may already have this book from prior classes.)
Recommended Texts (some in bookstore):
PEOPLE WATCHING, by Desmond Morris.
ACTIONS, AN ACTOR'S THESAURUS, by Marina Calderone and Maggie Lloyd-Williams.
JUGGLING FOR THE COMPLETE KLUTZ, by Cassidy.
FIELD GUIDE TO GESTURES, by Nancy Armstrong and Melissa Wagner.
GESTURES, by Roger E. Axtel.
A PRACTICAL HANDBOOK FOR THE ACTOR, by Bruder, Cohn, etc.
|TH 241 - BODY LANGUAGE
Excerpt from BODYMIND, by Ken Dychtwald - What do your eyes reveal about your inner feelings, your passions, your fears? In
what way are your eyes truly "windows to your soul"? To illustrate some of the ways in which the eyes reflect the inner person, I will
describe several different types of eyes and share with you what I believe they indicate.
Large rounded eyes frequently reflect a warm, loving personality. This basic type of eye structure projects a caring attitude, as
though the person were softly reaching out with his eyes to make honest and loving contact. Large, rounded eyes usually make
other people feel comfortable in their presence.
Bulging eyes, on the other hand, indicate a nervous, penetrating way of being in the world. Such a person will, in a sense, be
forcefully reaching out with his eyes and will often make other people uncomfortable and anxious in his presence. As a result, the
eyes will usually discourage rather than attract warm feelings from other people.
Eyes that are deeply set within the eyes sockets often indicate a lifetime of withheld expressions and withdrawn sadness. It is as
though, in an attempt to guard and protect himself, this person has tried to pull his eyes and their seeing powers inward to this core.
Deep-set eyes also frequently indicate that the person spends a large amount of time critically observing the actions and activities
of others. From their receded position, the eyes seem to methodically absorb information like the lens of a camera.
I have worked with people who have what I call "Baby eyes". These eyes are characterized by a wide-open, pleading quality and
often belong to people who were Mamma's little boys or Daddy's little girls. Baby eyes are doubly expressive. First, they show that
the person has not allowed the ocular segment of his face to mature and develop fully. Second, baby eyes usually turn out to be
extremely seductive and manipulative. This individual uses his soft and sensual eyes to hold you while he attempts to draw you
closer to him. I am not saying that these attributes or activities are necessarily negative or harmful; rather, they seem to be related
to a slightly immature way of seeing and being seen in the world.
There seems to be some correspondence between the hardness or softness of a person's eyes and his interpersonal relationships.
In general, the individual with hard, tense eyes sees the world in terms of how he might control it. These eyes are overly aggressive
and assertive and seem to reach other and grab whatever they are focusing on. On the other hand, eyes that appear soft reflect a
passive, receptive way of seeing the world. The soft-eyed person will tend to be easygoing and relaxed, perhaps slightly less able or
will to control the activities of his own life than is his hard-eyed counterpart.
Field Study Questions: 1) What is the shape of your field studies' eyes? How does this reflect their personality? Do they fit
Dychtwald's analysis? Are they nearsighted or farsighted? Dycthwald says that myopic people (nearsighted) "tend to have
difficulty projecting themselves outward. Their interpersonal vision is comfortably focused more on near than on far activities.
These people are often inwardly focused or shy and will tend to be highly rational and introspective." In regards to farsighted
people, Dychtwald says, "hyperopia often corresponds to an inability to perceive activities that occur up close. As a result, the
farsighted person will find more psychosomatic comfort in involving himself with activities that keep his attention focused away
from himself and looking outward. He will tend to be extroverted and outgoing and probably not very introspective.. Whereas the
nearsighted person withdraws into himself for safety, the farsighted person extends himself into activities and relationship and
future-oriented thinking as a way to avoid having to engage and develop his inner self."
2) Of the five types of gazes discussed in class from Pease's SIGNALS, the Business Gaze, the Social Gaze, the Intimate Gaze,
Over-the-Shoulder-with-Raised-Eyebrows-and-Smile, Over-the-Shoulder-with-Frowning-Brows-and-Mouth, which do you see your
field studies using and under what conditions do they use them? Do your subjects ever use the Eye-Block, with half or fully-lidded
3) Are your field study subjects aware of how they correctly or incorrectly signal "turn-taking" when they're in conversations or in
classes? Do they talk when someone else is talking, or do they listen (perhaps with eyes averted from the speaker), then look to the
speaker when they take over the conversation? Do they then look away only to look back when they "surrender the floor"? Do they
sometimes have problems with interpersonal interactions because they don't follow this basic human signal pattern?
4) Do your subjects hold their gaze on particular people for a longer amount of time than others? What are the circumstances when
you observe this?
5) What is the gaze behavior (type of gazes and duration of them) of your subjects when they are acting? Does it change
significantly from their personal life?
6) Were you ever close enough to observe your subjects' pupil dilation and contraction? Under what circumstances did you observe
this phenomenon and what occurred?
|From THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO
Types of Gestures ---
Threat (I Win, You Lose)
Hidden Arsenal (Implying A)
Induction (I Win, You Win)
|Biography of Rudolf Laban
Rudolf Laban (1879-1958) was the son of a high ranking military figure in
the Austro-Hungarian empire. He spent much of his time in Bosnia and
Herzigovina, in the towns of Sarajevo and Mostar as well as the court
circle in Vienna and the theatre life of Bratislava. He was educated in
both western and eastern cultures.
Rejecting the military career planned for him, he became an artist.
Through his studies of architecture at the Ècoles des Beaux Arts in Paris
he observed the moving body and its spaces.
Aged thirty, he moved to Munich, the art centre of Germany. There he
focused on revolutionising the movement arts, spending the summer
months at his Arts School on Monte Verita.
In 1919 his major career in Germany began. Rudolf Laban ran a dance
theatre company, a chamber dance theatre company and opened a
main school, a movement choir for amateurs, wrote articles and books,
performed, and created dance works.
Over the next ten years he created 25 Laban schools and choirs for the
education of children, amateurs including men, and professional
dancers in Latvia, Zagreb, Paris and Germany, always retaining a
'movement laboratory' for his own research.
In 1927, he moved to Berlin, opening the Choreographisches Institut. By
1929, his 50th birthday celebrations show that he was at the height of an
influential career, not only as a leader of the Ausdrucktanz movement,
but as a recognised intellectual in the field of dance theatre and
He was appointed director of movement and choreographer to the
Prussian State Theatres in Berlin in 1930. In 1934, in a Nazi Germany, he
was appointed director of the Deutsche Tanzbühne. Falling foul of
Nazism in 1936 while at the height of his career, his name and work was
destroyed by the Government Propaganda Ministry. Many of his
followers emigrated, especially to the United States, and in 1938 he took
refuge in Britain.
At the age of sixty, supported by Lisa Ullmann, he started a new phase
in his career. He worked in industry, introducing work study methods to
increase production through humane means, and greatly influenced the
movement education culture in Britain opening, through Lisa Ullmann,
The Art of Movement Studio in Manchester in 1946.
In 1953 the studios moved to a donated country estate in Addlestone. In
his last years he concentrated on movement as behaviour, studying the
behavioural needs of industrial workers and psychiatric patients. This
enabled him to lay the technical basis for what is now the profession of
movement and dance therapy, and a basis for the expressive
movement training of actors.
He died in his late seventies in 1958. But his work lives on in astounding
abundance. Many people are unaware that what they do is influenced
by the vision, energy and creative boldness of Laban.
Rudolf Laban was in poor health most of his life suffering from what we
would now call spasmodic manic depression, which appeared during
and after excessive creative endeavour and after what he perceived as
rejection of his ideas. He was poor throughout his career, and never
owned a home or possessions beyond his working papers. He married
twice and fathered nine children, although his family life ceased when
his career took off in 1919. He developed and relied on a series of
apprentices to follow through his ideas, Mary Wigman being the first,
Marion North being the last.
Rudolf Laban's ideas were influenced by the social and cultural changes
of the time and the contexts that he worked in. The traditional
constraints against showing feeling were beign questioned, opening the
way for a freeing of the feeling body.
Rudolf Laban believed the best way to advocate this freedom was by
mirroring it in dance and the movement arts. Freud’s discovery of the
psyche, opened a previously closed door and the body’s sexuality need
no longer be hidden. The movement arts were thought to be a great
medium to express this new freedom, by men and women dancing
barefoot and in little clothing.
In Paris and Munich (1900 - 1914) Rudolf Laban acquired his spiritual
attitude and unique value regardless of gender, social status or
educational standing. He interpreted this as valuing individuals own
choice of movement , and self initiated vocabularies.
Rudolf Laban witnessed the response to cultural changes by visual
artists such as Klimt, Kockoshka, Shiele, Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso and
He asked himself what was the equivalent of the visual arts revolution
for the movement arts? He abandoned the constraints of traditional
steps, the reliance on music to inspire and structure dance, the need to
mime a story to reveal a body, freed to find its own rhythms, create its
own steps and revel in the medium of space.
His search for the basic vocabulary of expressive movement identified
the basic factors of movement flow, with weight, embodying time and
Rudolf Laban wrote articles and books and formed dance choirs of
young male and female performers in his endeavour to introduce a
contemporary mass dance culture for urban populations. He created
dance works of a celebratory and participatory nature which often dealt
in abstract terms with a social and spiritual agenda to educate socially
The First World War put an end to social positioning and this was
reflected in theatre art by discarding the traditional positioning of
actors. He removed the hierarchical system of ballet companies and
replaced it with the democratic ensemble.
Rudolf Laban created and toured works for his large and impoverished
company. His works explored social themes just as his drama
counterparts did (e.g. Brecht), as constructivist visual artists did (e.g.
Malevitch) and as caricaturists did (e.g. Grosz).
Rudolf Laban and his pupil Kurt Jooss made dance into a social force,
creating political anti-war ballets and anti-poverty ballets in the 1930's.
Dance in Opera
The public were confounded, either elated by the rule breaking defiance
of a dance that showed 'freed, enlarged, strengthened dancing' or
infuriated at the defiance of tradition. Critics were either rapturously
pro or aggressively anti, and Opera dance could never be the same
Rudolf Laban fundamentally excelled as an experimenter with
choreographic processes and was not a successful choreographer of
products. He needed others to polish his works once he had completed
the first experiments
What sets Laban apart from other early dance pioneers in this century?
He was both a creative artist and a creative theorist at home, in the
studio and the laboratory, equally able to express himself through
movement and writing.
His legacy is not in outstanding theatre works of dance but in studio
practices and theoretical methods driven by movement practice.
Rudolf Laban's passion was to establish dance as an art of equal
standing to its sister arts, a place it had never held. It had to establish a
medium through its own literacy, hence in his burning desire to find a
notation for dance. Without literacy dance would never be taken
seriously by the cultural elite.
Rudolf Laban spent twenty years understanding movement sufficiently
to create signs on paper that could represent body parts moving in
space and time dynamically. Today, as Labanotation, his system caters
for the needs of the modern dance world. Just as musical notation has
to adapt to the changing needs of composers. So Labanotation has to
grow to cope with modern needs and technologies.
What aspects of his work still provide a basis for development in the
The multi-faceted and continually developing nature of Laban’s output
forms both a challenge and a difficulty for students of his work. No-one
can encompass it all.
Major dance training courses offer Laban work on their curriculum, but
these are not necessarily his prime legacy. He maintained that he had
no method and had no wish to be presented as having one. Rather a
spirit of enquiry is the main legacy that unites the scattered and diverse
body of people who use his work.
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