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Connections: Body Mapping and Laban’s Eight Efforts

by Max Mendez

The primary element that drew me to Body Mapping and ABME was finding an embodied connection to my music-making and artistry.

The primary element that drew me to Body Mapping and ABME was finding an embodied connection to my music-making and artistry. As a singer and choral conductor, my journey into Body Mapping also connected me with other somatic practices.

 

The strongest connection I discovered was using Body Mapping principles and the work of Rudolf von Laban and his “Eight Efforts” within my voice studio and choral rehearsals.

 

Rudolf von Laban (1879-1958) was a dancer, choreographer, and movement theoretician who shaped the study of dance within the 20th century. One of his innovations was the development of “The Eight Efforts.”

 

While I could teach Body Mapping concepts of balance, breath, and accurate body maps, additionally combining Laban’s effort concepts of weight, duration, and space allowed me to reinforce musical concepts of articulation, phrasing, breath, and onset/release.




 

My work in Body Mapping and Laban’s “Eight Efforts” was at the front of my teaching in 2020-2021, and the necessity of virtual delivery. These two disciplines complement each other as both utilize active movement and our kinesthetic sense. During that time, I used Body Mapping and the Eight Efforts to teach concepts of articulation, breath, phrasing, and onset/release. Once we could return to face-to-face teaching, I continued to use these two disciplines in the studio and rehearsal room.

 

Looking at the table below, I encourage you to explore some of these movements with an awareness of your balance, arm structure, and breath.


Laban’s Eight Efforts

Gesture

Weight

Duration

Space

Punch

Heavy

Quick

Direct

Slash

Heavy

Quick

Indirect

Press

Heavy

Sustained

Direct

Wring

Heavy

Sustained

Indirect

Glide

Light

Sustained

Direct

Float

Light

Sustained

Indirect

Dab/Tap

Light

Quick

Direct

Flick

Light

Quick

Indirect

  •     How does a punch compare to a slash when executing an accent?

  •     How does glide compare to float when performing a legato phrase?

  •    How does each movement effect our breath?

 

Taking a concept like staccato and connecting it to a dab/tap or flick, or the concept of legato in context of a glide or float movement, one can imagine an entire ensemble exploring the same gesture within an ensemble’s articulation or phrase.


As an ensemble director or section leader, we also have the capacity of creating shared intention within an entire ensemble

 

Connecting Body Mapping with these eight efforts, we can explore our own artistry in a different, but effective way. As an ensemble director or section leader, we also have the capacity of creating shared intention within an entire ensemble. Ensembles can connect using different gestures along with accurate body maps to create endless options of musical embodiment.

 

I’m always encouraged by our ABME community in the ways our colleagues engage with other somatic disciplines. Just attend a conference, register for a webinar, or follow your favorite LBME on social media and you’ll see the infinite ways we connect.

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