A system of notation for choreography, devised by the Hungarian Rudolf von Laban (1879-1958). It marks spatial, anatomical, and dynamic elements, and contains no language, so can be used quite generally for recording any kind of human movements, but its principal use is in ballet.

Laban published it in 1928 and called it Kinetographie. The name Labanotation was given to a slightly modified form devised in the USA.

It is written on a staff of three lines, reading upward. Unlike music notation, bars and beats occupy a fixed space. The centre of the staff records the weight; by default this is on the feet, and any changes of balance or jumps are recorded here. On either side of this leg gestures are recorded. Beyond that, torso movements, and on the outside columns arm gestures are recorded. These are notated on the left and/or right sides as needed. Movements of the head are in one column beyond that.

A plain rectangle means staying in place. Various shapes cut from this indicate directions: for example, straight forward and backward have smaller rectangles cut from them, whereas any partially left or right movements are indicated by angular cuts.

The inside of this movement block indicates the vertical dimension: a dot for mid-height, shading or hatching for high, solid for low.

The movement symbols when used in the centre of the staff indicate the body; when used in the arm or leg columns they show relative movements of that part to the point of attachment.

Small pins pointing in the appropriate direction indicate the dancer's or body part's relationship to the room or to other body parts. Other pins are used to show details of the placement of the foot on the floor.

The whole system is immensely complicated and can show all sorts of nuance of accent and connexion; indeed, I'd never looked closely at it until doing this write-up, and I can't hope to give any of the details. A useful source is
http://www.rz.uni-frankfurt.de/~griesbec/LABANE.HTML

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