What is the duration of an action according to Laban’s theory?

by Cathrine
(United Kingdom)

Dear Maria,

I read your very interesting article about Laban's effort qualities. I am new to the theory as I started reading it a few months ago and have little physical experience of it. I have a lot of questions but will just refer to the more 'burning' ones here.

When you say that a dancer may carry out an action in 3 counts do these counts refer to the duration of the action? If I have an arm swing followed by a waltz pattern and I count: 1,2,3(swing to one side),2,2,3 swing to the other side then 3,2,3 waltz etc. Is this the metric rhythm (if I don't use music) or the duration?

If the first step is a gliding action (not Glide) like a chasse followed by two quick steps (with the accent on the chasse) do we still get the 3 count pattern with the first (gliding step) LONGER and the other two SHORTER, in order to make up the pattern? Finally, what would be the duration of the swing? one longer(in the downward action of the arms)2,3 shorter as they come up?

Please forgive my very basic understanding; I am just a beginner. I look forward to hearing from you. Regards, Cathrine

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Apr 03, 2014
Maria's reply
by: Maria

Dear Cathrine,

When I say that a dancer may carry out an action in 3 counts, yes, the counts (or beats) refer to the duration (length) of the action.

It is important to avoid getting confused by 'conventional patterns' that involve several actions at the same time. For example, you may perform a 'waltz' pattern, in which the transfers of weight over the legs have a length of one count (one beat) each, but the movement of arms has a duration of three beats. The whole pattern has a length (duration) of three, but there are differentiated actions within it, that have shorter or longer lengths.

The length of the action depends on your own definition of what the action is (where does it start, where does it end or what part of the body is involved). In the Laban language though, especially in kynetography, the definition of actions is considered according to the logic and grammar of the whole system. You need to know labanotation to understand this.

Now, rhythm or rhythmical metric refers to the rhythmical pattern or structure over which the dance is constructed. There's an article at our website that explains this in detail. You can read the whole page for a better understanding, but if you wish to read the section about rhythm only, scroll down till you find the subtitle: 'How to order a musician to compose for your choreography'. Here's the link to find that page:

Contemporary Dance Music

Warm regards,


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