Using labanotation as constraints to create a 9-panel page

I created a 9-panel page for my “Joseph” project based on a rudimentary intro to labanotation and based on a famous photo from a 1946 reportage, “a man constrained in a straight jacket stands alone.”

Labanotation is a system of recording human movement, originated by the Hungarian-born dance theorist Rudolf Laban.

Rudolf Laban, public domain


The Laban system is an “alphabet” system in that symbols represent movement components through which each pattern is “spelled out” (unlike some other notation systems, which use distinct symbols to represent established movement forms). In standard labanotation a vertical three-line staff represents the performer. The centre line divides the staff into right and left columns, which represent the main body parts. The staff, read from bottom to top, is written from the performer’s point of view. Each direction symbol is based on a rectangle and indicates four movement factors: its shape shows the direction of the movement; its shading indicates level; its length represents duration of the movement (the shorter, the quicker; the longer, the more extended in time); and its placement on the staff indicates the part of the body that is in action. Families of signs represent the minor body parts, and additional signs such as pins and hooks denote details modifying the main action.source

I have been fascinated by labanotation since my days as a dancer in the 70’s and 80’s. This drawing experiment has been a  delightful dive into dancing with imagery in a more formal way, a fun exercise to play with dance notation inspired by Matt Madden and oubapo.

I considered labanotation’s symbols for the high, low, middle of the action and imagery, the body supports (such as chair, floor, radiator, mother’s arms), the directions and diagonals, the reading of the page from the bottom up…