‘The Choreutic organic deflection hypothesis’.

(1997) Jeffrey Scott Longstaff

Paper and practical workshop at the
Third Motus Humanus Round table on professional issues June 5-8, 1997.
Northfield, Minnesota: St. Olaf College.
(HTML excerpts from the workshop)

With Motif Dance Notations presented at the workshop
Deflecting Arm Circles


A hypothesis can be identified in the choreutic conception which posits that:

Dimensional and diagonal orientations serve as conceptual prototypes of pure stable directions and pure mobile directions respectively;
while actual body movements occur as “deflections” between the idealistic pure dimensions and pure diagonals, that is, stable/mobile mixtures.

Similities in other areas of spatial cognition.
  1. The English language: dimensions receive the most conceptual specificity, diagonals (45°) are given less, and off–diagonal inclines are given the least specificity. This indicates that dimensions are conceptually basic.
  2. Spatial cognition research; Effects indicative of memory representations as prototypes: For example,
    1. dimensional orientations are perceived and responded to more readily than diagonal orientations (“oblique effect”)
    2. Lines or angles are perceived/remembered to be more dimensional, or to be closer to 90°, than they actually are.

Sources of Organic Deflections: Support for the hypothesis in kinesiology; Anatomic constraints:
  1. Oblique joint structure:eg. Knees, Elbows, Spine
  2. Oblique muscular “lines of pull”: eg. Pectoralis, Latissimus
  3. Joint ranges: eg. Arm circles do not achieve a flat plane.
  4. Momentum and Expressivity:
    1. CARDINAL planes and dimensions: expressively flat, contained, restricted
    2. DEFLECTED planes: dynamic, free, liberated.

Note that while Cardinal Dimensions and (less so) Pure Diagonals are conceptually simpler
Obliquely oriented movements are kinesiologically simpler: Pure planes and dimensions only occur through precise opposition of opposing oblique lines of pull. Even the slightest variation will create the basic Oblique element.

Body Movement occurs as: Continuous deflection away from the idealised mental plan.
  1. Mentally conceived plan: Prototypical path shape and orientation.
  2. Bodily executed motion: Deflecting away from the prototype.
  • All movements will continuously vary (at least slightly) from one execution to the next.
  • Identified in motor control research by the famous Soviet N. Bernstein and described as the:
    • co-ordinational net of the motor field . . . as oscillating like a cobweb in the wind”.

    • Identical to Laban’s conception of movement paths deflecting between various polyhedral-shaped kinespheric scaffolding.

    • Deflection concept is of a flexible tensile structure or “net”, not a rigid crystal or scaffolding.

Consideration of Deflecting Cardinal Planes.
    • One of the simplest stages of analysis.
    • Flat dimensional planes bulge into plastisity.

Deflections of Sagittal Planar Arm Circles with lateral bulging
(examples from Rudolf Laban’s Choreutics)

Deflections of Frontal Planar Arm Circles with sagittal bulging
(examples from Rudolf Laban’s Choreutics)

Deflections of Horizontal Planar Arm Circles with vertical bulging
(examples from Rudolf Laban’s Choreutics)