2004 Jeffrey Scott Longstaff

Rudolf Laban’s (1966) method of “choreutics”, also called “space harmony” remains one of the most intriguing areas of his work, utilising geometric forms, polyhedra, also known as ‘platonic solids’ to map movement forms in space. Somehow these symmetrical designs inspire our curiosity and imagination about the nature of physical reality itself.

One of Laban’s least understood choreutic creations could be described as a seven-link movable chain, consisting of a series of seven tetrahedra, linked together into a closed circuit.

The greatest amount of published writing on the seven-link chain is found in Laban’s book Choreutics (Laban, 1966, p. 120-122). Here, Laban devised a “diaformic scale” of seven movements which corresponded to the “diatonic scale” of seven intervals in music. In the same way that the seven intervals of the musical diatonic scale can be transposed to different keys, the seven movements of Laban’s diaformic scale can be rotated into different orientations.

The diatonic musical scale progresses through a seven-part series of whole-step and half-step intervals:

whole-step RE whole-step ME half-step FA whole-step SO whole-step LA whole-step TEE half-step DO

In this same way, the diaformic movement scale progresses through a series of narrow angles and wider angles. Angles between movements are analogous to intervals between musical tones, of half-steps (narrow angles) and whole-steps (wide angles). This series of narrow angles and wide angles can be seen in the model of the seven-link chain.

“Plastic models of seven-linked movable chains can be constructed which, when turned whether by hand or in a mechanical manner, show by their progressive displacement spatial relationships in angles and distances. These correspond exactly to the sequences of the circle of fifths which constitute the backbone of the order of our musical tones. The borders of certain super-zones1 of the limbs of the body have the same formal rhythm showing identical harmonic relations.” (Laban, 1966, pp. 120-121)

The seven-link chain also appears in a few other of Laban’s writings. In a letter to Marjorie Bergin (Editor, Laban Art of Movement Guild Magazine), Laban described his theory of the “seven-ring” as an essential pattern in human movement:

“People try to connect central movements (in connection with the actual centre of the trunk) with peripheral movement (belonging to the invisible shell around the body and therefore the external world) in a quasi-symbolic way (symbolic of the relationship between inner dream-thought life and outer work-action life). Now, what I have observed, is that these two worlds are never appearing in movement in an absolutely balanced way, either central or peripheral is stressed, but neither lacks entirely.” (Laban, 1952, 161.22 - .23)

He goes on to describe how the simplest unequal proportion between inner and outer is 2 movements + 3 movements, and how observations reveal there is always 1 movement transition inner-to-outer, and 1 movement transition outer-to-inner, totalling 7 motions in entirety. This sequence of inner-to-outer and outer-to-inner creates a continuous circuit in the form of a Möbius band, which Laban referred to as a Lemniscate.

In another place, Lisa Ullmann offered a collection of Laban’s drawings including two views of the seven-link chain (Laban, 1984, pp. 28, 33). In one case Laban appears to derive the seven-link chain as a more plastic, 3-dimensional version of six-link chain (quite similar to the six-link movable chain used by artists such as M. C. Esher). In the other case a photo is shown of an actual model of the seven-link chain, with each of the seven tetrahedra stylised as an Egyptian dancer in a tetrahedral body pose. In each case the chain is labelled as Laban’s “movement indicator”.

An obscure German hand-written manuscript (Laban, undated) also contains drawings and discussions of five different versions of the seven-link chain, though this is yet to be translated and analysed.

Warren Lamb, one of Laban’s closest colleagues in England during the 1940s and 1950s, offers an additional intriguing perspective. He recounts how Laban would offer a model of the seven-link chain to be held in the hands. While the model was rotated and turned though its many orientations Laban would observe the mover, making notes and muttering many indecipherable comments and concluding with an analysis of the person’s movement style and characteristics. Hence, its designation as the “movement indicator”.

The seven-link movable chain remains one of the most intriguing and unique spatial forms emerging out of Laban’s choreutics. It’s full significance remains yet to be recounted.


  1. A “super-zone” of a body limb refers to its maximum reach space, including the movement of the limb (zone) plus movement of the torso to increase the size of the reach (super zone).


  • --Laban, R. (undated). Harmonie lehre der bewegung (hand-written copy by S. Bodmer of a book by R. Laban). Unpublished German manuscript. (Laban Centre: Laban Collection: S.B. N1)

  • Laban, R. (1952). Hand-written letter to Marjorie Bergin, Editor L.A.M.G. magazine. London: Laban Centre. (Laban Collection. 161.19 - 161.24)

  • Laban, R. (1966 [1939]). Choreutics (Annotated and edited by L. Ullmann). London: MacDonald and Evans. (Published in U.S.A. as The Language of Movement: A Guide Book to Choreutics. Boston: Plays)

  • Laban, R. (1984). A Vision of Dynamic Space (Compiled by L. Ullmann). London: Falmer Press.

  • Lamb, W. (1998). Interview by Jeffrey Longstaff, University of Surrey, Guildford, England.