Rudolf Laban's Choreutics: Location of Center
revised from Selected Methods (1999) J. S. Longstaff
The concept of a direction requires an origin from which the direction is judged, this origin is often conceived to be a center of the kinesphere (movement space).
Rudolf Laban's choreutics frequently uses a full-body sized kinesphere surrounding the person, with directions judged from an an egocentric reference system with center conceived to be the center of the body. This creates a global system where the directional orientation of the entire body is considered as a whole.
Sometimes Rudolf Laban explicitly specified that "the direction c [center] is always in the body center" (Laban, 1963, p. 93) and others reaffirm that "Laban placed centre at the bodys centre, which is approximately at the navel. Medium level directions were thence, on level with the navel or waist and this applied to all limbs (Preston-Dunlop (1978, p. 70). This practice of using the body center as the center of directions is advocated in many choreutic writings (Bartenieff and Lewis, 1980, pp. 25-28; Dell, 1977, p. 5; Laban, 1966, pp. 1117).
However, it is a common misperception that choreutics always or only places the center of the kinesphere at the body center. While a majority of published works on choreutics place the kinespheric center at the body's center, in many places Laban and and his colleagues describe how choreutic forms are also centred around any place in the body (egocentric) or in the space (exocentric).
Different centres are distinguished in the torso, for example in different dance styles the spatial forms of body movement can be seen to be organised or relate their movements to one of three different centers in the torso, either at the sternum, near the belly-button, or in the pelvis (Bodmer, 1979, pp. 3-4; Preston-Dunlop, 1978, pp. 70-71).
The center might also be placed anywhere in the body. In the chapter titled "Specialised Movements of the Limb Ends Laban (1926, pp. 72-73) describes how the origin for directions can be in the torso or the hand or anywhere, creating smaller localised direction systems, illustrated by three plates of a hand in positions from the A-scale. This common example of a hand-kinesphere is also included in other places where the hands create a small kinesphere centred around the wrist joint or the palm (Bodmer, 1974, p. 28; 1979, p. 7; 1983, p. 11).
In the same way the center of the kinesphere might be placed anywhere in the body - depending on which body parts are active. The center of the movement space is sometimes considered to be the most proximal skeletal joint which is articulating (Bartenieff & Lewis, 1980, p. 26; Lamb, 1965, p. 52).
This is also the method for defining directions and limb movement used in Labanotation where directions are normally judged from the base, at the proximal end of the moving body parts; thus defining a local system of reference centred in each articulating joint and providing a detailed analytical scheme where orientation of each body segment can be specified individually (Hutchinson, 1970, pp. 32, 226-229).
A principal difference between traditional Labanotation and Choreutics is in the location of center taken for the direction signs. In choreutics the signs are most often used in reference to the center of the body, while in Labanotation they are more commonly used in reference to the movement center of the "base" or proximal joint of the moving body parts, thus defining a local system of reference centred in each articulating joint (Hutchinson, 1970, pp. 32, 226-229).
Relating motion to the body center, as most common in choreutics may perhaps be more intended for 'holism' with Labanotation more specialised for analysis of individual elements. However these are not distinct types, but different expressions of the variability allowed within the systems as both methods also include the approach used by the other.
In Labanotation the center of movement is effectively shifted to the body center by using sings for "torso inclusion" that occurs together with (eg.) an arm movement. While in choreutics the polyhedral network is conceptually shifted to be centred around any place in the body.
Joint-centred kinespheres provide an analytical tool where orientation of each body segment can be specified individually and these are used as standard analyses of body movement in anatomy, kinesiology and motor control sciences. For example when cardinal planes are conceived to be centred in the shoulder they can be described as shoulder joint planes (Rasch & Burke, 1978, pp. 97-98), or in more detail as shoulder girdle centred spatial coordinate system (Saltzman, 1979, p. 104), or centred in the eyes as retinocentric space (Paillard, 1987).
Body movements can also be organised or arranged around centers anywhere in the external space (exocentric reference systems) (Preston-Dunlop, 1978, pp. 70-71). Movements can create a kinesphere centred around an object in the environment, or around another person, for example a haircutter creates a sphere of movements centred around the client's head (1985, personal observations). A kinespheric might also be created by two or more people together with the center lying somewhere in the shared space between them.