LABAN ANALYSIS     Reviews,   Research,   Documentation

  Kinesphere, Scaffolding
Kinesphere, Scaffolding, Five Regular Polyhedra, Dual Polyhedra, Irregular Polyhedra

(Rev. from J.S.Longstaff 1996)

The concept of a "kinesphere" was defined by Rudolf Laban (1966, p. 10) as the “space which can be reached by easily extended limbs”. This concept has been used widely and variously described such as "gestural space" and "zone of reach" (Salter, 1977, p. 54).

This is essentially the same as concepts of "work space", "body space" in fields of Human Factors or Ergonomics, for example the "kinetosphere" defined as the "total range of translational movement of the end member of a series of links" (Dempster et al. 1959, p. 291)

Note: The concept of kinesphere is widely discussed in dance studies by Dell (1970, p. 69; 1972, p. 5), Hutchinson-Guest (1983, pp. 54-55), Laban (1963, p. 85; 1966, p. 10; 1980, p. 35), Preston-Dunlop (1978, pp. 3, 12-13; 1979a, p. 133; 1980, p. 22; 1981, p. 27), Salter (1977, p. 54), and Ullmann (1971, p. 6); within the broader analysis of any type of movement event by Bartenieff and Lewis (1980, p. 25) and Moore and Yamamoto (1988, p. 193); and in assessment of motivation and decision making style by Lamb (1965, p. 52), Lamb and Watson (1979, p. 51), Lamb and Turner (1969, p. 56) and Moore (1982, p. 68).

Kinesphere and 'Personal Space'

Sometimes the kinesphere is also referred to as the “personal space” (Laban, 1966, p. 10) and often personal space and kinesphere are considered virtually synonymous (Moore and Yamamoto, 1988, p. 193; Salter, 1977, p. 129).

Accordingly, certain social and emotional affects are sometimes ascribed to the kinesphere such as :

- “the space surrounding each person which belongs to him” (Preston-Dunlop, 1984, p. viii),
- “the space I sense as mine” which can expand or shrink with one’s mood (Hackney, 1990),
- the space which is “psychologically their personal ‘property’” (Hutchinson-Guest, 1983, p. 310), or
- the “psychological kinesphere” which relates to “how far one projects one’s effort life into space” (Schick, 1990).

However, “personal space” has emotional and social connotations which are different than a purely kinesthetic-motor conception of the kinesphere. The concept of “Personal space” often refers to subjective feelings of territoriality or ownership, Sommer (1969, pp. 26-27, 43-44) states that “personal space refers to an area with invisible boundaries surrounding a person’s body into which intruders may not come”, a “portable territory” or “body territory”.

There is an intrinsic relationship between the emotional/social significance of space and the perceptual-motor actions within space, however these can also be distinguished:
[The kinesphere] is related to the concept of ‘personal space’ referred to in interpersonal communication studies, and to ‘body image boundary’ referred to in body image studies, and to ‘territory’ referred to in sociological studies of communication. [But] The kinesphere differs from [these] other conceptions of the space surrounding the body by the fact that any organisation of that space is undertaken with reference to the movements that the body makes within it. (Preston-Dunlop, 1981, p. 27 ; similar to 1978, p. 13)

Scaffolding, Polyhedral Networks, Grids
(Rev. from J.S.Longstaff 1996)

In its undifferentiated form, the kinesphere is considered to be generally spherical, but when movement occurs the physical structure (anatomical constraints) of the body together with the habits & preferences of the person, mean that the form or structure of the space created are not circular or spherical, but in various other patterns and proportions.

Rudolf Laban (1966, pp. 68, 101-107) uses the analogy of a kinespheric “scaffolding”, a grid or network whereby the general spherical space is organised and structured. The idea of the scaffolding follows Laban's architectural metaphor:

- the famous statement that “Movement is, so to speak, living architecture” (Laban, 1966, p. 5),

- referral to movement as a “‘building process’” (Laban by North, 1972, p. 9),

- the conception that movements are “constructed” (Laban, 1926, pp. 28, 88 [“gebildet”]),

- and thus “we must construct particular points [of the kinesphere] around us” (Laban, 1926, pp. 21-22).

Laban (1966, p. 124) regards the scaffolding much like a map in that “trace-forms following the simple lines of the scaffolding can be represented mentally without great difficulty”. In this same way, the concept of kinespheric scaffolding is virtually identical with psychological concepts of "conceptual networks", "grids" or "cognitive maps" of body space which we build and store in our memory to assist in learning, remembering, recalling and controlling movements (see Longstaff, 1996 sec. IIIC).

In choreutics the five ‘regular’ polyhedra are used most often to model the structure of the kinesphere. These represent the most symmetrical and regular divisions of three-dimensional space and so serve as the first-level of analysis of spatial forms.

Five Regular Polyhedra as Kinespheric Scaffolding
(Rev. from J.S.Longstaff 1996)

The five regular polyhedra are most often used as kinespheric scaffolding in choreutics. They represent the most symmetrical and regular divisions of three-dimensional space. (Sometimes called "Platonic solids" since they were written about by Plato)

Geometric characteristics of a "regular" polyhedra (only 5 are possible):

  • all surfaces the same shape
  • all edges same length
  • all angles the same size

(8 sides, 6 corners)


(20 sides, 12 corners)

(6 sides, 8 corners)

(4 sides, 4 corners)

(12 sides, 20 corners)

Regular Polyhedra; Duals
(Rev. from J.S.Longstaff 1996)

The five regular polyhedra can be organised into 3 groups of "dual polyhedra". Dual polyhedra are two polyhedra where:

  • Corners of one polyhedra all align with surfaces of the other
  • all edges of the two polyhedra intersect at their mid-points

Dual polyhedra reveal how one polyhedra truly implies its dual, since they both have structures which correspond exactly. Mathematically, they are the same structure. The 3 groups of dual polyhedra comprise 3 systems which each afford themselves with particular possibilities of geometric symmetry transformations.

Whereas many spatial concepts of dance and movement utilise the octahedral-cubic networks, one of the unique features of choreutics is the deflection of this grid into the icosahedral - dodecahedral network which is used to organised a much more sophisticated system of spatial order and symmetry possibilities.
Cube & Octahedron Tetrahedron dual with itself Icosahedron & Dodecahedron


Irregular Polyhedra
(2006) J.S.Longstaff

The five regular polyhedra are the most regular and symmetrical divisions of three-dimensional space, and so used the most often in choreutics.

However many other irregular polyhedra are also used as models of scaffolding for particular movements. A sample of these can be seen in Laban's many drawings, some published in Vision of Dynamic Space (Laban, 1984).

  • Rhombic Solids
  • Clusters of Tetrahedra

In addition, all of the polyhedra can be seen to "deflect" amongst one another.