Technical Journal – Labanotation

Labanotation is a standardised system for analysing and recording dance movement. Hungarian Rudolph von Laban (1879-1958) published this first in 1928 as “Kinetographie”.



The “Staff” is a vertical grid which indicates which part of the body is moving/gesturing etc

  1. Support column – transference of weight eg steps
  2. Leg gesture column
  3. Body column
  4. Arm gesture column
  5. Head column

Bars, Beats and Time


The centre line will indicate beats with a short dash across and bars are indicated with a line right across. A vertical line indicates the duration of each step eg position 1 transfers weight to right foot for 2 beats.



Horizontal movement is indicated using the symbols at the top of the page. Vertical movement uses similar symbols; cross-hatched symbol is up high, dot in the middle is level/horizontal, and full-shade is low/down gestures.


Relationship Pins


Indicated horizontal and vertical directions and can be used to show directions in a room/space, written in a square. Can also show intermediate positions by modifying the direction of the symbol, and by merging two pins together.

Arm and Leg Gestures

These symbols show the position of the limbs.

IMAG2448 copy

Intermediate Direction Gestures


Usually in increments of 15º but it is possible to get intermediate 7.5º, using symbols connected with a bow. Eg a symbol for 0º and another for 45º with a dot between.

Foot connections uses modified pins.

Centre of weight and transference of weight

Five thing can happen:

  1. Everything stays as it is
  2. Centre of weight is shifted
  3. Weight is transferred – steps
  4. Jumps
  5. turns

A small circle = hold weight


The staff should be read from the bottom up.

A/ The starting position; weight on both feet, legs straight, both arms down.

B/ Weight stays on both feet

C/ Right leg lifted to mid point, left arm to low point

D/ Hold weight on right arm, left arm straight down

E/ Transfer weight to both feet

F/ Weight stays on both feet

G/ Jump and leg gesture

H/ Land on both feet

Shifting the Centre of Weight and Steps




Jumps and Turns


Body Parts


Quantity Signs and Connection Bows






Floor Plans


These are just some of the basic symbols used in Labanotation. There is also software available which facilitates the drawing of symbols.

Posted in Blog - MA Fine Art.

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