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Rudolf von Laban was one of the most influential dance teachers and theorists of the twentieth century. He believed that dance was not subordinate to music and set out to identify the principles inherent in movement. His research led to the development of the system known variably as Laban Movement Analysis or Labananalysis.
Laban also believed that dance should be accessible to everyone because it was a way for people to reconnect with their communities and nature in an increasingly mechanized world. In 1912, he opened a “dance farm” in Ascona, Switzerland. When World War I started, he moved to Zurich. There, modern dancer Mary Wigman assisted him in developing Labanotation, a written script for recording movement.
Laban authored numerous books about dance. In 1928, he started Schrifttanz, one of the first dance magazines ever published. He also experimented with movement choirs comprised of large groups of “lay dancers” or amateurs. By 1930, Laban was not only the director of movement and dance for the Prussian Theatre in Berlin, but he also served as ballet master at the State Opera.
When the Nazis came to power, they appointed Laban the head of a new organization intended to champion German dance. He eventually fell out of favour with the fascist regime and had to flee Germany. After resettling in Britain, he worked as a movement consultant to improve efficiency in factory assembly lines. He also helped to integrate his ideas into the British school system and collaborated with theatre groups, including the Theatre Workshop and the British Drama League.
Laban, Rudolf von. A Life for Dance: Reminiscences. Trans. Lisa Ullmann. New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1975.