Labanotation captures movement on the page so that it can be shared in all parts of the world and with future generations.
By simply reading a single symbol on a staff, one immediately knows:
the direction of the movement
the part of the body doing the movement.
the level of the movement
the length of time it takes to do the movement
The shape of the symbol tells you the direction of the movement.
The shapes of the symbols indicate nine different directions in space.
Any symbol can be used to show either a step or a gesture. A step is a movement that takes weight, a gesture is a movement that does not take weight. For example, the forward symbol can be used to show either a step forward or a forward gesture.
For steps, place is right under you, as in marching in place.
The symbols are placed on a vertical staff which is read from bottom to top.
Where the symbol is placed on the staff tells you the part of the body doing the movement.
The dark lines are the staff lines. The dotted lines are used here to indicate the different columns for the parts of the body.
The center line of the staff represents the center line of the body. Supports (usually the feet) are written alongside the centerline. Symbols to the right of this line are for the right side of the body, symbols to the left for the left side.
The shading of the symbol tells you the level of the movement.
For steps, low level is with a bent leg, middle level is with a straight leg, and high level is up on the toes.
For gestures, middle level is with the limb parallel to the floor. The hand or the foot is on the same level as the shoulder or hip. Low level is below this, high level above.
If the arm is forward high, for example, the hand is forward of and above the shoulder. The arm would be up on a 45 degree angle from the shoulder.
of a symbol tells you the timing of the movement.
For dance movement, the staff is laid out in measures to match the measures of the music. Tick marks are used to indicate the beats, barlines across the staff show the start and end of the measure. This example shows two measures with two beats to each measure.
The Labanotation staff is read from bottom to top. The space below the double bar lines at the bottom is for the starting position. The double bar lines at the top indicate the end of the movement.
In the first measure, the forward high symbol is the length of twobeats, it therefore takes two beats to perform. It is in the right support column, so it shows a two count step forward on the right foot. Since it is high level, the step is on the ball of the foot. In the second measure, the right side low symbol for the right arm is the length of 1/2 a count. It takes 1/2 a beat to perform.
An Example For You To Read
It is easier to read movement if you stand up and do it than if you try to visualize it. Don't be afraid to stand up and dance!
Remember, Labanotation is read from the bottom up. Scroll down to the bottom of the example to start to read.
Click here for help with or to check your reading of the third measure.