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Applying L/BMA to Aerial Dancing

This is an excerpt from Laban/Bartenieff Movement Studies by Colleen Wahl.

Elizabeth Stitch


As an aerialist, I have found the modes of shape change to be extremely useful for moving beyond the functional limitations of the skills of aerial technique and into the more expressive world of aerial dance. Due to safety concerns and initial lack of strength, beginning aerialists often utilize spoke-­like directional modes. This allows the aerialist to form a direct link between her body and the environment, or apparatus, which provides safety while she's in the air. When teaching beginning aerial students, I use this functional approach and encourage them to exactly model my steps into each skill.


Over time, I have noticed that it is difficult to break this initial pattern and begin to explore other options for changing the form of the body and connecting with the apparatus. In analyzing my personal aerial per­for­mance, I was surprised to observe my own strong preference for the directional mode, particularly the Arc-­like form. While this mode can lend a more graceful feeling to a movement, it is essentially similar to the spoke-­like mode in terms of the expressive statement it makes in connecting to the apparatus. In this context, both directional modes of shape change are straightforward and utilitarian, which is by no means negative, but they are expressively limited and not what I always want to convey.


One of the ­things I love most about Laban theory is that it gives me a map into lesser-­known places in my movement signature. Following this map into the co-­creative realm of carving has offered me not only a dif­fer­ent relationship with my apparatus, but also new possibilities for movement invention. It has also guided me as a performer into the vulnerability of sharing my inner life with the audience through specific moments of shape-flow mode of shape change. With this full palette of expressive possibilities, my movement experience feels more satisfying, which keeps me coming back to my apparatus for further exploration in the air!