Laban at Talawa Firsts
As part of the Talawa Firsts 2017 festival, movement director Coral Messam ran a workshop on Laban, a method to explore human movement.
Laban is an extremely useful tool for acting, performance and writing, as it encourages the body to utilise its instrumental ability.
The workshop was absolutely brilliant, leaving many of us asking where we can access Laban outside of drama school.
If you’re keen on learning through an institution, there is the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. However, Coral also advised that it may be easier to self-teach – so we’ve decided to give you some techniques from the workshop to try at home! But first, a quick lesson on Laban.
Rudolph Laban founded the Laban method through categorising human movement into varying parts that consist of two polarising elements:
Time: Sudden vs Sustained
Weight: Light vs Heavy
Space: Direct vs Indirect
Laban combined these parts to create The 8 Body Actions:
Wring, Press, Flick, Dab, Glide, Float, Punch (Thrust), Slash.
These actions are to be explored through the body’s physicality. Laban is essentially a tool to bridge these actions and polarities through movements.
In the spirit of these 8 Body Actions, here are 8 exercises to try at home:
1) Find a big enough space to walk in a straight line, only turning sharply. Your walk should be almost march like. Try to think of the feeling that this conjures. What type of person does this remind you of?
2) Now walk around the space fluidly, making sure not to walk in a straight line. Does this feel significantly different to the first exercise? What type of person would move in this way?
3) Try to tap into how your body feels in regards to weight and how it is informed by gravity. Imagine the ground is quick sand, sucking in your feet, legs, waist and torso. Allow your body to be sucked in. How does your body react to this? How does it make you feel physically?
4) Alternatively, explore the space as delicately as possible, imagining you are no longer bound by gravity. What feeling does this evoke? Can you see similarities between these actions and your daily movement habits? Would you consider yourself naturally light or heavy?
During the workshop we focused on two of the main eight actions: Thrusting and Dabbing.
5) Thrusting – You know exactly what this is. Thrust around the space with varying degrees of intensity. Would you class this as direct or indirect?
6) Dabbing – This is a slight movement. It can be as simple as lightly nodding your head or gently tapping something. Does this feel direct or indirect?
7) Now take these actions and apply it to some text. Let the intention come through your action. We used an excerpt of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. What impact do these actions have on the text?
8) Be sure to start observing people’s actions and mannerisms, deciding whether certain people are light or heavy and whether they are direct or indirect.
Make sure to try these techniques out! Laban encourages us to be braver through our own physicality and finding where that strength comes from can be liberating.
If you missed this workshop, look out for others coming up as part of Talawa's MAKE programme
Myah Jeffers is a Birmingham based English (BA) graduate, writer, theatre maker and performance artist. As a passionate advocate for art for social change, her present body of work explores social and political themes intended to provoke thought and challenge hegemonic ideologies through topics such as race, feminism, representation, mental health and sexuality.
She has created and presented work with Talawa Theatre Company, notably in Talawa Firsts 2016, and where she continues her association as a Script Reader. Myah also works with Birmingham REP, Theatre Royal Stratford East, mac Birmingham, The Roundhouse, Battersea Arts Centre and the BBC.
"... just completed a degree in Drama at a school that focused on Laban, but ... the way it was explained in the workshop was far superior to anything I had experienced before ... the instructor was absolutely first class and I made some valuable contacts as a result of attending the workshop."