Movement, space, geometry

The idea of space is fundamentally linked to the body and to its movement. The spatial experience of human beings is built by the participation of our body and our senses. A body exists in space, moves in it and is contained by it. This allows us to distinguish between one space and another, according to the sensory and emotional impact it generates in us. Through our senses and perception we establish different kinds of relationships with people, objects and environments. Entering a large, empty room and staying in the center of the space, creates a much different relationship with our senses than entering a crowded elevator. Contemplation of a natural endless landscape causes a very different feeling that walking through a low, long, narrow corridor. The space, the surrounding environment, affects people every day in mental and physical ways.

Rudolf Von Laban studied movement of the body in space based on structures and geometric projections, by understanding how kinetic behaviors evolve in different shapes and paths. He studied dance but also philosophy and natural cycles, to understand space harmony and create what he calls Choreutics, which are the basic principles that define the shape of movement and dance in space. For Laban, movement is a tool of both creating and understanding space. Based on studies by anthropologist Edward Hall, Laban also created the concept of kinesphere as a volume that surrounds human body and moves with it. Kinesphere has a depth, width and height, form and space, orientation and position. Dance uses it as a reference in space in which it can create dynamic geometric shapes.

When putting the planes together, all diameters cross again in the center of gravity of the body. Connecting the corners of the planes with each other leads to an Icosahedron which can define different patterns of motion. These are called choreutic scales or space harmony scales, and are analogous to musical scales as they encompass different ranges of movement in space.

From the perspective of geometry, the point is the first reference in space, creating a place that doesn’t have a volume or shape, but sets a location reference. Line is the spatial segment defined by two points, the simplest element that has a location and also a measurement. Since a line is the trajectory from one point to another, it can also have a property related to time. If movement and space are generators of shape, with the point as a position and line as its prolongation or trajectory in space, then the movement of this line can also create a plane, which has a width, a height, a surface, orientation and position. In Choreutics, there are three essential planes defined by movement:

  • Vertical, or door plane, also called the plane of presentation.
  • Horizontal, or table plane, also called the plane of communication.
  • Sagittal, or wheel plane, also called the plane of operations.

labanplanes

When putting the planes together, all diameters cross again in the center of gravity of the body. Connecting the corners of the planes with each other leads to an Icosahedron which can define different patterns of motion. These are called choreutic scales or space harmony scales, and are analogous to musical scales as they encompass different ranges of movement in space.

To watch an animation of the scales, go to Laban Scales

The study of movement from a geometric point of view opens possibilities for quantification and notation of different patterns of body gestures and how they relate to surrounding space. Movement is a tool for both creating and understanding space.

Related Bibliography:
Laban, Rudolf. Choreutics (1966)
Hall, Edward. The Hidden Dimension (1966)
Ghyka, Matila. The Geometry of Art and Life (1983)
DK Ching, Francis. Architecture: Form, Space, and Order (1998)
Laban Labs: http://www.labanlabs.org/

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