Archives can be very INSPIRATIONAL

Annie French, a part-time student in her final year on the BA in Creative Practice at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) specialising in textile design, spent a day looking at archive material with Jane Fowler, the Laban Archivist, earlier this year. Inspired by Rudolf Laban life story and dance notation scores she created these beautifully designed and embroidered epaulets which reflect the movement score of a ‘forward ocho’, which is an Argentine Tango step .

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Detail of the epaulets.
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Annie gives us some more background information on her project and how she came to be inspired by Rudolf Laban;

‘In year 4, I was inspired by music and movement through a local dance class that I was attending.  Having two left feet my actual dancing did not improve but I was fascinated by the energy that could be created by dance.  Looking at the work of Michael Kinder (1917-2009), a visual artist who applied mathematical rules to his work, made me think about the rules of dance. Not having a background in dance, it was by chance that I asked a colleague Anjie Taylor who is the Artistic Director of Qdos Creates, a charity that offers community workshops and performances.  She trained in dance using Labanotation in Yorkshire, Anjie recommend some books, and I was hooked.

As part of a study tour to New York earlier this year, to visit various design studios, I made an appointment to visit the Dance Notation Bureau (DNB) where they opened up their archive for me to look at some of the original dance scores, old photographs of Rudolf Laban and his students. They also introduced me to the work of Jean Kirsten, a visual artist who has been creating work in conjunction with the Laban Guild. They also loved the initial samples of embroidery that I had been working on, which they have kindly shown on their face book page.

Having researched Laban’s family background and his journey to the UK, and finding out that the Art of Movement School was started in Manchester, was enough for me to be so inspired by his work to use my research for my final piece of work last year.  The idea came from his Father being in the military, and wanting his son to have a career in the military.  Using notation, I machine embroidered the designs into epaulets and used typical military colours which hopefully express this.’

Here are a couple of photos from Annie’s studio work. Photographs by Aly Jackson.

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The final artwork was exhibited in the 2016 Unit X exhibition in Manchester and is now on display within the library & archive here at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London.

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Overlapping with Annie’s display the Laban archive hung three introduction panels ‘Treasures from the archive’, aimed at new students and staff  providing a tempting snap shot of the fantastic collections the Laban archive holds for their use.

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It seems that Annie got a lot out of her visits to a number of archives; working with their archivists and their collections. She says she is planning to write her dissertation on how the use of archive material can inspire artists to create art.

Having  Annie’s new piece of work and the archive panels on show at same time created a satisfying duality. The old inspiring the new and the new animating the old. Thank you Annie.

Significant Others

Sylvia Bodmer was born in Duisburg, Germany in 1902. During her 50-year career, she gained a reputation as one of the foremost proponents of the inclusive and free-interpretive dance style of Rudolf Laban. Bodmer showed an aptitude for mathematics as a child, but her gender proved an obstacle to employment in that field, despite a good qualification. She gravitated toward dance, and came to know about Rudolf Laban’s work through Suzanne Perrottet, one of his earliest followers. After 18 months with Perrottet, she went to study with Laban’s school in Stuttgart. Laban, impressed with her dancing, in 1922 asked her to join his performing dance group Tanzbuhne Laban, with whom she spent two years.

Here is an exert from her memoirs referring to her time spent with Laban in Gleschendorf.

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In 1924 Bodmer joined with Lotte Mueller in Frankfurt to form a school based on Laban’s ideas, and then joined with Edgar Frank in 1927 to form a chamber dance group.

Sylvia brought her young family to Manchester, England, in 1938. She began teaching dance, and founded the Young Dancers’ Group. Laban and Lisa Ullmann also found themselves through different circumstances in Manchester. It is here that Bodmer and Ullmann set up the Manchester Dance Circle in 1943. It created a platform for Ullmann’s training classes, Bodmer’s movement choir works, and Laban’s lectures.

Laban and Lisa Ullmann left Manchester in 1953 (Bodmer, W.2004 p.6), taking the Art of Movement Studio down to Addlestone, Surrey. Sylvia continued to run the Manchester Dance Circle.

Central to Laban’s teaching were his concepts of body movement, ‘space harmony’ and dynamics. This enabled him to work out ways of systematizing the study of human movement, and so led him to the development of movement notation. He was unique in his development of the idea of ‘efforts’, the idea of scales related to points in space defining an icosahedron around the human body and in his applications to practical questions in time and motion study and the assessment of personality. Sylvia’s earlier mathematics training allowed her to quickly define Laban’s direction and to develop her own ‘space forms’.

‘Bodmer’s notebooks overflow with diagrams in both his and her writing. The steeple, the arc, the round and the double bend scrutinised in their regular, expanded and contracted forms. Her comprehension of harmonic principles, and the function of the scaffolding provided by platonic solids in relation to the psyche and to the structure of the body.’… ‘Bodmer was not only able to write about it, simply and coherently, but also to choreograph studies.’ (Preston-Dunlop, V. 1998, p. 259) 

Here are three sheets of handwritten notes by Sylvia Bodmer, covering different types of ‘flow’, c1940-50

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Bodmer became known as one of the finest interpreters of Laban’s work, both as a solo dancer and a teacher. She continued to teach and develop his work for the rest of her life until she died in 1989.

 

Bibliography

Bodmer, W., ‘Laban Lecture 2004’, Movement & Dance, quarterly magazine of the Laban Guild, (Spring 2005 p.6)

Preston-Dunlop, V., ‘Rudolf Laban: An extraordinary Life’, (Dance Books Ltd, London 1998)

 

Life forms

70 years ago this month the Art of Movement Studio (AMS), later to become the Laban Centre and then the Dance Faculty at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music of Dance,  first opened its doors to the public. To celebrate, each blog posting this year will highlight an aspect of our history. To start off, we are celebrating the life of June Petit, an alumnus.

Life Forms: Celebrating the life of June Petit 1930-2015.

June taught PE at a college in Norwich before becoming in 1958, a student at the Art of Movement Studio (AMS). We have some lovely photographs of June dancing in the archive collection.

June attended many dance courses before she officially started at the Art of Movement Studio.

Lisa Ullmann, Summer School, Ashridge, 1955.

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She took this photograph of Lisa Ullmann whilst attending a summer school at Ashridge in 1955.

Below is a sound bite from an interview we recorded in 2012 and is held in our archive collection.  She talks about meeting Rudolf Laban and of his inspirational qualities, her abilities as a dancer, the problems of having narrow hips and being told off for messing around in Lisa Ullmann’s classes.

She explains how physically and mentally she was ‘stretched’ by the experiences of being taught by Lisa Ullmann and Sylvia Bodmer.

 

The students were encouraged to explore many art forms not just dance, providing them with a diverse interdisciplinary approach to their studies. At this point the course at the AMS was a teacher training course. After finishing her course she went on to teach movement at Central School of Speech and Drama; Woodberry Down School, North London; Brighton and Hove High School and Mayfield School, East Sussex. June continued for the rest of her life to be inspired by dance, art and everything creative.

Pottery form made by June Petit, 2012.

Pottery form made by June Petit, 2012.

This is an expressive pottery form, made by June in 2012, depicting the energy and life forces that emanate from the landscape.  She made this piece when she lived in Lewes, East Sussex, inspired by the local landscape – the chalky cliffs of the Seven Sisters.