Marion North: ‘vision, persuasiveness and sheer determination’

Marion North, former Principal of the Laban Centre, was born in Hull and studied at Homerton Teacher Training College, before undertaking postgraduate study at the Art of Movement Studio in Manchester in the 1950s.



Marion North’s letter of acceptance on to a postgraduate course at the Art of Movement Studio, 16 April 1951. [RefNo: D4/2007/39/5/68]

After completing her studies, Marion joined the Art of Movement Studio’s faculty, where she specialised in the detailed observation of human behavioural movement. She became apprenticed to Rudolf Laban, developing a test for assessment of personality through the analysis of physical behaviour and pioneering creative movement in the workplace as recreational activity for industrial workers.



Notes on  ‘Vision Drives’ by Marion North, c1950s [RefNo: D4/2007/39/5/34]

Marion left the Art of Movement Studio in 1958, the year that Rudolf Laban died.  She became Head of Dance at Sidney Webb College, London from 1962-72 and then Head of the Dance Department, Goldsmith’s College from 1972-80. She became Principal of Laban in 1973. Under her leadership, Laban offered Britain’s first BA (Hons) Dance Theatre (1977), the first MA in Dance Studies (1980), the first MA in Dance Movement Therapy in collaboration with Hahnemann University, Philadelphia (1995) and the first MA Scenography [Dance] (1999).

Under Marion the Laban Centre became an international institution, particpating in international events as well as hosting choreographers and dancers from around the world to teach, work and inspire students at the Centre.



Laban Centre students performing at Ninian Park, Cardiff in front of Pope John Paul II, 2 June 1982. Photographer: ?Marion North [RefNo: LA/D/12/4/10/1/2]



Photograph of a workshop at the Laban Centre with choreographer Jacob Marley, 1989. Photographer: Tony Nandi [RefNo: LA/D/12/4/11/2/1]

Marion invited Bonnie Bird from the US to come and teach at the Laban Centre. Marion and Bonnie had first met at the Dance Notation Bureau in New York in 1970-71. They struck up a partnership ‘which was to have a dominating influence on the Laban Centre.’ (Willson, p. 179). Bonnie Bird came to work full-time at the Laban Centre in 1974.


Photograph of Bonnie Bird teaching in Taipei, with Transitions Dance Company, c1992. Photographer: Tony Nandi [RefNo: LA/D/12/5/2/3/1]


Marion was a Visiting Professor at numerous colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, Greece, Japan and Taiwan. Her own studies included a longitudinal study of movement characteristics of babies to adolescence as well as the application of Rudolf Laban’s principles in industry.



Announcement of a lecture given by Dr Marion North on ‘Observations of personality development as seen in the movement of babies’, 5 March 1982, at the Tavistock Centre, London. [RefNo: D4/2007/39/5/73]

Marion held a PhD in Psychology and Movement Study from the University of London. Marion North was awarded an OBE in 2000 and Doctor of Letters honoris causa by the University of Salford in 2001.  She retired in 2003 having overseen the move of Laban (now the Faculty of Dance) into its new building at Deptford, South East London. In 2004, Marion  was awarded CBE as former Principal and Chief Executive of the Laban Centre.


Marion North with students from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance at her 85th birthday party, 2 November 2010. Photographer: Tony Nandi [RefNo: D4/2011/3/102]

Marion North died in 2012.

Anthony Bowne, who took over as Principal of the Laban Centre from Marion and led it into a new phase of its history as Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, summarised her legacy as follows:

‘Marion’s vision, persuasiveness and sheer determination have made an enormous contribution to developing the profile of contemporary dance education and training in this country. Her belief that creative work should be at the heart of every dance student’s experience continues to be a guiding principle in the development of all our dance courses and activities, and her conviction that Rudolf Laban’s work should form a significant dimension of studies here has secured us a unique place in the dance profession. Marion leaves us with a wonderful legacy, including our stunning building – her ultimate vision realized. We are now the guardians of this legacy, charged with responsibility to look always for innovative ways forward and creative solutions to the challenges facing us.’ [TL, 2016)


Willson, F.M.G., 1997. In Just Order Move: The progress of the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance 1946-1996, Athlone Press, London.

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance Faculty of Dance. [TL] (2016, August 1). Marion North. Retrieved from




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.

Ref:SB40001                                                                        Ref:SB40002

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

Ref: SB 29

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.



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)


What was Rudolf Laban like?



Photographs of Rudolf Laban at the Art of Movement Studio, Manchester, c1948. [RefNos: LC/A/1/4/18, LC/A/1/3/30, LC/A/1/4/5, Laban Archive, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance]

In 1938 Rudolf Laban arrived penniless and destitute in the UK, a refugee from Nazi Germany. By the time of his death in 1958 his school, the Laban Art of Movement Centre in Addlestone, Surrey was flourishing, his ideas on movement in education were becoming widespread in schools and colleges across the UK, and his ideas on movement in drama were being taught at theatre schools. But who was he and why did he come to the UK? And what had he done in his life before he arrived in Dover at the age of 59?

Valerie Preston-Dunlop first met Rudolf Laban when she was 16 and a new student at the Art of Movement Studio in 1947. Rudolf Laban was 68 by then and a somewhat reclusive figure who spoke English with ‘a very dark voice and strong German accent’ (Quote from Petit, June (2012) at 30min 7secs].  It wasn’t until many years later after Valerie had travelled extensively throughout Europe meeting people who had known and worked with Rudolf Laban, that she discovered just how prestigious a career he had had in Germany before falling foul of the Nazi regime and fleeing to Paris and the UK.

Much has now been written about Rudolf Laban’s life and career, not least the book Rudolf Laban: An extraordinary life by Valerie Preston-Dunlop (1998) London, England: Dance Books. A brief summary can be found on the Trinity Laban website.

But we wanted to find out what he was like as an educator and as a human being. So we interrogated the Laban Archive to find out.

Here is Sylvia Bodmer, one of Laban’s pupils in the 1920s in Germany who went on to have a distinguished dance career, talking about Laban. Bodmer had participated in Laban’s summer dance workshops in 1922 in Gleshendorf, a village in north Germany, where the dancers experimented with movement outside in the thistle-laden meadows:

[RefNo: D1/H/3/2, Laban Archive, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance]

She refers to Laban  having ‘women all around’. During the course of his life he married twice and fathered nine children by five different women and had many mistresses.

In this audio interview Bodmer talks to Valerie Preston-Dunlop about Laban’s teaching methods at Gleshendorf:

[RefNo: LC/E/1/3/A/1, Laban Archive, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance]

Having managed to get out of Germany and eventually arriving in the UK in 1938, Laban joined up with Lisa Ullmann, Sylvia Bodmer and others and ran modern dance holiday courses up and down the country. Margaret McCallum, a dance teacher in schools in the UK at the time, took part in modern dance holiday courses at Bedford College of Physical Education in 1942 and at St. Margaret’s School in Bushey, taught by Rudolf Laban and Lisa Ullmann.

Here McCallum describes what Laban taught her to Valerie Preston-Dunlop:

[RefNo: LC/E/1/20, Laban Archive, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance]

McCallum mentions Rudolf Laban’s work with factory girls and finding economical ways for them to work. Britain in the early 1940s was ‘in the throes of an all-out war effort’ (Preston-Dunlop, p. 218). Laban teamed up with Frederick Lawrence, a management consultant concerned with work efficiency in industry, and together they tackled the problem of enabling women to undertake the heavy lifting and industrial jobs previously done by men. Laban introduced the use of momentum, so that through swinging movements of the whole body, women could achieve what men had done using leverage of their arms. He also applied the concepts of movement harmony so that a job requiring a downward pressure for example would have an upward movement to release that pressure incorporated into the movement phrase (Preston-Dunlop, p.223).

Joy Walton taught dance in schools just after the war. She attended workshops in the early 1940s run by Rudolf Laban. Here Walton talks about Laban, the way he taught her and her fellow students and the kind of person he was:

[RefNo: LC/E/1/19, Laban Archive, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance]

Marion North became a student at the Art of Movement Studio in the early 1950s. By 1956 she had become a teacher at the Studio and in that year went on a voyage to the United States of America to expand her experience and studies. She and Laban exchanged many letters during the course of her travels and they reveal a close and caring relationship between them. Here is an extract from a letter from Laban to North where he warns her of the work ahead once her trip is over:

“But don’t expect too much of a happy continuation of your free experiencing of the world and of personal satisfaction. The mastery [underlined] of life demands a lot of abdication in this respect. Becoming a master is almost the death of happy journeymanship, with a lot of complicated responsibility for the whole rather than for one’s own elation. This is what I, old fool, have forgotten in the uproar of our separation, and I would not be worth [sic] of your friendship if I would not tell you what I think now about it. Strange to say, I [illegible] myself have ripened –  a bit late, isn’t it? – through my relatedness with you and I am grateful for that.”

[RefNo: D4/2012/15/11/10/2, letter dated 19th August 1956. Laban Archive, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance]


Photograph of Leni Heaton, Lisa Ullmann, Rudolf Laban and Adda Heynssen eating Easter cake outside at the Art of Movement Studio, Addlestone, 1957. Photographer: Marion North. [RefNo: LC/A/1/5/67, Laban Archive, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance]

North went on to become the Principal of the Art of Movement Studio, renamed the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance, in 1973. We shall hear more of her story in later blog posts as we continue our history of what is now the Faculty of Dance at Trinity Laban, in this our 70th year.

Next month we focus on the life and career of another of the big names in our history, that of Sylvia Bodmer.



Bodmer, Sylvia (1980s) [Recording of interview with Sylvia Bodmer]. Sylvia Bodmer Collection (D1/H/3/2). Laban Archive, Library and Archive, Faculty of Dance, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London, England.

Bodmer, Sylvia (1985) [Interviews with Sylvia Bodmer]. Laban Collection (LC/E/1/3/A/1). Laban Archive, Library and Archive, Faculty of Dance, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London, England.

Laban, Rudolf and North, Marion (1956) [Laban 1956. Original letters between Marion North and Rudolf Laban during this year; transcripts and originals]. Marion North Collection (D4/2012/15/11/10/2). Laban Archive, Library and Archive, Faculty of Dance, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London, England.

McCallum, Margaret (2004) [Interview with Margaret McCallum and Christine Edwards]. Laban Collection (LC/E/1/20). Laban Archive, Library and Archive, Faculty of Dance, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London, England.

Petit, June (2012) [Recording of interview between Jane Fowler and June Petit (nee Preston), concerning June’s experiences as a student at the Art of Movement Studio, Addlestone between 1958-1959]. Laban Collection (LC/E/1/26). Laban Archive, Library and Archive, Faculty of Dance, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London, England.

Preston-Dunlop, V. (1998). Rudolf Laban: An extraordinary life. London, England: Dance Books Ltd.

Walton, Joy (2004) [Interview with Joy Walton, a former pupil of Rudolf Laban’s]. Laban Collection (LC/E/1/19). Laban Archive, Library and Archive, Faculty of Dance, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London, England.

Where it all began – the early days of the Faculty of Dance

The Art of Movement Studio (now the Faculty of Dance, Trinity Laban) first opened its doors to the public in January 1946 at 183-5 Oxford Road, Manchester. It was housed in rooms over a garage in a not particularly salubrious neighbourhood but it did have ‘a large room with windows all down one side and a reasonably well boarded floor’ (Thornton, p. 4).  The Studio was the result of a lot of hard work on the part of Lisa Ullmann and Rudolf Laban who, since arriving in Manchester in 1942, had been training students in the cellar of a large house in Palatine House, Didsbury, Manchester (Preston-Dunlop, p. 222). They had also been travelling the length and breadth of the UK conducting short courses and holiday courses and running a teachers’ training course for the past few years since Laban’s arrival in the UK in 1938.


Photograph of Lisa Ullmann teaching Meg Tudor Williams, Mary Elding, Valerie Preston (later Preston-Dunlop), Warren Lamb and Hettie Loman at the Art of Movement Studio, 1947 [RefNo: LC/A/14/1/3]

Lisa Ullmann had trained at a Laban School in Germany and been on the teaching staff at Kurt Jooss’s Folkwangschule Essen (now the Folkwang University of the Arts). She came to England with Ballets Jooss in 1934 to teach at the Jooss-Leeder school at Dartington Hall. During this time, she set up and ran a movement choir and conducted evening classes for the Worker’s Educational Association in Plymouth and for teachers at the University of Exeter. She came across Rudolf Laban whilst passing through Paris in 1937 (Preston-Dunlop, p. 206). He had managed to escape Germany having fallen foul of the Nazi regime, but was now penniless and destitute. On her return to Dartington she must have discussed his plight with Kurt Jooss who then issued a personal invitation to Laban to come and stay at Dartington Hall, which he did in 1938.


Prospectus for the Art of Movement Studio c1950 [RefNo:  LC/C/4/391.39]

 By 1945, the demand for dance training was such that  Lisa Ullmann and Rudolf Laban decided to set up a centre and took on a five-year lease of the Oxford Road premises. They had wanted to call the centre the ‘Basic Movement Studio’ to emphasise their view of movement as ‘a common denominator to life’ (Willson, p.32) but this title had already been taken so they settled instead for ‘The Art of Movement Studio’.

There is no formal record of how many students were first enrolled at the Studio when it opened but various sources suggest it was around eight. They were to be offered instruction by Rudolf Laban, Lisa Ullmann and Sylvia Bodmer and each student ‘had to pay either £96 for three twelve week terms, or £40 for a single term.’ (Willson, p. 34)

Classes focused on  ‘theoretical tuition and practical exercise based on the sudy of harmony and rhythm in movement’ (Quoted from the Studio prospectus below).



The syllabus of the Art of Movement Studio, c1950 [RefNo: LC/C/4/391.39]

Dr Valerie Preston-Dunlop became a student at the Art of Movement Studio in 1947. Here she talks about some of the things that Rudolf Laban expected from her during the course of her studies there.

[RefNo: TL/2008/7/2]

Displays of dance were given at the Studio regularly, and as their work became more well known, students from the Studio were invited to perform at local halls and theatres.


Notice of a performance given by the Art of Movement Studio in 1947. The Studio had been invited to perform by the Manchester Dance Circle, a group that had been set up by Sylvia Bodmer, a former student of Rudolf Laban. [RefNo: LC/C/1/391.44]

Sylvia Bodmer was one of the first tutors at the Studio. She had come to the UK in 1938 to escape the Nazi regime. Prior to this she had trained as a dancer at the Laban School in Stuttgart, Germany and performed with Rudolf Laban’s dance group at Gleschendorf in the 1920s. She had gone on to found a successful school in Frankfurt which provided choreography for the Frankfurt Opera House. On her arrival in the UK she began giving private movement lessons and by 1943 had set up the Manchester Dance Circle, a community dance group, to promulgate Rudolf Laban’s ideas. Whilst at the Art of Movement Studio, she founded the Young Dancers’ Group using the Studio’s advanced students. They performed at the Manchester Library Theatre and elsewhere in the local area to much acclaim.


Photograph of members of the Young Dancers’ Group performing in Manchester, 1947. [RefNo: LC/A/17/2/7/16]

By 1950 the Art of Movement Studio was offering a selection of full and part-time courses and its student numbers had increased so much that it needed to find additional premises to rent nearby. Links were also being developed with the Unnamed Drama Society, with Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop and with the Northern Theatre School. As these activities widened it became obvious that the Studio needed to find a much larger and better equipped centre. Through the generosity of the wealthy, philanthropic Elmhirst family, an estate of sixteen acres at Addlestone, near Weybridge, Surrey was donated and in October 1954, the Laban Art of Movement Centre was established.

Our series continues next month with a closer look at Rudolf Laban – who was he and what was he like?


Preston-Dunlop, V. (1998). Rudolf Laban: An extraordinary life. London, England: Dance Books Ltd.

Thornton, S. (1971). Studio 25. Addlestone: Art of Movement Studio

Willson, F.M.G. (1997). In Just Order Move: The progress of the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance 1946-1996. London, England: The Athlone Press.


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.

Ref: LC/A/7/4/4

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.

Explore Your Archive Week 14-22 November 2015

Yes its ‘Explore Your Archive’ week and to celebrate we’ve been to Monte Verita, aka the ‘Mountain of Truth’ in Ascona, Switzerland to attend the Laban Event 2015. The event spanned a weekend in October and was held in the Monte Verita Hotel, built between 1927 and 1929 by the architect Emil Fahrenkamp in the Bauhaus style. The hotel overlooks the beautiful Lake Maggiore whose surrounding banks are filled with sub-tropical vegetation which thrives in the area’s Mediterranean climate.

Monte Verita HotelHotel room in Monte Verita Hotel

Lake Maggiore, AsconaSub tropical plants on the banks of Lake Maggiore

Rudolf Laban first visited Monte Verita in May 1913 to explore the possibilities of starting a Summer School for the Arts. Monte Verita was already established as a centre for experimental living. A colony had arisen there in 1900 and nature cures, vegetarianism, psychoanalysis, anarchism and alternative approaches towards the body, sexuality and spirituality were being explored. Laban and his dancers fully arrived in June that year. They strived to live in harmony with nature by growing their own food, weaving cloth and making their own clothing. They danced outside, sometimes naked, experimenting with dynamic improvisations. It was here that Laban, with the help of Suzanne Perrottet and Mary Wigman, developed what is now called modern dance. And it was here that two of Laban’s first works, The Dancing Drumstick and Ishtar’s Journey into Hades, were created.

Laban used Schwungskalen, or swinging scales, as his basic training method for his dancers. These were large movements involving the whole body, with the directional framework provided by a body-sized octahedron or cube imagined around the mover. These scales continued to be developed by Laban into the A and B scales being sequences of twelve movements, located in the icosahedron. The Monte Verita Hotel has a sculpture of a life-size icosahedron in the grounds (see below), made by artist Miki Tallone, in an area designated as ‘Laban’s training area’.

A life-size icosahedron at Monte VeritaThere are many photographs in the Laban Archive of dancers moving in such structures. The image below shows Rudolf Laban in an icosahedron at a summer school at Ashridge, 1955, photographed by June Petit.


Rudolf Laban continued to run his summer schools, or dance farms, at Monte Verita every year until 1917. This era also saw him devote time to devising notation which was to become a major concern of his. The image below shows an example of Labanotation from the Laban Archive, written by Dr Valerie Preston-Dunlop as a ‘Thank You’ card sent out in 1949 after Rudolf Laban’s 70th birthday depicting the 12 sequences of movement representing 7 rings of similar shape.


The Laban Event was set up in 2013 to celebrate the centenary of Rudolf Laban’s first Summer School for the Arts, with an international conference at Monte Verita. A group of internationally renowned researchers was invited to share some of the guidelines that have been developed from the discoveries of Rudolf Laban. Alison Curtis-Jones, a member of the Faculty of Dance at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, was commissioned by the Swiss Government to mount Suite ’24 and Nacht with Summit Dance Theatre, performed to acclaim at the Teatro San Materno, Monte Verita. The Laban Event 2014 focused on ‘dance for all’ and dealt with the theoretical and practical discourse regarding the educational and social role of dance. This included Alison Curtis-Jones presenting her current research on ‘Movement Choirs for Contemporary Audiences’, teaching master classes in her development of choreological practice for artistic and pedagogic practice and sharing her practical research on the notion of ‘community’, group cohesion and her use of proprioception to create Movement Choirs.

This year’s event, Laban Event 2015, comprised workshops, films and lectures with a common theme being  the use of archives in reimagining past choreographic works. Alison Curtis-Jones led movement workshops entitled ‘From archive to production: Contemporising the past, envisioning the future’. Stefano Tomassini and Karin Hermes gave detailed presentations on the remaking and restaging of choreographic works, in particular the re-enactment of Sacre by Cristina Rizzo and the restaging of Big City by Kurt Jooss. A fascinating panel discussion took place, chaired by Dr Patrick Primavesi, Professor at the Institute for Theatre Studies at the University of Leipzig and Director of the Dance Archive Leipzig, called  “Round Table on the Re” (re-productions, re-constructions, re-creations), where Valerie Preston-Dunlop told us about Laban’s first two works and how they were ‘research as practice’ in his attempt to discover the nature and rhythm of movement. On the second day of the conference, workshops on ‘Movement for actors and performers – a point of view’ were given by Maria Consagra and a Keynote presentation was given by Dr Valerie Preston-Dunlop on ‘Archeochoreology: finding a lost dance’. Valerie spoke about the need for ‘anarchic artistry in collaboration with your research’. She outlined how she had interviewed dancers who had worked with Laban and who told her that he worked by collaborating with them and that there was often live improvisation on stage – a ‘living in the moment’. (These interviews are available to be heard in the Laban Archive). She explained that Laban’s choreographic works didn’t have a fixed form – that they are open works and that the key to finding the essence of them is through creative rehearsal methods.

Valerie’s talk was complemented by sessions designed for archivists and researchers to meet and exchange information on their collections that relate to Rudolf Laban and what could be done to link them. Relevant collections are held all over the world and include:

  • the Laban Archive at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance which holds the Laban Collection, documenting the life and work of Rudolf Laban and his associates from the 1920s to the 1950s, as well as many other collections relating to the history of Laban the institution and to the development of contemporary dance
  • Tanzarchiv Leipzig e.V. has a Rudolf Laban Collection as well as others including Mary Wigman and Jenny Gertz
  • Dartington Hall Trust Archive has collections which include correspondence and photographs of Rudolf Laban, Kurt Jooss and Ballets Jooss. Their catalogue is searchable online. They also have moving image clips of dance performances and open days at Dartington from the 1930s and 1940s at the Dartington Film Archive, some of which is available to view on Youtube and Vimeo.
  • Special Collections, Leeds University Library holds the John Hodgson Collection which contains drawings, writings, posters, photographs and other material of Rudolf Laban. The collection can now be searched via an online catalogue and a Laban Collection guide has been written giving descriptive texts to some digitised images from the collection.
  • National Resource Centre for Dance at the University of Surrey is a non-profit national archive and resource provider for dance and movement. It holds a Rudolf Laban Collection as well as other Laban-related collections. Many of their collections can be searched on their online catalogue.
  • The Dance Notation Bureau holds Labanotation by Rudolf Laban and others.
  • The Centre National de la Danse holds the Albrecht Knust Collection of Labanotation scores and other papers. Some of these have been digitised and are searchable online.
  • Deutsches Tanzarchiv Koln holds collections of Harald Kreutzberg, Mary Wigman and Kurt Jooss and many other Laban-influenced artists.
  • The Bedford Physical Education Archive at the University of Bedfordshire holds archive material bequeathed by former members of staff and students of Bedford Physical Training College (later the Bedford College of Physical Education and now the University of Bedfordshire) since its inception in 1903. It provides a unique insight into the early development of women’s physical education as well as the pioneering of Rudolf Laban’s ideas and methods of teaching dance.
  • The Akademie Der Kunste, Berlin holds archive collections of Mary Wigman and Valeska Gert as well as many others.

The culmination of the Laban Event 2015 was a presentation directed by Alison Curtis-Jones of a brilliant reimagining of the two works Laban had first created in Monte Verita back in 1913,  The Dancing Drumstick and Ishtar’s Journey into Hades, featuring Summit Dance Theatre, winners of the prestigious ‘Dance as Cultural Heritage’ award, music by Oli Newman and James Keane, costumes by Mary Fisher, consultant Valerie Preston-Dunlop and produced by Nunzi Tirelli and Giona Beltrametti. The performance took place at the Teatro del Gatto in Ascona and was rapturously received. The photograph below shows Summit Dance Theatre rehearsing Drumstick in the studio, photographed by Alison Curtis-Jones.

Drumstick rehearsalFor more information about Laban Event 2015, check out their website. For information about Summit Dance Theatre, find them on Facebook. And for more information about the archives and special collections held by both faculties at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, have a look at the Faculty of Dance and Faculty of Music pages.

Explore your archives!

Exercises in Empathy: an exhibition at the Site Gallery, Sheffield 25 July – 5 September 2015


In case you are around Sheffield at the moment, there is still time to see the exhibition Exercises in Empathy at the Site Gallery featuring choreutic models, photographs and documents from the Laban Archive, pictured above. The exhibition ‘explores how the body senses objects and responds to concepts and ideas through touch and movement. Photographs, film, sculpture and archival materials show how inner and outer worlds blur into each other. Acts of repetition, mirroring and meditation are used to examine the space between sensing and knowing, doing and thinking’ (Quoted from the Site Gallery website, 2015). Sara Cluggish, the curator of the exhibition, which also features the work of Daria Martin and Ian Whittlesea, reports that it has been very well received which is great news, so catch it if you can.



All the beautiful photographs are by Julian Lister.