Collecting StrandNational Resource Centre for Dance
Ref NoL
TitleRudolf Laban Archive
Extent78 boxes and 1 portfolio of papers, 7 boxes of photographs, 10 boxes of drawings, 139 books, 3 booklets, 1 catalogue, 3 posters, 11 theatre programmes, 162 periodicals, 4 scrapbooks, 1 object, 15 boxes and 4 bundles of uncatalogued material.
Name of CreatorLaban; Rudolf (1879-1958); movement theorist
DescriptionThe Rudolf Laban Archive dates predominantly from the last 20 years of Laban's life, 1938-1958, the years he spent in England, although his earlier life and work are also represented. The majority of the papers are unpublished writings. Ranging from notes written in pencil to completed, typed book chapters, these materials show Laban charting new territory and taking his theories further than his published writings demonstrate. As Laban rarely dated his papers, it is uncertain whether the German-language papers were brought over from Germany with him, or whether he continued to write in German during his first years in England.

The papers include personal correspondence, early forerunners of the movement notation system he devised, production scripts of Laban's choreography, and other examples of Laban's creativity, such as poems and stories. The archive houses substantial material on Laban-Lawrence Industrial Rhythm, Laban's work in industry with F.C. Lawrence and Warren Lamb.

The archive also contains thousands of drawings by Laban. Showing human figures surrounded by geometric forms, or simply the forms themselves, the drawings represent Laban's working out of his theories and are integral to understanding them. While predominantly of the five Platonic Solids, the drawings also depict knots, lemniscates, mobius strips, and other topological objects. The archive also contains architectural sketches, caricatures, landscapes, and portraits.

The photographs within the archive document many aspects of Laban's life and work. Included are photographs of Laban as a child, a bohemian artist in Paris, and a dancer and choreographer. Various photos taken in England show Laban teaching drama and dance students, working with Kurt Jooss, and lecturing on Industrial Rhythm. There are some uncatalogued silent films showing him in later years doing movement scales. Footage from the 1940s records students practising 'Effort' exercises with props in the Manchester studio and other students performing dances, probably by Ullmann, on the lawn. In addition, the Rudolf Laban Archive also contains periodicals, programmes, posters, and scrapbooks.

There are 15 boxes of material and 4 batches of outsized material still to be catalogued. This includes books, artwork, papers, film footage, and the original card catalogue. If you require further information about this material, please email
ArrangementIn her work on the collection, Lisa Ullmann organised Laban's papers by subject into the following categories: Art in General; Art of Movement; Articles about Laban; Assessments, Reports, Records; Biographical Information; Books, Manuscripts, Outlines; Choreography; Choreology (Effort); Choreology (Space); Choreology in General; Choreutics; Contracts; Dance in General; Education ; Eukinetics; Family Correspondence; Harmony; Historical Data; Industrial Rhythm; Information from Others; Investigation into Movement Responses; Lecture Notes on Various Subjects; Letters; Man, Matter and Motion; Miscellaneous Notes; Movement in General; Movement Notation; Observation; Personal Statements; Philosophical Comments; Photostat and Newspaper Cuttings; Physiological - Scientific; Production Scripts; Psychological Implications; Rhythm; Rudolf Laban's Pupils; Stories, Poems, Drama, Music; and Therapy.

This thematic structure was retained as far as possible following the deposit of the archive with the National Resource Centre for Dance.
Administrative HistoryMovement theorist Rudolf Laban (1879-1958) created a system of analysing movement characteristics, pathways through space, and the 'effort', 'shape', and 'drive' of a movement. The system is known today as Laban Movement Analysis, although he used the terms Choreutics (space) and Eukinetics (effort). Laban also developed a system of movement notation, known as Kinetography Laban or Labanotation. His work fed not only into professional dance practice, but also into educational dance, acting, therapy, and workplace assessment.

Born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Laban studied art in Paris and went on to stage carnivals in Munich, where his interest in movement found form. In Switzerland during WWI, he worked with his student Mary Wigman on a new dance style, now called German Expressionist Dance, which took root in Germany in the 1920s. During this decade, Laban taught, choreographed, and performed in Germany, while developing his movement notation with a group of students, who included Albrecht Knust and Kurt Jooss.

Laban was appointed choreographer and director of movement for the Prussian State Theatres in 1930, a position he held when the Nazis came to power. In 1936, he was tasked with organising both an international dance competition and performances to open the new Dietrich Eckart Theatre to be held just before the opening of the Berlin Olympics. However, following the dress rehearsal for the theatre opening event, Joseph Goebbels was displeased and forbid the performance of Laban’s work. In 1937, Laban left Germany for Paris, and the following year, joined Jooss at Dartington Hall in England. In 1942, he moved with Lisa Ullmann to Manchester, where she opened the Art of Movement Studio in 1946. They moved the studio to Addlestone, Surrey, in 1953. Following Lisa Ullmann’s retirement in 1973, Marion North became Principal and, in 1975, a renamed Laban Centre for Movement and Dance opened in New Cross, London.

The last 20 years of Laban’s life were spent in England, refining and writing down his movement theories, teaching, and developing his work in industry. The latter was created in the early 1940s in collaboration with F.C. Lawrence and known as Laban-Lawrence Industrial Rhythm. Derived from his Effort Theory, the system analysed the movements of workers in factory production lines and on farms and devised less stressful means of carrying out the tasks. Clients included Tyresoles, J. Lyons & Co., Pilkington's Tiles, and Mars Confections. Industrial Rhythm was further developed by Warren Lamb and led onto Personal Effort Assessment, by which people applying for clerical, managerial, and other non-manual jobs were assessed for their suitability to the work. More recently the work has become known as Movement Pattern Analysis.
Related MaterialThe work and legacies of Rudolf Laban are additionally well-represented within the following collections, also held by University of Surrey Archives and Special Collections:
Lisa Ullmann Archive, [collection reference: LU];
Joan Russell Archive, [collection reference: JR];
Educational Dance-Drama Theatre Archive [collection reference: ET];
Betty Meredith-Jones Collection [collection reference: BMJ];
Audrey Wethered and Chloe Gardner Collection [collection reference: AW];
International Council of Kinetography Laban/Labanotation (ICKL) Archive [collection reference: KL];
Laban Art of Movement Guild Archive [collection reference: LG];
Warren Lamb Archive [collection reference: WL];
Geraldine Stephenson Archive [collection reference: GS];
Enid Platt Collection of the Manchester Dance Circle [collection reference: MDC];
Laban Oral History Collection [collection reference: LOH].
Finding AidsA card catalogue exists in addition to the online catalogue.
Physical DescriptionThe film footage was transferred to video in the mid 1990s and transferred again to DVD and digital files as part of the Digital Dance Archives project in 2011
CopyrightCopyright in Rudolf Laban's unpublished material resides with the National Resource Centre for Dance, University of Surrey. Copyright in Rudolf Laban's published material resides with his Trustees.
Custodial HistoryLaban left his personal archive, the Archives Laban, to Lisa Ullmann, his partner during the last 20 years of his life. She organised the archive and added to it, gathering early materials from Germany and elsewhere.

Acting on Ullmann's wishes, her executors deposited the archive with the National Resource Centre for Dance (NRCD) at the University of Surrey in 1988. Ullmann's own archive was deposited at the NRCD at the same time. One executor, Ellinor Hinks, who had helped Ullmann organise the archive, continued to work on both collections until around 1997.

Seven boxes of papers on Industrial Rhythm, which had become separated from the archive prior to its transfer to the NRCD, were separately deposited by Warren Lamb in 1986.
CodePerson NameDates
DS/UK/P417Laban; Rudolf (1879-1958); movement theorist1879-1958
    Powered by CalmView© 2008-2024