Laban’s Effort/Shape description is used to record the energy content of a motion. It is used not only to record movement, but also to help dancers simulate movements. Effort is the quality of a movement, the emotional tone and how the energy is being used. The Effort/Shape system reflects the dancer's investment of energy in four basic areas: Flow, Time, Weight and Space. Effort variation is generally associated with a change of mood or emotion. Each dance effort can also have different degrees of intensities. The Effort/Shape method of recording movement is used in physiotherapy, psychotherapy as well as dance.
Laban developed his “Effort/Shape” studies when he was asked to analyze the efficiency of British industry during World War II (1939-1945). Wartime spurred industry to determine how workers might move most efficiently.
Click the buttons to view a dancer perform one of the eight basic Effort/Shape movements. Notice how the Effort/Shape diagram changes to illustrate how this movement is notated.