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What is the Laban Bartenieff Movement System?

The Laban Bartenieff Movement System (LBMS) is named after and based on the work of Rudolf Laban and Irmgard Bartenieff. It is a system that is used to understand the patterns of human movement, both quantitative and qualitative / functional and expressive. It allows us to identify the different aspects of movement (the what, where, how and why) and to form an understanding of their interconnectedness, looking at the body as a whole. Because everything is connected, we then see that making a change to one aspect of movement initiates changes in other aspects and how they then relate to each other; a change in a part creates a change in the whole.

LBMS delineates these interconnected aspects as Body, Space, Shape, Effort (dynamics). The system identifies patterns by looking at the relationships of these aspects in the Phrasing, Developmental Progression and Themes of Duality (e.g. Stability/Mobility, Exertion/Recuperation, Function/Expression, Inner/Outer) of movement.

Whilst these LBMS aspects generally apply to humans, it is in the variations of the finer details of these aspects and the picture they create that we see each individuals personal patterns/habits. By becoming consciously aware of these patterns and habits we are in a better place to make changes. It also allows us to realise what other choices our bodies have outside of our habitual movement patterns.

LBMS therefore has a wide range of applications as a form of analysis and as a somatic movement practice. Not only Pilates, but also computer animation, movement therapy, architecture, design, developing new technologies, acting, dancing, to name only a few!

What about Bartenieff Fundamentals™?

Bartenieff Fundamentals™ (BF) is a part of LBMS, although it is often mentioned as a separate body of knowledge and often in relation to Pilates. BF connects Laban’s ideas to the kinesiological functioning of the body – it is about the Fundamentals of movement and connecting these to our intentions. It is “an approach to basic body training that deals with patterning connections in the body according to principles of efficient movement functioning” (Hackney, P., Making Connections, 2002). It identifies 6 basic fundamental patterns (the ‘Basic 6’ sequences) and 11 Principles; Breath Support, Axis of Length, Dynamic Alignment, Core Support, Developmental Pattern Support, Weight Shift from the Pelvic Core, Body Level Phrasing, Rotary Support and Spatial/Effort/Shape Intent. These ideas are often applied to the re-educating and re-patterning of movement to restore, enhance or maintain physical functioning.

“Connectedness refers to the dynamic alignment of the weight-bearing structure, the skeleton, in movement as well as stillness. It allows the flow, the movement impulse, to pass through the body in such a way that complete activation can be realized most efficiently – without unnecessary exertion and stress. “ Irmgard Bartenieff

Who were Rudolf Laban and Irmgard Bartenieff?

Rudolf Laban (1879-1958)

Born in Austro-Hungary, Laban was a dancer, choreographer, teacher, illustrator, painter and architect. He is well known for his work in dance and had a significant impact on European modern dance and dance education in the UK. However, Laban had a fascination for movement in all contexts, not only dance. Over the course of his life he developed an in-depth understanding of human movement, creating his own system of movement analysis based on real-life observations and experience.

More information on Wikipedia: Rudolf Laban

Irmgard Bartenieff (1900-1981)

Irmgard Bartenieff was from Germany and a student of Laban’s. She was a dancer, choreographer, physical therapist and dance therapist. Irmgard later emigrated to the USA, taking Laban’s teachings with her and setting up training programmes there. Her ideas developed out of her work and application of Laban’s teachings with polio patients and in children’s hospitals.

Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, developer of Body-Mind Centering®, was a student of Bartenieff’s.

More information on Wikipedia: Irmgard Bartenieff

Want to know more?

Julie became a Certified Movement Analyst through the Laban Bartenieff Institute for Movement Studies (NY) and Moving Forth (UK). She also assisted Moving Forth in running two certification programmes in Edinburgh and introductory weekend workshops. Julie has assisted the teaching of one full LBMS certification programme and has taught introductory LBMS workshops and LBMS to acting students at MGA Academy for Performing Arts in Edinburgh. If you are interested in learning about LBMS, Julie is happy to meet for a chat and teach one-to-one sessions.

Useful links


Laban Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies



Everybody is a Body by Karen Studd and Laura Cox

Making Connections: Total Body Integration Through Bartenieff Fundamentals by Peggy Hackney