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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Laban's Eight Efforts

All right, actors!  Here's the deal.  Our movement through space is a little bit like a fingerprint.  You know how you can many times identify a loved one just by the way they move?

This is a great thing.  It's also something that limits our ability to transform ourselves as we embody a character.

So, how do we change our "movement fingerprint" while still being present in our bodies and allowing ourselves to be a part of the performance?

Tricky, eh?

That's where Laban's efforts come into play.  Laban breaks down the way we move using three different areas of analysis: space, weight and time.  Space can be either direct or indirect.  Weight can be strong or light.  Time can be sudden or sustained.  When you put these all together, you end up with eight efforts that classify styles of movement, as well as something of the personality of the person making that movement.

Direct, strong, sudden--------punch (thrust)
Indirect, strong, sudden------slash
Direct, strong, sustained-----push
Indirect, strong, sustained---wring
Direct, light, sudden----------dab
Indirect, light, sudden--------flick
Direct, light, sustained-------glide
Indirect, light, sustained-----float

Most of us generally inhabit one or two of these efforts (one when we're happy, another when we're angry :)) at the most.  The others are usually not as comfortable for us.  But as we start experimenting with these different efforts, we can learn to use all of them.  Using the efforts makes it possible for us to create wildly different physical performances, while still remaining true to our own unique and special quality that only we can bring to the table.

There's a lot more to be said about this one, so I think I may do a podcast on it in the future.  Keep an eye out for it, and please leave your comments, questions and requests here for me.  I want to know what's of the most interest to you.  I look forward to it! :)


  1. First time hearing about this method. Seems very interesting and sounds like it would help actors find and understand how a character would move depending on what is happening in the scene. Thanks for the info.

  2. I am intrigued by these different names for the type of movement. I have heard of paying attention to your center--where you are being held up (imagining a string holding you up--from the stomach, the back, the heels of your feet, etc.). Liking your blog!

  3. Very interesting. I'd definitely like to hear more about this in an upcoming podcast

  4. Hello,

    I think your explanations are wonderful, but what you are calling "Efforts" are actually "Action Drives", combinations of 3 Efforts: Time, Weight, Space. There is also a fourth Effort, Flow.

  5. For the purposes of dance, that's true, but what I'm talking about are the efforts (and yes, that's what they were called when they were taught to me :)) that are formed by combining weight, space and flow (heavy/light, direct/indirect and sustained/unsustained). Remember that this was all translated from another language, so the specific words vary according to the teacher or translator. :)

    1. Hi Ben,

      I did Laban technique at drama school and was taught the same as you. My tutor was an ex dancer and said Laban for actors differs from that for dancers which incorporates flow. It is indeed a brilliant, ingenious way to develop character physicalities and also great fun to practice! Thanks for the update as I was getting a little rusty!

  6. Action drive is the combo of weight, space, and time (not flow). Punch, slash, push, wring, dab, flick, glide, and float are all action drives. It is true, you combine the effort qualities of weight, space, and time to create those action drives.

  7. hello,
    you only have 3 eforts, but there are actually more: continuous/interrupted, free/bound, and fast/slow

  8. I think anonymous was right. There is a fourth. Time, space, weight and flow. Flow can be bound or unbound.

  9. my name is schteeeeeeve :)

  10. What sawt of people do those things like glide, slash, press, flick, punch, wring, dab and float?

  11. thank you so much! I had to write about Laban's effort movements for the play Hedda Gabler... and I totally didn't understand it while reading Laban's article... but you sir, have made it easy for me to understand it for my assignment..thanks a bunch =D

  12. My interest is neither in dance or acting but in movement as it relates to body consciusness. The efforts of Laban are useful in practicing mindful (meditative) attention to our bodies.

  13. Interesting, indeed! Is there any video to explain it further?