Rudolf Laban: “Movement Education”


Rudolf Laban is one of the founders of dancing movement. His school follows the ancient model and insists on a general physical development. After the First World War the school became a peculiar women’s commune in which special importance was given to the work with the “untalented”. With his “movement education”, which rejects classical gymnastics that is linked to a particular space and apparatus, and involves canonized movements, Laban had great influence in the USA – through the book “Labantation” written by Ann Hutchinson, which was to become the theoretical basis of a movement that would develop under the name “modern dance”.

In her interpretation of Laban’s conception of dancing Maletić concludes that according to it the “development of a sense of movement is directed towards a fuller understanding and experiencing of movement as art”. (25) And she continues: “…to focus on the rhythmical structure of movement taking into account the feelings they arouse in us means to understand their significance and their meaning. By developing and cultivating the kinesthetic and similar feelings, we strive to acquire ability to turn a number of spontaneous motor reactions into consciously chosen, disciplined and purposeful actions. By a subtle sense of movement, we will be able to remember our experience of it, to recognize it, analyze it, compare it with others, assess it and repeat it.” (26) Speaking of the dancing technique, Laban concludes: “We should acquire ability to perform every imaginable movement, and then choose those which are most appropriate to our nature and most desirable. It is something that only each individual can find for himself. Therefore the most useful thing is to practice a free use of kinetic and dynamic possibilities. We need to know the general possibilities of motion of a healthy body and spirit, and those specific constraints and capabilities that derive from individual structure of one’s own body and spirit.” (27) Laban’s conception represents the construction of a peculiar grammar of movement that is to be taught through a mental and bodily drill, which becomes a “privilege” of those who have appropriate bodily capability and excellent physical condition. It is then that man can opt for the movements that suit him best. Laban insists on mastering the dancing technique, whereas the body is reduced to a tool for processing and an instrument for producing movements – and then the development of an “artistic movement” occurs. Technical processing of the body becomes the basis of an artistic expression, while “artistic dance” comes down to a superb technique of dancing. Practically, the very system of drill suppresses man’s erotic nature, develops in him a masochistic character, decultivates and denaturalizes him, mutilates him as a social being and turns him into a “dancer”: the acquisition of the ability to perform a superb dancing is reduced to dealing with man’s playing being. Instead of a playing, a technical body is created; instead of trying to develop man as a universal creative being of freedom, for whom play is one of the forms of creative manifestation, a specific dancing technique is developed which enables man to express his feelings and experiences: instead of trying to totalize the world by man’s playing being, we deal with man being ghettoized in an artificial playing space.

Laban sees the body as a means for producing dance: just as an artist produces a painting, so a “dancer” produces an “artistic movement” (dance). It is an instrumentalization of the body in which does not pulsate the “playing impulse” (Schiller), but the rhythm of life. Laban’s dance finds mimetic impulses in life, nature, traditional dances – which in dancing acquire a spontaneous technical expression. Movement is adapted to “situations” that occur in life and becomes their reflexion – starting from the principle that “art is a subjective expression of an objective reality”. Playing becomes a playing form of man’s integration into a non-playing world. The basic presupposition of Laban’s dance is that man directly draws from the life rhythm and unreservedly adapts to it: the rhythm of dance becomes the rhythm of life. Dance is reduced to the technique of movement (bodily-technical expression) by way of which life pulsates in man. It becomes a playing form of the manifestation of the rhythm of life which through the dancing technique is imposed on man. Laban insists on music, in which the rhythm of life is expressed, as the basic means for determining the rhythm of movement. Music does not arouse human feelings, does not direct man to experiencing life and his own (tragic) state in it: it is a technical mediator of rhythm. The development of moving ability does not enrich man’s cultural being or one’s interpersonal relations; movement is not an expression of the experience of life, nor is it an expression of religious inspiration; it does not express man’s authentic affective nature… Dancing does not strive to attain the essence of human being, or to anything (transcendental or utopian) that is beyond the existing world. The abstract “life rhythm” becomes a mask for a concrete life rhythm determined by the speed of the reproduction of capital.

Just as in Huizinga’s conception the “colourfulness” of the (idealized) Middle Ages is to compensate for increasingly gloomy everyday life, so in Laban’s “art of movement” the growing wealth of artistic expressions is to compensate for a life with less and less freedom. The fewer possibilities man have to realize his playing being in his everyday life, the richer the world of play should be. By striving to eliminate the rational, a possibility is created for a “spontaneous” bodily expression in which man’s position is manifested in the context of capitalist irrationalism. However, it is precisely the playing rules, playing skill, playing space and choreography that pose the rational framework and condition the nature of “spontaneity” in playing. Systematism, details, precision and consistency of Laban’s conception suggest the extent to which capitalism deprived life of it playing content, and man of his playing being. Play becomes a rational reflexion of the ruling (non-playing) life rhythm. There is an instrumental relation to the body: it becomes a tool for the “creation of movement” and “performance”. Man does not experience his body as a social being, but as an isolated physicality which through artificial movements develops a “kinesthetic sense”. “To experience one’s own body” does not mean to experience oneself in the world and in a relation to it; it is reduced to man’s (quasi) narcissistic obsession with his body and to the development of the cult of a “playing body”.

In Laban’s theory, historical (cultural) forms of play are primarily seen in a technical, and not in a cultural, context. Speaking of kolo, Maletić says: “More than holding each other’s hand, shoulders or waist, what connects the participants in kolo are a shared motivation to dance and a shared mood aroused by a movement which is conditioned by the same motor and sound rhythm.” (28) Kolo is a folk organic community which is, by its existential and cultural nature, essentially different from ballet – which represents the peak of the aristocratic physical culture. What makes kolo beautiful is the life (erotic) and libertarian spirit  and, in that context, the cultural heritage expressed in folk costumes and music. As far as Nietzsche’s thought is concerned, which is cited by Magazonović in the beginning of her treatise on dancing, from “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”: “In dancing I can speak but of the picture of the most sublime things.” – we deal here with the copying of aristocratic esthetic patterns by way of a spontaneous bodily movement which makes us “noble”. Dancing becomes the most direct form of the creation of the aristocratic community as an organic community. Laban’s dancing is not grounded in culture. Bodily movement is “set free” by being deprived of cultural content and reduced to a technical movement – and by having lost its class exclusivity and thus becoming a way of drawing people into the spiritual orbit of the ruling order. Hence dancing – similarly to sport, religion and other phenomena that serve to meet the strategic interests of capitalism – obtains an evaluative-neutral character and becomes a “non-political” phenomenon. Bodily movement is deprived of a symbolic meaning, which exists only in a concrete culture. The “liberation” of the movement of cultural content corresponds to the abolishment of man as a social (historical) being and his being reduced to a “dancer”. Instead of a cultural, we deal with a technical pattern of movements and a space which is part neither of a natural nor of a social environment. The dancing group is not a cultural community of people, but a community of bodies of “partners” connected by the dancing technique, above all its rhythm. It is about artificial movements based on an artificially intoned rhythm, which insist on a mechanicistic and geometrical expression. The highest ideal of dancing is a geometrically constructed acrobatics in which man demonstrates the ability of his body to perform motions. There is no ancient techne which involves a skill expressing the wholeness of man as a cosmic, which means political (social), being; the starting point is rather a movement based on modern technique. The development of human powers appears in relation to nature: dancing technique becomes a form of mastering and instrumentalizing natural forces. Thus a jump becomes the “primordial expression of joy and triumph over a momentary mastering of gravity”. (29) Freedom appears in relation to nature at the level of physical capacities of a “dancer”, and not of the creative powers of man as a social being. It is reduced to the development of technical execution of movements – which occurs under a mystical aureole creating an apparent spiritual escape from the existing world. In this context, the emphasis is on the abundance of physical movements and on the individual choice, and not on the (repressive) form of bodily expression, as is the case in ballet. The “freedom of the dancer” becomes the “freedom” of surfing on the wave of life the rhythm of which is determined by the dynamics of capitalist reproduction. “New dance” becomes a substitution for a new society; “the liberation of physical and psychical powers” becomes a substitute for the liberation of man’s true playing being; “freedom in dancing” becomes a substitute for man’s freedom in society… A slave that jumps, runs, dances – continues to be a slave.

In Laban’s grammar of movement there is no libertarian movement, nor a movement that expresses man’s strivings for new worlds. Fight against injustice is not a “life situation” from which springs a motivation for play. Instead of a pursuit of freedom, the emphasis is on the ideal of a “beautiful dance” which involves an esthetic pattern based on the miming of the ruling life rhythm (harmony). Each movement appears on a scale of movements and its esthetic value is measured against the standards of acrobatics, and not by the judgment of taste dominant in art. The difficulty of performance, variety and, above all, the dynamics of movement (rhythm) is what creates “beauty”. Dancing is not the cultivation of man as a natural and social being, but the estheticizing of technical movements in which pulsates the life rhythm of the ruling order. Laban’s conception abolishes the conflict between civilization and culture by creating a civilization without culture, whereas cultural heritage, through dancing, is turned into a technique of movement that is to enable man to accommodate to the life rhythm of an anti-cultural world. The theory of dancing built on the basis of Laban’s conception becomes the theoretical foundation of the technique of bodily movement which seeks its verification in the sphere of a dehumanized science and mystique and not in the sphere of culture and critical mind. In that context, the nature of folk and other dances is discussed in technical, and not cultural and libertarian (visionary) terms. Since for Laban dancing is a “subjective reflection of the objective reality” while reality is dominated by destruction, dancing inevitably acquires a destructive character and a technical form.

In the archaic period man strove to follow the rhythm of natural events (above all, the sunset and sun rising, moon, etc). The same goes for the folk culture which was based on working cycles connected with the seasons. By the development of the religious conscious, the rhythm of life is connected to symbolic events in which the will of gods is recognized. In antiquity, man was „Gods’ toy” (Plato), while the world was gods’ playing ground: the life rhythm was submitted to the cosmic rhythm, which involved the “holy rhythm” of the Olympic Games (Olympiads). Christianity has its own calendar that determines the rhythm of a Christian’s life and has nothing to do with the natural rhythm. In Rousseau, the origin of the playing disposition is the natural movement. For Romantics, the bodily movement is the expression of the flight of the spirit to new worlds (Schiller, Goethe, Klopstock). In Huizinga, the origin of the playing disposition is the divine spirit which transfers man from “banality” into the sphere of (aristocratic) culture. Nietzsche’s “eternal recurrence of the same” (ewige Wiederkunft) is based on the cosmic rhythm of creation and destruction: play is a form of the pulsation of cosmic forces and as such is the transformation of energy into life. For Fink, play is the “symbol of the world” in which pulsates the rhythm of becoming and perishing. In Caillois, play is a repressive normative vault, which holds man’s “aggressive” nature under control. Gadamer insists on the “to and fro motion” which is of a mechanicistic character. Coubertin tries, by way of the Olympic Games, to abolish the historical rhythm of the development of the world and impose a “holy” four-year Olympic rhythm which corresponds to the progressistic character of the capitalist development and represents the revival of the life force of capitalism: the Olympic Games are a “festivity of youth”. At the same time, Olympism, as the crown of Comte’s positive philosophy, obtains a religious character for the irrational process of destructive capitalist reproduction. As far as sport is concerned, it is an area in which the ruling life rhythm blends into the rhythm of play. Laban tries to integrate man into the existing world by giving him a playing image. Laban’s relation to labour is characteristic: “A number of people, maybe an increasing number, feel that our working life is like our dreams full of symbolic actions, and that it is a special medium, in which those actions find their esthetic expression. That medium is obviously within the area we call dancing and acting.” (30) Labour, as an activity alienated from man, involves a rhythm of exertion by which man’s playing being is being destroyed and he is reduced to a mechanical component of a machine. Laban reduces play to a behaviour with rhythmical character, which means that it is based on the repetition of movements and actions – regardless of whether it is about the manifestation of man’s creative-libertarian nature or about repression. It is a positivist approach which amounts to the “humanization” of the existing world by way of a dehumanized rhythm which is, in fact, a manifest form of the pulsation of the existential rhythm of the ruling order. Hence the concept of play is determined at the level of behaviour which is of a formal character: “preparation, action, respite” – which can be added to any human activity, including labour where man is reduced to a technical tool, as well as to war and other murderous and destructive activities. Clearly, Laban’s determination of play lacks a value-related definition, which means an emancipatory definition.  It is a play in formal or technical, but not in human (historical, cultural, libertarian, social) terms. The rhythm of capitalist totalizing of the world is expressed in a dynamic rhythm and a variety of technical forms of movement. Those movements were not developed relative to the destructive tendencies of the development of “technical civilization”, but relative to the patterns of movements based on the repressive esthetics of a statical (aristocratic) world, which is ghettoized in the form of the “oasis of happiness” (Fink) in which, by way of music and physical motion freedom is to be attained – freedom which does not exist in society. What remains is the dynamics of movement and an abundance of bodily expressions – which is appropriate to the development of a “consumer society”. Play offers a variety of forms of motion which become a vehicle for creating a “spectacle”, meaning playing consumer goods. The same applies to jogging, fitness-centres, aerobics, etc. All this falls into the category of a commercialized physical activism and as such belongs to the commodities on the increasingly rich market of “physical activities”. As far as the frequency of sports performances is concerned, it corresponds to the rhythm of the reproduction of capital, which means the rhythm of the destruction of culture and life: the entertainment industry follows the rhythm of capitalist reproduction. The growing discontent requires a growing consumption of the “negative” (change-oriented) energy of the oppressed. This is what conditions the frequency of the increasingly bloody and destructive sports spectacles.

Dancing movement crushes the historical movement, while “dancer” crushes man as a historical being. Playing space symbolizes man’s enclosure in the dimension of the present time; dancing movement is a means of creating a “one-dimensional man” (Marcuse); while the body is a form in which man appears as a given in the world which is a given. The spiritual source of play is not revolution, which implies an aspiration to the creation of a new world, as it was for Schiller, Goethe, Fait, Klopstock – it is the existing world and the strivings to escape from it. Play does not affirm the libertarian-creative principle, but the principle of escapism, and ultimately, the principle of conformism. There is no vision of the future, and thus of a movement towards new worlds and, in that context, the movement of man towards man. In play, man does not develop all his human potentials which enable him to find a place in the existing world. Playing forms are but a “subjective reflexion of the objective reality”, and not a relation of man towards the existing world and its overcoming. Laban’s imagination pins man down to the existing world. Hence in Laban there are no Klopstock’s “wings on feet” which express soaring of the spirit towards new worlds. Laban’s play mutilates the authentic dancing movement, which is essentially libertarian and visionary. Playing imagination creates “arabesques” (Wigman) in an empty space, and not the vision of a future world by way of a visionary movement in an open (natural and social) space. The spirits of the past are evoked (Coubertin, Huizinga) or mystical forces (Laban) which are but a mask hiding the ruling order, in a lifeless space void of the sunlight and warmth, blue skies, moon and stars, fresh air and smells of flowers, murmur of spring, flight of birds and swaying of wheat…

In the “Introduction” to her work “Physical Culture as Education and Art” Magazinović speaks of a “cosmic rhythm” which obtains a metaphysical dimension: “Overexertion, premature senility and stiffness today are unavoidable consequences of the civilizatory wrenching of man as a biological-social-psychical being out of the universal cosmical principle of rhythm – the inevitable and constant alternating succession of contraction and relaxation, spasm and stretching, tautness and loosening, that is, labour and respite – which all cosmic proceedings and lives are subject to. Tide-ebb, wind-calm, crystalinity-amorphism, inhaling-exhaling, diastole-systole of heart beat, love-birth-death – all this is more or less a sheer incarnation of the cosmic rhythm, the principle totally opposed to the mechanicistic principle of today’s civilization.” (31) What is a “civilizatory wrenching”? Is this an abstract power or it refers to concrete historical processes and the governing (capitalist) order in which man lives? Magazinović uses the term “mechanicistic approach” in order to conceal the rhythm of capitalist reproduction which appears in the form of a mechanical rhythm. In cosmos, there is a constant fight, which was pointed out even by Heraclitus (polemos pater panton estin), as well as Nietzsche: cosmos is ruled by the principle of a constant accumulation of force and it is corresponded by the governing principle of monopolist capitalism “Big fish devours small fish!” Fight to increase profit is a fight which is carried out without respite. Both in his working and his leisure time man is the tool of the capital for its reproduction. Even man’s “respite” is an active time for the capital. In Magazinović, the prevailing logic is linear: phenomena inevitably succeed one another. Play becomes respite from the existing world in the existing world, in a way which does not question that very same world. The dialectic of nature, along with the dialectic of history, is being abolished. The existing world is not the result of a historical development based on a libertarian struggle, it is a given. There is no conflict with the existing world whereby a novum would be generated. Cosmos is ruled by determinism, while man is a libertarian being and thus is a specific cosmic being. What dominates in the human cosmos is a historical time “measured” by man’s realized freedom. In that context, in Magazinović, there is no creative rhythm which is of a dialectic character and is based on the rhythm of historical movement. “Cosmic rhythm” becomes the abolishment of the historical rhythm and thus the abolishment of man as a social, historical and libertarian-creative being. As far as the original natural rhythm is concerned, the answer that indicates the essence of play can be found in the relation of man towards man, and not in the relation of man towards his body. The original rhythmical impulse does not derive from the inanimate world, nor from the organic (the rhythm of heart, etc), but from the life-creating (procreative) relation between the genders. The so called “love play” in animals is the archetype of the relations between the genders. The instinctively constituted rhythm of penetration during sexual intercourse, which is typical of all living beings, represents the foundation of the so called “natural rhythm” in man. Breast-feeding of children is of the same character. However, to impose on play the rhythm of life, based on the rhythm of capitalist reproduction with an irrational and non-rhythmical character, means that play does not have to have, and even should not have, a rhythmical character. This is suggested by the view of Louis Horst, “a long-time musical contributor to American choreographers”: “The implementation of irregular rhythms enables the dancer to express more genuinely the conditions of the contemporary life”. (32)

Explaining Laban’s dancing principles, Magazinović says: “Laban based his dancing principles on the theory of fencing (scales of movement A and B) and combat practice, as well as on the practice of historical dances: on the basic five stances and their relation in a three-dimensional space. Space is for Laban the primary aspect of dancing, which in his opinion is the “flow of spatial relations of bodily movements in their harmonious interchanging”. While I. Duncan approached dancing from the point of view of its expressiveness through movements, and J. Dalcroze from the aspect of the rhythmical connection between dancing and music, Laban, approaching dancing as an artist and architect, in the spatial relation of dancing movements perceived the essence of the dancing art.” (33) By way of dancing man is excluded from the existing world and encloses himself in an artificial world – which suggests a similarity between sport and Laban’s dancing. Dancing space is an artificial (technical) space. In it, man is outside historical, cultural and thus libertarian time. Space has a suprematic dimension, like Malevich’s “black square”, whereas it does not direct man to face the truth (the tragic), but to an escape from the world. Through physical drill by which his playing nature is mutilated, and thus the possibility of his development as a libertarian-creative being, man acquires a chance to “freely” move in the given dancing space – which appears as a compensation for the lack of free motion in everyday life. Dancing space becomes the “space of happiness”; a peculiar ghetto which man enters “voluntarily” in order to “enjoy” the “freedom of motion”. It is a peculiar dancing box, while dancers are moving dolls whose rhythm of movements is determined by invisible threads of the governing order: dancing is an immediate reflexion of the governing life rhythm. As in antiquity, people are “playthings of (contemporary) gods”, and world is their playground. Laban has in mind the motion in a (artificial) physical space and in that context a “subjective” and “objective” space, not a natural or social space. Hence the dominant relations are quantitative (small-big, near-far…). There is no antagonism of man and space, but man becomes the “master” of an empty (non-historical, unsocial, artificial, ghettoized) space by “absorbing” it with motion. Play is of a compensatory character: man appropriates and shapes space by motion through visions that motion provokes – as a reaction to a complete alienation in the social (anti-playing) space in which motion is completely determined by the existential spirit of capitalism appearing in the form of a “technical civilization” and a technicized (dehumanized and denaturalized) motion. Maletić cites the words of Mary Wigman, “the greatest European dancer in the first half of the XX century”, from her book “Dancing Language”, which represent an “impressive account of experiencing space as a medium of dancing formation and fanticizing in space about space”. Wigman: “(A dancer) stands with her eyes closed and feels the weight of air on her limbs. A hand is raised hesitantly as if undecidedly feeling and cutting through an invisible spatial body; legs follow: direction has disappeared. Suddenly, the space behind her grabs her and pulls her backwards along a newly formed path: counter-movement. Dance between high and low, between forward and backward, meetings with oneself, a fight in space for space: dancing; quietly, softly and abruptly, wildly. Suddenly, a flash of cognition. Large, invisible, transparent space of formless waves; rising of the hand transforms it and shapes it. Ornaments appear, great, large, and disappear; elaborated arabesques come by hopping through space. Amids all that – a leap; broken shapes sizzle with anger; a quick whirl, walls recede. She drops her hands, standing still again, staring at the empty space, at the realm of dancers.” (34) A dancer in an empty space is the authentic picture of man’s position in the world devoid of humanity. Dancing as a directed physical activity creates a psychic state by means of which real visions in space are created (mirages) which are feelings shaped in a dancing way. By physical exercises man brings himself in a peculiar trance in which he loses contact with reality. Dancing movement becomes a meditative activism, similarly to bowing, swaying and uttering prayers. Instead of a conflict, as it is the case in sport, dominates an autistic immersion in oneself. In play, there is no katharsis as the purification of man according to the ancient principle, since it involves “sin” (hybris) and “justice” (Dike). There is no aspiration to the higher, as was the case in the Hellenic gymnastics (which was based on the principle “know thyself” /gnothi seauton/, from whence follow the principles “measure is the best” /metron ariston/, “nothing too much” /meden agan/ etc.), where shaping of the body was a form of worshipping (surrendering) gods and in that sense a supreme cult (erotic) performance. Man’s Self is not determined relative to the transcendental or the idea of future, but remains in the physical and psychic spheres, as a discharge of discontent and escape from nothingness. Dancing comes closest to the ancient ekstasis, but in play there is no spiritual unity with the divine, nor the confrontation of man with his tragic destiny. The tragic indeed exists, but it is tragic in itself: it is experienced, but is not comprehended.

In a peasant community, play was a manifestation of the joy of living of a man who lived and existed in a working, erotic, folk, cultural community. Contemporary play is the play of a lonely individual. Instead of developing in man an active, change-oriented relation to the world of non-freedom and a need for people, playing directs him to an autistic obsession with himself, his body, motion… The fanatic focusing on playing is the expression of a fatal, hopeless loneliness. The things man needs he cannot find in other people, but in himself: playing becomes a “meeting with oneself”. It is the final form of man’s alienation from himself as a social being. “Subjectivism” is the answer to man’s dehumanization in his everyday life: play is a psychic reaction of a lonely man who, by way of dancing, seeks to get rid of everyday suffering. “Exaltation” is fed by misery which is piling in man. “Fascination with play” is not the affirmation of man’s living force, but the blocking of pain imposed on him by life which constantly deprives him of humanity. It is a peculiar trance attained by physical activism which is of a ritual character, and is reduced to auto-hypnosis. It is a state of “oblivion” in which man suppresses his social being and experiences himself through a body motion which creates the feeling of “freedom” and “happiness”: play becomes a spiritual drug which leads man to the border beyond which is pure madness. In Laban’s dance the established relations are not between people as libertarian-creative personalities who by way of dancing relate to an inhuman world, but between loyal citizens who appear in the guise of “partners” and who, through dancing, demonstrate their unconditional submission to the ruling order. Dancing group is not a homogenous community of emancipated social beings, but a quasi-social community of lonely people. An escape from society to the dancing space is an escape of man from himself as a social being. By way of dancing man as a social being turns into a “dancer”, which is but one of the roles imposed on him by capitalism, which thus turns him into its plaything. Ultimately, play becomes a playing form of the manifestation of a non-playing world, and “player” becomes a “horse” on the capitalist merry-go-around.

Explaining Laban’s views on the relations between “partners” in play, Ana Maletić concludes: “In the microcosmos of here stated activities, an individual experiences situations similar to those in which real life can bring him.” (35) In Laban, “real life” is not an order governed by fight between the plutocratic “elite” and submitted working “masses”; where women struggle for the realization of elementary human and civil rights; where fights are breaking out between those who  annihilate life and those who strive to preserve it and create a new world… “Real life” is reduced to a capitalistically totalized world, and the playing “subjectivity” to an illusion of human subjectivity: play as a “subjective reflection of the objective reality” is (self) reflexion of the capitalist order in man, which means a playing form of the manifestation of the ruling order. In Laban, the prevailing principle is not Social Darwinist, as is the case in sport, but a mechanicistic logic: just as branches sway under wind, so does man sway to the ruling rhythm of life, whereas in Laban’s theory the whip of capitalism resembles a conductor’s baton. Play is not the relation of man to the world and an expression of pursuit of a new world; it is the playing form of man’s integration into the existing world. Instead of obtaining a libertarian role, play obtains a therapeutic and compensatory role. At the same time, play becomes a universal means for turning a non-human world into the “artistic”. It does not offer a possibility of the actualization of man’s suppressed playing being, but finds mimetic impulses in the ruling model of motion which is expressed in “life situations”. Bodily motion is extracted from a social context, in the same way in which “beautiful art” has become an area in which “beauty” as against an ugly world is concentrated. “Artistic movement” becomes a privilege of a special group “dedicated to play” and has become a peculiar sect who by demonstrating its play promotes a certain worldview and man’s relation to that world. “Spontaneity” is of a repressive character as it stops man from freely expressing his own experience of life, and thus from establishing a relation to it from the aspect of his suppressed playing being. Play does not involve the creation of a new (humane) world, but a reproduction of the existing world.

Laban sees dancing as a means for children’s education and for directing the behaviour of adults. In her interpretation of Laban, Maletić says: “Ever since the ancient times people observed that dancing can have two opposing effects: it can excite them and stir their emotions, and it can calm them. (…) This twofold capacity of play was already known to the rulers of old cultures who used it to direct the mood of masses. Those characteristics of dancing were also discovered by modern psychotherapy. (…) This twofold effect of dancing can be well used in the work with healthy children, especially at school. (…) Due to the fact that in dancing man is at the same time a performer and an instrument, this discipline occupies a special place among arts.” (36) And she continues: “Lessons in educational dance since the very beginning had two directions. One leads to the activation of pupils’ psycho-motor abilities taking into consideration the awareness of movements and feelings that cause or follow our movements, and the other leads to his awareness of the motivation of movement. (…) The initial motivations are most often found in everyday activities. From life, as the starting point, we shall lead our trainees to a poeticizing of motion. The road, indeed, leads from the common to the uncommon, from the everyday to the unusual, from a rational to a dancing movement.” (37) First of all, to insist on dancing as an educational means disqualifies dancing as play, which in the bourgeois philosophy is determined as a “purposeless activity” or as “purposefulness without a purpose”, particularly because Laban’s theory insists on the instrumentalization of the body. At the same time, dancing becomes a “spontaneous” drawing of the child into the existing world deprived of a (dialectical) struggle between “good” and “bad”, which means that he is not offered a chance to develop as an independent personality and confront everything that threatens his humanity. Instead of a creative dimension, educating children through play has a therapeutic and prophylactic dimension, ultimately – an adaptive dimension. Laban’s play is not based on man’s need of another man, but on “partnership” which is based on copying the life rhythm that sucks man into the existing world, and “regulates” human relations at the level of the bodily. Playing group is reduced to a community of bodies that follow the same rhythm. Maletić’s view is interesting: “One of the efficient initial exercises for acquiring the sense of a shared rhythmic pulsation is the one in which the group as a whole rises and lowers in one place.” (38) Dancing is not only man’s confirmation as a social being, which means it is not the creation of a human community in an immediate form, but is reduced to the technique of dancing movements which provoke certain psychic effects. A group physical motion becomes a peculiar hypnotic séance and as such an instrument for crushing a child’s personality, depriving it of a readiness to make his/her own decisions, to reflect on his acts, to participate in the creation of a collective …

What is the role of play in directing the behaviour of adults? Here is what Maletić says: “To develop the sense of belonging to a wider community is a significant task, to the realization of which educational dancing seeks to contribute by its own means. Those means are included in the very syllabus of the art of movement which touches also that phenomenon. We could almost say that a lack of such education is too often observed in everyday, interpersonal relations. In our streets and public places passers-by push each other, collide or stumble. Similar scenes can be seen in schoolyards and sports halls. The causes of such behaviour are, in our opinion, twofold: lack of a developed sense of space and lack of a  sense of people who occupy that space.” (39) Instead of fighting against social causes of confrontation between people, which means against the ruling order based on the principle bellum omnium contra omnes, the solution is being sought for in the fight with consequences, the very play being based on the ruling rhythm that mutilates humanity. Laban’s play is a conformist response to the repression man is submitted to every day. It is a universal means for curing the consequences of capitalism: instead of removing the causes of discontent, man’s change-aspiring energy is directed to play that is to destroy the critical mind and sterilize his change-aspiring energy – integrating him into the existing world both physically (rhythm of movement follows the rhythm of life, harmony as the expression of man’s unity with the existing world and the like), and spiritually. Man is not a historical (visionary) being, but is reduced to the (present) given. “Finding one’s own place in society and environment” (40) is not only the basic principle of a child’s socialization, but is the basic principle on which man’s whole life should be founded.

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