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A Statistical Analysis of Rudolf Laban's Dance Compositions Open Access

Despite a growing number of publications in recent years documenting the impact of the German choreographer, Rudolf Laban, on 20th century European dance theater, his contributions to the dance world have yet to be explored from a statistical perspective. The prevailing literature points to Laban’s lifelong battle with mental illness, spasmodic manic depression; his affiliation with the Nazi Socialist German Worker’s Party; and the sociopolitical breakthroughs of his contemporaries, artists Cezanne, Matisse, and Picasso and psychologist Sigmund Freud; as the foundations of his unique approach to dance and human movement, without acknowledging the fundamental role statistics played in the life and work of the mercurial choreographer. Works such as “Symmetry and Topology: Rudolf Laban’s Theory Building Tools” by movement specialist Carol-Lynne Moore and “Development of Laban’s Movement Ideas and Practices: Coexistence of Analysis and Synthesis” by dance scholar Vera Maletic touch upon the importance of geometrical and mathematical models in Laban’s theories of movement, but fail to address the branch of applied mathematics from which these models derive: statistics. To appreciate the depth of Laban’s contributions to the dance world, this paper will correlate the statistical principles and methods that underlie the construction of his compositional structures. In this analysis, I focus specifically on statistics as a determinant of Laban’s success in the study and practice of dance and human movement. Statistics is defined as the “branch of mathematics dealing with the collection, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of masses of numerical data” (Merriam-Webster). Each of these components of statistics—collection, analysis, interpretation, and presentation— provide new avenues for understanding the choreographer’s career trajectory and life work. By analyzing the statistical techniques and research methods Laban implemented in these four areas, the explanation for the longevity of his movement theories, dances, notation system, and work efficiency studies will become clear. My dissection of Rudolf Laban’s work, “Crystal,” recreated for film by Laban’s former student and biographer, Dr. Valerie Preston-Dunlop, and Allison Curtis, a specialist in Choreology and faculty member at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London, will provide further insight into how Laban was able to stage successful productions and develop his theories of movement, using only the statistical properties he abstracted from his studies of British factory workers.

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