Rudolf Laban (1879-1958) was all these things and more.
This is the story of his extraordinary life, a life intimately bound up with the political, social and cultural upheavals that formed the turbulent backdrop of modern Europe. Born in the fin-de-siècle Austria-Hungary, Laban lived in Vienna, Paris, Munich, Zurich, Hamburg, Berlin. He witnessed the dissolution of the old order, and lived through the traumas of two world wars. He saw the birth of new social and artistic movements, and was caught up in the rise of Nazism, from which he was eventually forced to flee, first to France, and finally to Britain to build his life anew.
Though he began as a painter, architect and illustrator, it is in movement and dance that Laban made his lasting impact. He was a performer, a choreographer and a mentor, but his ideas were always part of a broader vision of movement — as theatre art, as community celebration, as self-discovery. Through his research into movement he uncovered the interconnectedness of the body and the psyche, the individual and the group; and he devised a revolutionary method of movement notation that continues its use and influence today.
Laban inspired others from all walks of life to take up and develop his work. His ideas have generated innovations not just in dance, but also in acting and performance, in the study of non-verbal communication, in ergonomics, in educational theory and child development, in personality assessment and psychotherapy. A man of enormous charisma and personal magnetism, Laban was complex, fiercely unconventional and deeply committed.
This book, the first full biography of Laban, tells the remarkable story of his life of idealism, disillusion and determination.
About the author
Valerie Preston-Dunlop became a student of Rudolf Laban's at the age of sixteen, and has remained involved with his work throughout her career. Becoming one of Laban's apprentices, she went with him into factories, with Lisa Ullmann into schools, with British Dance Theatre into performing, with Kurt Jooss and Albrecht Knust in Germany into notation and theatre work. While a young teacher of modern dance for college students she set about developing Laban's concepts for educational dance and for notation. Latterly her focus has been on establishing Choreological Studies as the practically-oriented scholarship of dance as a performing art, contextualising Laban's movement theories with those of other dance artists and researchers. Currently she is Curator of the Laban Collection of research materials at the Laban Centre Library, and Research Fellow at Trinity/Laban Centre for Movement and Dance in London. She is internationally known as a lecturer, teacher and author on dance.