Knots and Effort





I had a magnificent time about a month ago at a workshop with the fabulous Carol Lynne-Moore on advanced Space Theory. The picture above is a shot of some of my notes from the workshop.

During her time in the Laban archives in London she made a very exciting discovery about Knots that you can read about in her book Harmonic Structure of Movement, Music, and Dance according to Rudolf Laban (purchase it here –

We explored this discovery in person in her workshop. Her theory is that the Knot sequences that Laban created, which seem to have no logical Choreutic harmonic rules to guide their ordering, actually draw their underlying harmonic structure from Eukinetics. Knots describe scales, orderings, and relationships between Effort configurations!

The underlying ideas for these Effort knots are – 1. You can’t go from one Basic Effort Action(BEA) to the complete opposite (example flick to press) without passing through a BEA that shares at least effort factor (example you can go press to punch to flick, but NOT press directly to flick). If you imagine the BEA’s on a cube this rule can be really easily envisioned – You can travel along an edge or face of the cube, but not through a diagonal. 2. Moods tend to linger, and even attempts to shake off a mood can eventually come back around to the original state.

Here is an example of, what Carol calls the Press Knot: Press to float to glide to press to slash to wring to press to dab to punch to press. If you trace this along the edges of a Cube it makes a trefoil knot.

I tried a monologue, just letting the text roll out of me, as I moved along this sequence of BEAs. It made for an impressively dynamic interpretation of the text. It effortlessly gave the text a variety of playable actions while still revolving around one emotional mood or tone. Very exciting!!!

Its a decent amount of theory which I only lightly touched on here, BUT I think my Grad students can handle it. I’m planning to turn this in to an acting activity for class. Pick one BEA as the main mood for your monologue. Create a trefoil effort knot using the Cube as a model. Run your monologue using the knot. See what you discover about the monologue, the character, and yourself. This could soon become an article for publication somewhere or a conference presentation. We’ll see how the students take to it.

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