Moving Art – using Rudolf Laban’s drawings from the archives in practice

Welcome to this new course Moving Art run in collaboration between Labanarium and University of Surrey Archives and led by movement director and specialist Tracy Collier. This course is accessible for all and these course pages will enable you to view the archive drawings we are studying as stimuli, access assignment content and pre-course readings, submit your creative work and obtain summary group commentary on your creative responses as well as receive final individual feedback.

Introduction to this course

“Let us take this mental image, which is essentially a conception of the artist, as the basis for some investigation of the deeper lying riddles of existence” (Laban, ed. Ullmann (ed.), A Vision of Dynamic Space. 1984. p. 37)

Having visited the Rudolf Laban Archive, held as part of the collections of the National Resource Centre for Dance (NRCD) at the University of Surrey, and viewed some of Rudolf Laban’s art work outside of his movement studies, it was evident that his sense of movement was constantly with him and apparent in every part of his life.

Two drawings particularly struck me because of their opposing efforts and mood. The first was what appeared to be a lady walking her dog in the wind, and the second a woman sat with her cat.  The first was full of movement and energy and the second of stillness and contentment.

Through this course, we will explore, in several stages, these two beautiful and unpublished drawings by Laban. Each stage will build on the last to create a full and layered examination of movement from each of the images.  Each session will pose questions focusing on elements of Laban’s movement analysis in relation to the drawings and will utilise his principles of Weight, Space, Time and Flow as a means of exploring and responding to these drawings. We will investigate Laban’s view that ‘everyone is a dancer, we just all dance differently’, something that Dr Valerie Preston Dunlop recounts from her time with Laban.

The aim will be to produce a creative response, in whatever artistic format this exploration inspires you to pursue – i.e. written, filmed movement, another drawing/painting, photographs, which you submit in six stages. I will also respond with my own research and findings as I embark on this movement journey with you.  The intention is to enjoy the process of making a flat image move, either visually or physically, and discover more of Laban’s ideas about movement from his beautiful drawings of bodies in space.

It is a mechanical fact that the weight of the body, or any of its parts, can be lifted and carried into a certain direction of space, and that this process takes a certain amount of time, depending on the ratio of speed. The same mechanical conditions can also be observed in any counter-pull which regulates the flow of movement.” (Laban, Ullmann (ed.) Mastery of Movement. 1980. 4th edition, p. 20)

Pre-course readings

There are three pre-course readings to give you a basic understanding of Laban’s Effort Theory that we will be using during this course. There is more information in these than you need for participating in the course but they will provide a starting point for understanding Effort theory and your explorations.

How the course works

  • Every two weeks from the beginning of the course, contextual information and each assignment will be released to the course pages on a Friday (just after midnight). This will require you to complete a creative assignment related to the two images used as the stimuli for this course.
  • Each assignment task will consider different elements of Laban’s Effort Theory as a guide for your explorations. The task can be approached in any creative way that you feel stimulated to express your response, for example, through movement, writing or visual art or a combination. These responses can be different each time or cumulative, working towards one larger artistic response. (Please note, filmed responses should be no longer than 2 mins for each assignment with a final filmed piece no longer than 10 mins long).
  • You will submit your assignment, with a brief reflection on how your ideas and response developed, via the Labanarium associated assignment page every other Thursday (i.e. you have 13 days for completion), with a little longer for the final assignment.
  • Your tutor Tracy Collier will provide feedback to the group within a week of each assignment submission. This feedback will be a combined summary response to the submissions and not individualised. You will receive individual feedback after the final submission at the end of the course. Summary feedback will be posted to the assignment page and final feedback will be sent privately to each of you.
  • If you have any questions throughout the course, email

Aims of the course

  • to work with little-known drawings from the Rudolf Laban Archive (University of Surrey Archives) in a creative way;
  • to learn about Laban’s Effort Theory through creative practice rather than simply theoretically;
  • to develop ways of critically analysing and approaching a work;
  • to explore ways of creating artistic work from different stimuli;
  • and … to enjoy the process!

The study of movement as a pleasurable endeavour was a true aim of Laban’s vision:

“may all my work show the way to joy, even if it only rouses a brief smile” (Laban, R. A Life for Dance, 1975; iv).

Learning outcomes

Through this course you will learn to:

  • Extract ideas about and approaches to movement and artistic creation from a static stimulus
  • Learn about and apply Laban’s principles of Effort to the creation of new work
  • Engage with new ways of responding to and creating artwork


Course Fee: £125

Copyright and Privacy

Copyright: You have access to two images L/C/10/55 (Picture 1: Woman and dog) and L/C/10/41 (Picture 2: Woman with cat) from the Rudolf Laban Archive (University of Surrey) for the purpose of personal study (non-commercial use) only. You are not permitted to alter, supply copies of them to anyone else, mount them on an intranet or the internet, or otherwise publish them in any other personal or commercial format. You are not permitted to remove the catalogue reference number from the copies and in referring to them will acknowledge that they are from the University of Surrey Archives & Special Collections.

If you require use of these images for anything other than personal study use as part of this online course, you must contact the Archives & Special Collections to discuss using the images for any other purpose.

By signing up to this course and agreeing to its Terms and Conditions, you declare that you are liable for any infringement of copyright if you use the images for any other purpose than private study as part of this course delivered via the Labanarium. Your payment and registration for the course acts as your consent to these conditions and that you agree responsibility to adhere to these copyright restraints.

Privacy: The personal data gathered as part of your participation in this course has been gathered for the purposes of the legitimate interests of the University of Surrey in order for us to process your application and payment.  It will be retained by University of Surrey for the duration of the current academic year + 6 years for security, administration and planning purposes only. Personal data is processed in accordance with UK Data Protection Legislation and will not be disclosed to third parties. We don’t store your payment card information if you purchase goods and services via our webstore. We use a secure third party service who are the providers of the webstore software, WPM Education, to process the payment and your payment details are shared with them. WPM Education Privacy Policy:

For more information please see our Privacy Policy

Labanarium will retain only course participants’ name, email address and a brief biography.  This will not be shared and will be retained for 2 years in accordance with UK Data Protection legislation and their Privacy Policy. To see the Privacy Policy

Course Enrolment

You need to have a valid Labanarium account in order to enrol to this course. You can login or register below.

Login / Register