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Kinesphere Dance Definition Essay

Approach to Kinesphere Terms and Indications
Submitted by Richard Haisma, Linda Nutter, Janis Pforsich, and Charlotte Wile - July 21, 2006

[Following are excerpts from an e-mail correspondence that took place in April, 2006 between Richard Haisma, Linda Nutter, Jan Pforsich, and Charlotte Wile.]

#1. Charlotte writes:

I've been thinking about the terms for CPT. It seems to me that using the same terms for CPT Pathways and CPT Spatial Tensions can be confusing. Maybe it would helpful if the Spatial Tension variables had different names. For example, here's one idea. "Central Spatial Tension could be changed to "Radiating Spatial Tension," "Peripheral Spatial Tension" could be changed to " Distancing Spatial Tension," and "Transverse Spatial Tension" could be changed to "Accommodating Spatial Tension."

The terms would then be:

Pathways - Central, Peripheral, Transverse.
Spatial Tensions - Radiating, Distancing, Accommodating.

What do you think of this idea?

#2. Richard writes:

Well, Charlotte's names are not objectionable. Yet I have never experienced confusion with or from students using the same name for Pathway as Tension. In fact, just the opposite, I find there to be efficiency is saying something is Central-Central, or Central-Peripheral, or in writing, simply the initials of CC, or PC or TT, etc.

I'm also not sure that I would want to delimit the experience of those three Tensions by those three words. I mean, Central is not only radiating but also penetrating; Transverse is not only accommodating but also cutting through; Peripheral is not only distancing but creating an edge.

What I personally am more exercised about is that people stop referring to the category as CPT or CTP, and start referring to it for what it more generically is as "Approach to the Kinesphere" and "Spatial Pathway" and "Spatial Tension". Just as you, Charlotte, with Motif are trying to arrive at consistency from the generic to the more specific, so too ought we all not be proceeding from Space to Approach to the Kinesphere to Pathways and Spatial Tensions and only finally to CTP?

Anyway, I'm not opposed to Charlotte's new idea of new names, but I just don't find any real problem with the duplication of names for Pathway and Tension.

#3. Charlotte Writes:

Richard makes excellent points. I like his paradigm for the concepts, and agree that having a generic term (Approach to Kinesphere) is important. This helps make apparent the association between Spatial Pathways and Spatial Tension.

Let's see what has been suggested so far for terms:

Overall, generic term for both categories - Approach to Kinesphere
Category 1 - Pathways:
a. Central
b. Peripheral
c. Transverse

Category 2 –Tensions:
a. Central (Radiating) (Penetrating)
b. Peripheral (Distancing) (Edging)
c. Transverse (Accommodating) (Cutting-Through)

#4. Charlotte writes:

I just thought of another issue. We have symbols for CPT Spatial Tensions, but, as far as I know, there are no symbols for CPT pathways.

Path signs don't work. For instance, the sign for a curved pathway could be interpreted as a Peripheral Spatial Pathway or a Transverse Spatial Pathway.

One can write direction signs and then surmise that they are on a certain pathway, but this doesn't really solve the problem. There is no way to just say, "move on a transverse pathway," or "move on a central pathway." or "move on a peripheral pathway."

Here is one idea for indicating Spatial Pathways. This is just one proposal. Perhaps you can think of a better idea.

A tension sign could be placed inside the sign for traveling. For instance, Ex. 1a below would indicate a Central Spatial Pathway performed with Peripheral Spatial Tension.

Using the same signs for Pathways and Tension may influence the way the concepts are defined. It might be a good, e.g., it would show that they both are "Approaches to the Kinesphere" Or maybe the signs need to be different somehow. I'm not sure. To be continued.

#5. Charlotte writes:

Just thought of something else. In my idea for indicating CPT pathways, I used an "any body part" pre-sign in the Spatial Tension indication, but I didn't use one with the Tension indication. I'm wondering why I did that. Are CPT Pathways and Tensions by definition always performed by a body part? Can the whole body do either or both of them? For instance, can CPT Pathways be seen in floor plans (the trace form made by the whole body on the supporting surface as it travels)? Can the whole body express CPT Tensions in relation to another person's body or an object?

Likewise, are they always expressed by a limb or limb part? Could they be performed by the head or torso?

#6. Richard writes:

I would reverse the question: can a single isolated body part ever REALLY be expressive of Spatial Tension? I guess theoretically we have to answer yes, but I've yet to see a convincing example of it in a mere gesture.

I wonder if Charlotte's not getting herself trapped by having chosen the Pathway symbol and then feeling the need (or possibility) to precede it with a body part sign. Pathway is Basic Action, Spatial Pathway is Space, so therefore maybe there ought to be a completely different sign for Spatial Pathway than for a traveling Pathway as a Basic Action. In Italy we were forced because of the language to find another word for Spatial Pathway to distinguish it from a Basic Action. The word for "Pathway" as in locomotion (Percorso) cannot be used for a gestural pathway in the Kinesphere (the Italians would laugh). For Spatial Pathway we have chosen to say "tragitto", which means "trajectory". This tells us immediately that we are not in the Basic Action category, but could apply to either whole body movement or an isolated part of Spatial Pathway.

#7. Charlotte writes:

Richard asked "can a single isolated body part ever REALLY be expressive of Spatial Tension?"

I THINK it can (but I'm not sure). For instance, imagine there is a "localized kinesphere" around the leg. "Center" for this spatial model would be at the hip (as when we analyze directions for the leg). Moving the leg with the sensation that the foot is creating an edge in the localized kinesphere, and the foot and hip are "keeping a distance" between them, would express a Peripheral Tension. Likewise, the leg might move with a Shaping Shape Mode using a Transverse Spatial Tension. And so forth. For another example think about hand movements in Spanish Dance. When I watch the dancers at Ballet Hispanico in their Flamenco classes, it seems to me that they are expressing various Spatial Tensions with their hands. And they sometimes express different Spatial Tensions in different body parts simultaneously, for example, a Transverse Tension in the hands, a Peripheral Tension in the torso, and Central Tension in the leg. Does this make sense? Or are Richard and I defining CPT differently, so that my examples would not work with his definition?

If it is possible to show Spatial Tension with body parts, then there needs to be a way to show that a given Tension is expressed by:
- any body portion (the whole body or a body part) (Ex. 2a)
- the whole body (Ex. 2b)
- a body part (Ex. 2c and Ex. 2d) 

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However, if, as Richard suggest, Spatial Tension is always a whole body movement, then pre-signs for Spatial Tension would not be necessary. Spatial Tension signs would by default always be whole body indications. For instance, Ex. 2e below would indicate Transverse Tension expressed by the whole body. 

Richard's comments about the symbols for Pathway are very interesting to me. In Labanotation and Motif Notation the same family of symbols is used to depict trace forms produced by whole body locomotion (Percorso?), and trace forms made by non-weight baring body parts (tragitto?). This makes sense if one decides that tracing a design, such as a circle, is the same idea whether it is done through locomotion or through a body part moving in space. However, it seems to me that the language problem Richard has when teaching the concepts in Italy is illuminating. I have sometimes wondered if the sensation of making locomotor trace forms, and the sensation of tracing designs with body parts, are so different that they should have different family of symbols.

#8. Charlotte writes:

I just thought of another idea for generic indications for CPT Spatial Pathways. The sign for "any path" could be modified as exemplified below. 


#9. Richard writes:

Love it [Ex. 3a-c], but shouldn't the actual circle with the arrows go in the curve of the "Any" part of the Unspecified Pathway sign at the beginning of the sign rather than the end, otherwise the logic of reading Motif might be saying that an Unspecified Pathway ENDS with Central or Transverse, etc.? As with an action stoke that ends with a weight-shift sign, we say that there was an action that RESULTED in a weight-shift, does what Charlotte written indicate that there was an Unspecified Pathway that RESULTED in Central or Transverse, etc.?

#10. Charlotte writes:

Good idea Richard. See the examples below. 


#11. Janis writes:

Have been reading these emails on CTP.

I basically agree with Richard's points. Don't want/need to separate Pathway and Tension. ( I wish it weren't called Tension. It for me is the basically the quantity/quality paradigm for pathways.) But I am fine with having the two concepts separate so there is mix and match more clearly delineated.

[Re: Generic Tension signs] The idea was that the pathway was apparent in the writing of the space signs to describe the movement path in space. But it would be good also to have basic symbols that would say "move a central path" without specifying what directions, etc.

I like Ex 4a-f.

#12. Charlotte writes:

Like Jan, I see “Approach to Kinesphere” as a quantitative/qualitative paradigm.

I think the word “Tension” may be OK for the Peripheral qualitative variable, but I don’t think it fits the meaning of the Transverse and Central qualitative variables.

Maybe the word “Tension” could be changed to Quality. The terms would then be:

Overall, generic term for both categories - Approach to Kinesphere

Category 1 – CPT Pathways:
a. Central Pathway
b. Peripheral Pathway
c. Transverse Pathway

Category 2 – CPT Qualities:
a. Central Quality
b. Peripheral Quality
c. Transverse Quality

#13. Janis writes:

Well we [LIMS faculty] had this discussion years ago, because IB [Irmgard Bartenieff] used word "spatial tension" all the time and "countertension". Also "spatial pull", and "spatial intent" SO...we all decided to use 'pull' for the concept of direction in space pulls the radiating directions into and out of space, which of course is the underlying energy of space intent. BF [Bartenieff Fundamentals] uses spatial intent more. They are the same for me I think. So then we tried to understand and use (and get IB to use more clearly) spatial tension with CTP quality. There is a kind of "tension" with Trans and Central. I have been ok using tension with CTP and not 'quality' but it is somewhat confusing to students/outside world because of the larger term countertension, and the whole idea of a "tension" between two things/parts/directions/ whatever....

Countertension is for me used in peripheral mainly, although I understand and use it more generally with teaching ideas of chordic tensions and countertensions between the spatial pulls in the scales which has nothing to do with peripheral quality countertension. Countertension is a big complex concept with lots of parts to it.

#14. Linda writes:

I am blown away by the idea that not everyone feels that Spatial Tension is about Tension....and, for the record, I see Peripheral S.T. as being as much or more about a "Tension" than Central and Transverse. Do you think there is a possibility that it depends on how one defines "tension?"

I think I have always thought of it in this context as being less about actual countertension, and more about tension or relationship in the way that "tension" is used in poetry or the arts in general....having to do with conflicting elements of some sort...not necessarily about being "pulled tight." Poetic tension, dramatic tension, etc.

I have always thought of all three as being an expression of the relationship between the moving part and the core. (Isn't this right out of your essay, Jan?) [Janis Pforsich, "Central, Peripheral, Transverse....Body Part Relationship, Space Structures, Movement qualities, or All of the Above," unpublished paper, June, 1981.] Therefore, if someone is doing a Spoke-like Directional movement, in and out of center, with an arm, and the core is not somehow relating, attending, involved, etc., then I would not call it Central Spatial Tension. My sense is that Janis WOULD call it that since I think she might see it as AFFINED with Central Pathways in a tighter way. (I'm clearly not saying I'm right here.) I say this because I was on a final movement assessment with Janis and we disagreed about whether a Central Pathway that a student was doing was Central Spatial Tension. I think that I really want to see an engagement/relationship with the Core. But maybe I'm being too rigid....

#15. Charlotte writes:

I like Linda's idea of thinking of term "tension" as "Poetic tension, dramatic tension, etc." That is helpful.

#16. Janis writes:

Yes that is a good way.

#17. Linda writes:

I wanted to make an additional comment related to the original posting. I too feel that it is fine to use the same words to describe the Pathway and the Spatial Tension. I like the consistency and have not run into problems with student confusion (on this point, anyway!) For me, there is a parallel to Effort here. Charlotte has listed different words for the Spatial Tensions:

Central (Radiating) and (Penetrating)
Peripheral (Distancing) and (Edging)
Transverse (Accommodating) and (Cutting through)

If you look at Indirect Space Effort, for example, some of the words or phrases I've heard used to elicit Indirect Space Effort might be "multi-focused," "all around," "meandering," and "undulating," to name just a few. These are all slightly different and could generate different movement experiences. Since an analyst would want to be familiar with ALL the experiences that could be labeled "Indirect," I would not want to reduce the category to any ONE of those images.

So too with Spatial Tension. Although I agree completely that Peripheral Spatial Tension (to take just one example) can be "about" both "distancing" and "edging," I would not want to call the whole category either Distancing Spatial Tension, or Edging Spatial Tension...because I feel that the two experiences are slightly different and I would want the category to include both experiences.

#18. Richard writes:

Here’s just a little addendum as to why I would prefer to keep those three gerunds as occasional handy metaphors rather than as constant labels. The three words – radiating, accommodating and distancing – do not exist with the same denotative-connotative value, that is, ‘radiating’ seems fairly physical with little psychological implication whereas both ‘accommodating’ and ‘distancing’ project immediate psychological overtones. Yes, just as Transverse Spatial Tension may frequently have an accommodating quality, so too it may have an eluding or avoiding quality. Just as Peripheral Spatial Tension may have a distancing quality, so too it may have a commanding, overseeing or even including quality. Those three gerunds describing the three different Tensions do not have the same valence.

The notion of kinesphere was created by Rudolf Laban to define: “the sphere around the body whose periphery can be reached by easily extended limbs without stepping away from that place which is the point of support when standing on one foot” (1966, p.10). This spherical space around our body shifts as soon as we shift our weight. It is also the first area of movement exploration before going into “space in general”. It follows anatomical limitations, being actually more elliptic than spherical as constitutionally, the average body has a wider area of reach forward than backward.

Visibly speaking the kinesphere stays invisible until the moment we move within it and make it tangible by leaving our trace-forms, the spatial consequences of our movements (Preston-Dunlop, 1981, p.27).

Taking the body as a reference (called “body cross”, although Laban considered we can also look at space using other references), the kinesphere is also the container of a cube (containing all diagonal directions and dimensions) and of an icosahedron made by three bi-dimensional planes: it contains angular geometry inside a round geometry.

This very precise geometry is also the supporting structure for our personal interactions, defining personal space and body territory.

Antony Gormley in his last exhibition Model at The White Cube, created a series of works that articulate the relationship between these two different types of geometry and questions the way we inhabit our personal space.

In this project that “investigates our experience of architecture through the body and of the body through architecture”[1], instead of molding his sculptures on his body, Gormley has chosen parallelepiped iron blocks as a geometrical unit for the construction of buildings of all sizes that present human-like features[2], putting in relation the idea of pixel used in computer technology and the physical body. [3]

One of the rooms contains a giant body construction open to visitors: through their physical interaction with it, they explore this dark interior whose structure recalls traditional architecture.

I visited it. Before entering, one must agree not to climb on or in it. Deprived from far sight my first instinct is to measure the limits of the space I am in to visualize its structure, and my first area of reach is my kinesphere. I move it horizontally mostly and a little bit up and down , but with the limitation of not changing altitude I have to extend myself on the architecture hoping to reach its limits. After having crawled, stretched onto the cold floor and walls, and jumped endlessly to reach one room’s ceiling unsuccessfully, I left with the experience that this body we inhabit all the time still contains unknown dimensions.

The notion of kinesphere has been expanded in the dance practice, particularly in two strands of movement research:

  • Experimenting with the notion of centre:

William Forsythe has expanded the kinesphere: area of maximum easy reach, to “super-zone” and “mini-zone”: areas of off-balance reach and areas of minimum reach. In his choreographic material, he mostly plays between these two extremes, to which he has added the notion of decentralization: movement can take place around a centre either in the body (that doesn’t need to exist anatomically), or outside of the body: a virtual centre. Moving through his perception of space, Forsythe creates not one but many kinespheres that change size, multiply, fragment, collapse and disappear swiftly (Baudoin&Gilpin, 2004).

  • 360 degree exploration and shared kinesphere:

For Steve Paxton, “Contact Improvisation is a study of physics […], Newton’s paradigms, [in which] we are Newton’s apples themselves” (Franklin, 1996, p.57). Paxton plays with the “kinesphere-apple” that he considers 360 degree, any body part being potentially able to sustain the body weight in motion, in relation to other “apples” of the same kind. Following a rolling point of contact between two bodies, the kinesphere becomes a shared space around a common moving centre and sometimes around a unique gravity centre.[4]

All of the research around spatial considerations of the kinesphere make the subsequent human relationships more ambiguous in terms of theatricality, dancers becoming at the same time more animal and more technological for an outside eye, like alienated.

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