Irmgard Bartenieff got it right there.
In her book, Making Connections, Peggy Hackney says
“I want to give work that has been totally fluid a bit more substance momentarily.”
and that is where her book is so valuable. In a clear and accessible way, that immediately extends the work, she invites new possibility. And the work goes on, all over the world, in different forms, because of the very nature of this work itself. It doesn’t belong to any one person, it belongs to all of us and we will make sense of it as we will. You can’t propose the concept of “infinite possibility” and then expect to put a cap on it or even attempt to control what happens next. It is all Laban’s fault. The themes proposed through this work are both personal and universal simultaneously, and that is why they feels so relevant to so many people.
And I am loving being part of this world of possibility, learning about the body and how it moves, with Barbara Mahler. She manages this fusion of personal and universal so well. In her work, she is developing a language that is very reduced, that guides people through a process of learning that operates on so many different levels. The simplicity of her direction, repeated almost verbatim in each class, has a sophistication that I am only just starting to appreciate. So people of very different levels of understanding can work alongside each other and gain just as much from each class. The clarity of her direction has different significance to different people, depending on their own level of understanding and experience. One direction, so many possibilities. Who wants to control that?
I celebrate the pinning down of knowledge. And if someone has the ability to capture the ever-changing nature of this work, in written form, then, for the benefit of all of us, they should do just that. Well done Peggy. And, stating the obvious, that is not separate from the practical research that takes place in dance studios the world over. Vive la difference. I’m bored of this conspiracy theory. There are a lot of interesting people out there doing lots of interesting things. Time to cut the apron strings and let people find their own way to make sense of it. Otherwise, there is a terrible danger of passing on everything other than what is important about this work.
On discussing Laban’s legacy, the Laban website sums it up well:
What aspects of his work still provide a basis for development in the 21st Century?
The multi-faceted and continually developing nature of Laban’s output forms both a challenge and a difficulty for students of his work. No-one can encompass it all.
Major dance training courses offer Laban work on their curriculum, but these are not necessarily his prime legacy. He maintained that he had no method and had no wish to be presented as having one. Rather a spirit of enquiry is the main legacy that unites the scattered and diverse body of people who use his work.