Ways of Seeing (Shortening)

When we name a movement, we can see it and experience it more clearly. This series explores the many names that Laban Movement Analysis (See post on LMA) offers. While these often sound like regular English words, they sometimes have slightly different meanings when used in an LMA context.

Shape Flow refers to the subtle, personal movement that underlies all movement and breath. For more information on Shape Flow, see previous post.

One element of Shape Flow is Shortening.

above Tennessee by Lewis W. Hine.
right The Mother in Joy and Grief by August Sander.

In Shortening, a Shape Flow movement condenses down or up towards the center of the body. The people above are Shortening in their torsos. Shortening is a natural part of breathing and recuperating. It can be done in order to appear shorter and less imposing. We sometimes Shorten when we are in pain or feel shy or embarrassed or are cold. Shortening is the opposite of Lengthening.

above staff photo by Justin Ide/Harvard News Office.
The woman in the middle of the this photo is Shortening. Compare her with the woman on the left.

Try it: How do you respond to the people above? Who do you know who regularly Shortens? Exhale fully and feel your torso shrink. Pretend you have a very, very heavy book on your head. Does this feel natural or unusual for you? Do you Shorten while working on the computer, while at work, or with particular friends and family? Notice the next time you Shorten in order to talk with a child or connect more intimately with someone. Observe the ways that dancers use Shortening for expression or for rest.

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