The shapes of the symbols indicate nine different directions in space and the shading of the symbol specifies the level of the movement.
Labanotation is a record of how you move so that you can do the same thing again and again.The symbols are placed on a vertical staff, the horizontal dimension of the staff represents the symmetry of the body, and the vertical dimension time. The location of the symbol on the staff defines the body part it represents. The centre line of the staff represents the centre line of the body, symbols on the right represent the right side of the body, symbols on the left, the left side.
The staff is read from bottom to top and the length of a symbol defines the duration of the movement. Drawing on western music notation, Labannotation uses bar lines to mark time measures and double bar lines at the start and end of the movement score. The starting position of the dancer can be given before the double bar lines at the start of the score.
Spatial distance, spatial relationships, transference of weight, centre of weight, jumps, turns, body parts, paths, and floor plans can all be notated by specific symbols.
Although the abstract symbols represent Laban's work on shape, Laban's theories of effort (see Laban Movement Analysis) can also be represented in Labanotation. The four effort categories are:
and they appear in the notation as an effort graph:
It is this difference that explains the differing interpretations of the notation by the two groups.
Labanotation is used in a variety of settings including Laban Movement Analysis, dance notation, documentation and reconstruction, Movement analysis, Robotics, Human movement simulation and Human movement synthesis.
Motif Description is a subset of Labanotation that depicts the overall structure or essential elements of a movement sequence.