Laban Collection

Scope and Content

Personal papers, notation scores, photographs, flyers, dance theatre programmes, drawings, articles, notebooks, press cuttings, correspondence, lectures, oral history interviews, videos, transcripts, manuscripts and official records of Rudolf Laban and his associates in Germany in the 1920s-1930s and in England in the 1930s-1950s.

Administrative / Biographical History

Rudolf Laban was a teacher, philosopher, dancer, choreographer, author, experimentor and the father of modern dance. He raised the status of dance as an art form and transformed the nature of dance scholarship. He established the discipline of dance analysis and invented a system of dance notation called Labanotation. He defined the idea of community dance and valued its contribution to man's wellbeing. He set out to reform the role of dance education, emphasising his belief that dance should be for all. He also laid the technical basis for professional movement and dance therapy and for the expressive movement training of actors. Laban was born in Bratislava but lived in many places throughout Europe during his life. He arrived in Britain in 1938 as a refugee from Nazi Germany and by 1948 had set up the Art of Movement Studio in Manchester. The Studio moved to Addlestone in Surrey in 1953, eventually becoming the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance in 1975 and moving to New Cross, London. Rudolf Laban died in 1958. Laban the institution moved into its new building in Deptford, London in 2003 and merged with Trinity College of Music in 2005. An entry for Rudolf Laban can be found in the 'Oxford Dictionary of National Biography,' Oxford University Press, 2004.


The Collection was originally catalogued whilst being sorted in preparation for being copied on to microfiche. As a result it was catalogued at item level only. The Collection is now being recatalogued according to ISAD(G) and sorted into the following series:

  • A Photographs of Rudolf Laban and his associates, c1879-1958
  • B Papers of and relating to Rudolf Laban and his associates, 1875-2000
  • C Papers and publications of the Art of Movement Studio and the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance, c1947-1996
  • D Papers and publications of the Laban Art of Movement Guild, c1940-1985
  • E Audio material, 1980-2004
  • F Moving image material, 1980-1989
  • G Slides, c1930-1965

Access Information

Temporarily closed to the public.

Acquisition Information

Received from Dr Valerie Preston-Dunlop.

Other Finding Aids

The photographs in this Collection have been catalogued on to the Laban Archive catalogue. A card index is available in the Laban Library and Archive for the paper part of the Collection.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Microfiche is produced for the first two-thirds of the paper part of this Collection. Some items are on CD-R, VHS and DVD-R.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Jane Fowler, Archivist, Laban.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies can be made according to copyright law and depending on the condition of items. Please consult the Archivist.

Appraisal Information

Duplicate items have been weeded.

Custodial History

The Laban Collection was compiled by Dr Valerie Preston-Dunlop in the 1980s specifically for the use of students at Laban and dance researchers in the UK. It consists mainly of copies of material held by private individuals and public archive bodies in Europe. Some items are original.


This Collection is added to selectively on an irregular basis.

Related Material

The National Resource Centre for Dance at the University of Surrey holds a Rudolf Laban Collection mainly covering the period 1938-1958. An online catalogue is available to search on their website at

The John Hodgson Collection at Leeds University Library holds photographs, posters, drawings and correspondence of Rudolf Laban. A handlist is available on their website at

Correspondence, papers and photographs concerning Rudolf Laban's time at Dartington Hall can be found in the Dartington Archive on their online catalogue available to search at

Further material relating to Rudolf Laban and his work can be found at the Tanzarchiv Leipzig e.V. The Dance Notation Bureau, New York holds some Labanotation by Rudolf Laban. The Centre national de la danse in Paris holds Labanotation in the Albrecht Knust Archive.

Location of Originals

The original items are held at various public and private archives throughout Europe. Where possible this information is included on the archive catalogue and the card index.


The following work uses the Laban Collection extensively: Preston-Dunlop, Valerie (1998). Rudolf Laban: An extraordinary life. London: Dance Books.