Laban’s student Irmgard Bartenieff (1890-1981) applied her Laban training to the field of physical therapy, developing her own approach to body re-education called Bartenieff Fundamentalssm, now a part of Laban Movement Studies training at LIMS. She also was a dancer, choreographer, Labanotation expert, pioneer in the development of dance therapy, and cross-cultural researcher. She originated the Certificate Program in Laban Movement Studies in 1965, and founded the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies in 1978.

Bartenieff was born in Germany. Her activities revolving around biology, art, and dance, became sharply focused when she met Rudolf Laban in 1925 and began to study with him and his colleagues. She received a Laban diploma in Berlin and was the only holder of this certificate practicing in the United States.

She and her husband Michail Bartenieff studied, taught dance, and toured with their own dance company before fleeing Germany in 1936. In the United States, she introduced Labanotation at the Hanya Holm Studio with the late Irma Otto-Betz and lectured at Bennington College, Columbia Teachers College, The New School for Social Research, and the Brooklyn Museum.

In 1943 she graduated from New York University’s physical therapy program, later becoming chief physical therapist of the Polio Service of Willard Parker Hospital, N.Y., where for seven years she worked to rehabilitate victims of the polio epidemic. There, she pioneered methods of moving patients from passive acceptance to active participation in their own treatment. This became the core of Bartenieff Fundamentalssm, an approach to body re-education, which develops movement efficiency and expressiveness. Throughout this time, Bartenieff also continued to teach movement classes for actors, dancers, and others.

In 1950 she resumed her studies with Rudolf Laban, who was then residing in England, and she spent five consecutive summers with him and his colleagues.

From 1954 to 1957, as chief therapist at Blythedale Hospital, Valhalla, N.Y., a small orthopedic hospital for children, Bartenieff developed movement activities along both therapeutic and recreational lines for handicapped children — whether bedridden, in wheelchairs, or on crutches. She devised movement games for each child’s capabilities, no matter how severe the disability. This work led to developmental studies on newborns and infants, which she researched at Long Island Jewish Hospital. Later she brought her techniques to the Polio Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark, in a course called “Stretching in Polio.”

During the ten-year period 1957-1967, she worked both as a dance therapist and research assistant in nonverbal behavior at Day Hospital of Albert Einstein Medical College, N.Y. She led the development of systematic observation and notation of patient behavior, using Laban concepts. As a physical therapist, she continued her private practice specializing in dance injuries and back problems. Between 1964 and 1966 Bartenieff worked with Alan Lomax on the Choreometrics Project, a groundbreaking study of correlations between economic structures, work movement, dance movement, and other components in different cultures.

A senior member of the Dance Notation Bureau of New York since 1942, she began, in 1965, to develop the areas of research and training for the Bureau, directing the work towards social science professionals as well as performing artists.

In 1978 she founded the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies in New York to further develop Laban’s work and to extend it into many fields through her own unique applications and methods.

Her professional affiliations included the American Physical Therapy Association, the American Dance Therapy Association, the Dance Notation Bureau, CORD (Congress on Research in Dance), and the Society for Asian Music. She was a registered physical therapist and a registered dance therapist (DTR) as well as a Master Member of the Laban Art of Movement Guild and an Associate Member of ICKL (International Council of Kinetography Laban.)

She was published in such journals as Main Currents, Physical Therapy Review, Music Therapy, CORD Conference Proceedings, Dance Scope, and the American Dance Therapy Association Proceedings.

In 1981, for the first time, her work became available in a comprehensive book, Body Movement: Coping With the Environment, written with Dori Lewis. It was in August of that same year that friends and colleagues of Irmgard Bartenieff gathered from around the world to mourn her death. Her funeral was a moving tribute of dance and love. Today Bartenieff’s students carry on her work in ever broadening applications.

From, used with permission.