Effort, or what Laban sometimes described as dynamics, is a system for understanding the more subtle characteristics about the way a movement is done with respect to inner intention. The difference between punching someone in anger and reaching for a glass is slight in terms of body organization – both rely on extension of the arm. The attention to the strength of the movement, the control of the movement and the timing of the movement are very different. Effort has four subcategories, each of which has two opposite polarities.
- Space: Direct / Indirect
- Weight: Strong / Light
- Time: Sudden (or Quick) / Sustained
- Flow: Bound / Free
Laban named the combination of the first three categories (Space, Weight, and Time) the Effort Actions, or Action Drive. The eight combinations are descriptively named Float, Punch(Thrust), Glide, Slash, Dab, Wring, Flick, and Press. The Action Efforts have been used extensively in some acting schools, including ALRA, to train the ability to change quickly between physical manifestations of emotion.
Flow, on the other hand, is responsible for the continuousness or ongoingness of motions. Without any Flow Effort, movement must be contained in a single initiation and action, which is why there are specific names for the Flow-less Action configurations of Effort. In general it is very difficult to remove Flow from much movement, and so a full analysis of Effort will typically need to go beyond the Effort Actions.