Wigman's mentor, Rudolf Laban, perhaps the most significant teacher of bodily movement in this century, cultivated a more obscure attitude toward the relation between nudity and modernity. It is obscure largely because we understand his attitude through the vague documentation done by his disciples. We know that he made efforts to link nudity and eurhythmic "development" of the body at his workshops for men and women at Ascona (1913–1917) and, to an even less adequately documented degree, that these experiments coincided with experiments in erotic experience (Wolfensberger 102–117). After the war, however, Laban became
preoccupied with detaching movement from the bodies that performed it. He realized that an expanded value for dance depended on theorization of human movement, not on theorization of dances or dancers. His great task, then, was to construct an elaborate vocabulary, a movement grammar (Labanotation), that enabled one to identity the signifying potential of the body, the total range of signs the human body was capable of making.
Meanwhile (1925–1930), his disciples in various German cities absorbed the new doctrines of the master without abandoning the Lebensreform impulse of the Ascona period. In Hamburg, Albrecht Knust conducted movement exercises with all-male groups of nude dancers, and in Berlin, Hertha Feist, a Nacktkultur enthusiast, was utterly unique among women dance instructors and choreographers in exploring nude movement with all-male ensembles, although she avoided such nudity in her ambitious dance concerts for the public. In Hamburg, Jenny Gertz supervised nude group, or "choir," exercises involving male and female children aged five to fourteen. Naked, the children improvised or created solo and group dances meant to imitate the movement of flowers, snowflakes, insects, birds, sunbeams, clouds, storms, grotesques, and forest rustlings; the instructor herself was nude, and sometimes nude dancing lasted all day long and into the night. These nude dances always took place outdoors because, "unfortunately," children were not permitted to perform nude in the exercise studio of the public school where Gertz taught (Gertz, "Tanz und Kind"). Gertrud Schnell, Toni Vollmeyer, and Martin Gleisner apparently also introduced nudity at the Laban schools in which they taught. Perhaps some of the Laban disciples were even more radical in their practice of nudity than was Adolf Koch, but the documentation of these adventures is insufficient to produce a serious understanding of them.
Public consumption of these nude performances remained largely confined to photographs, some of which appeared in Die Schönheit . In Gymnastik und Tanz (1926), Laban included numerous photos of nude men and women taken at various Laban schools (and at the Menzler and Hagemann schools), but he did not even mention nudity in this lengthy discussion of method in bodily education. Nevertheless, it seems that Laban and his disciples, in dramatic contrast to Wigman, considered the detachment of movement from the body dependent upon the nakedness of the body that performed the movement. This was a startling observation only because it implied that movement lost its power to signify gender when the gender of the body performing movement was exposed. For Laban, the problem of labeling dance as a feminine activity derived from the perception (or misperception), by both sexes, that female bodies veil a unique mystery that aesthetic movement reveals or expresses. However, the genderless vocabulary of Labanotation suggested that the greatest source of mystery was actually movement itself, which bodies of either sex could appropriate without
compromising sexual difference. Nude performance of dance ostensibly proved this point. But a problem with Laban's system was that, although it provided a comprehensive vocabulary of movement, it did not theorize syntactic relations between movements. Therefore, it was still not clear if sexual difference controlled specific relations between movements or if aesthetic syntactification in itself was a feminine activity.