February 2016 | 2 Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers | Hinges and Finding Shapes in Space

Photo by Carolyn DiLoretto

Photo by Carolyn DiLoretto

Hinges and Finding Shapes in Space

By Patrick Corbin

Tip 1
The hinge is a useful and versatile movement. It can be a transition to the floor, a partnering tool, or a way to build core strength. A common misconception is that the hinge is a backward-falling movement, but once you think back in a hinge, it is all over. Think forward for hinges.

To teach a successful hinge, encourage students to think down and forward with the knees while keeping the head and spine over the hips without piking (breaking the hip line). The feet and legs should be parallel and can be placed in a small second or fourth position. Point out that there are actually three hinges at work, in the metatarsal, ankle, and knee joints.

Increase the depth of the hinge over time. Start small. As students become stronger, the depth of their hinges will increase and they will progress without injury.

Tip 2
The task of getting young dancers to experience their full movement potential can be frustrating; they often get stuck merely making shapes. To encourage full, grounded movement, after students have executed an exercise or combination, have them repeat it, this time thinking: “I am not ‘making’ these shapes. The shapes already exist in space. As a modern dancer, I find the shapes and assume them.”

This idea can help students find transitions between shapes or steps, realize the full potential of their personal kinespheres, and become aware of volume. I find it effective for core and distal movements, in place or traveling, and especially helpful for adagio combinations.

“The dance already exists in space.” I see immediate results using this simple idea.


Patrick Corbin, an assistant professor at USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, has an MFA in dance, performance, and choreography from NYU. He danced with The Joffrey Ballet, Paul Taylor Dance Company, and his own troupe, CorbinDances.