February 2017 | 2 Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers | “Push Carry” and Running

Photo by Carolyn DiLoretto

“Push Carry” and Running

by Patrick Corbin

Tip 1
When I teach or coach forward leaps (grands jetés), this phrase gets good results: “Push carry!” Sometimes students get “stuck” in midair, when they focus too much on the legs’ split action and don’t travel forward in space as much as they could. So when I break down the jeté, I tell students that the leading leg (whether brushing or flicking off the floor) creates a plane of energy onto which the back leg pushes the torso. I tell them to ride that plane as the back foot leaves the floor and they are carried forward through space, until they land on the front foot, the back leg stretched out behind.

That’s a mouthful, so I usually give this speech just once to a class. From then on, I simply say, “Push carry!” whenever the students do grands jetés.

Tip 2
There’s nothing like a good strong modern dance run. The legs are in deep plié, the weight drops, and with each step the dancer pushes off the back leg using the hamstrings. The front foot reaches forward, neither pointed nor flexed, ready to receive the floor with each stride. The goal is a smooth run with very little bounce. The arms rest easily at the sides or pump as in a pedestrian run. To turn or take corners, the dancer must bank, the head leaning into or away from the curve.

Teaching young dancers to run with both strength and abandon takes time and persistence. Work on running patterns in flocking formations; changing directions often; and running on the music, through the music (running fast, heedless of the beat), and against the music (running in a different rhythm than the music’s dominant rhythm). Keep driving home the ideas of dropping the weight, pushing off the back leg, and banking.

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.