July 2016 | 2 Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers | True Side Bends and the Pinkie Proposal

Photo by Carolyn DiLoretto

Photo by Carolyn DiLoretto

True Side Bends and the Pinkie Proposal

By Patrick Corbin

Tip 1
In a side bend exercise, students may pike and pitch forward slightly, thinking they are increasing their side bend. Instead, they are likely inhibiting it in the long run. Remind them, as you demonstrate and as they do the exercise: “Truly side!” They won’t be able to bend far at first, but with repetition their spines will loosen and they will both increase their true side bend and develop the strength to support it. Bad habits always creep back in, so keep constant watch for the true side bend.

I put a lot of emphasis on the contraction and the spiral, working both to ensure they are as pure as possible. Just as much attention and care should be given to the side bend.

Tip 2
Lifeless, shapeless hands! How do we help students to extend through the tips of their fingers without tension? The only rule I follow for hands came from the great José Limón dancer Betty Jones. “Human hands,” she would say—and suddenly I released all notions of trying to create shapes with my hands, instead allowing them to be simply hands; this in turn allowed me to extend them without tension. Try asking students for “human hands” that include the two thumbs.

One cold day in New York, I noticed I could feel the icy wind on my pinkie finger. That day in class, I asked the students to feel the air pass between every finger, especially along the outside of the pinkies. Voilà! I saw 30 students and 60 hands—hands that were full of life, beautifully shaped, and without tension.


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.