May-June 2015 | 2 Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers | Fluidity and Strength

Photo by Ingrid Werthmann

Photo by Ingrid Werthmann

Fluidity and Strength

By Toni Pierce-Sands

Tip 1
I love watching a dancer move with such fluidity that it looks effortless. Fluidity gives watchers the sense that the dancer can do anything. To help your students develop this quality, guide them through a process of discovery. Use words that encourage them to relax and just move. Have students practice moving fluidly with a familiar phrase or choreography, so they aren’t challenged by having to remember the movement. This allows them to get out of their heads and more into their bodies. I call this “moving out of your own way.”

Encourage them to sense the movement’s continuation. As you guide them, observe students’ form and use verbal cues like “Push the floor,” “Feel your back leading you,” or “Use your feet” to free them up. Then step out and watch. See if students appear to be moving with less effort. This work can be challenging, but it is worth it.

Tip 2
Building physical strength in students’ bodies is essential both for conveying power and supporting fluidity. A balance should be struck between power and fluidity, but students need strength for both, and the ways you talk about this can help them bring out different qualities.

I try to help students break down and understand their bodies’ inherent movement knowledge, so they can translate that knowledge into building correct technique and strong muscles. Strength facilitates proper placement/alignment, and vice versa. Once increased strength and improved placement are established, more difficult movement vocabulary can follow.

I teach these movement aspects as layers rather than separate ideas. For example, I might be working with a student on placement, then notice she’s looking down and remind her about focus. In dance, we can always be layering the artistic with the physical.

Former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater soloist Toni Pierce-Sands is co-artistic director of TU Dance, head of the School at TU Dance Center, on faculty at the University of Minnesota, and a teacher of the Horton technique.