November 2016 | 2 Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers | Landing Lifts and Turning Heads

Photo by Carolyn DiLoretto

Photo by Carolyn DiLoretto

Landing Lifts and Turning Heads

by Patrick Corbin

Tip 1
Developing lifting skills is fundamental to learning how to partner. Teachers often emphasize a lift’s take-off and apex, but the most important part of any lift is the landing. Partners must be set down gently; to encourage this, instruct the lifters to give one last “pulse” of support at the moment of touchdown. This pulse slows the momentum of those being lifted, giving them time to come down smoothly and silently.

Make sure that lifters understand that they should never “just let go” and allow their partners to absorb the full force of a landing. Developing the strength and timing to ensure soft landings will help students avoid injuries and attain a level of caring that will make them more skillful partners.

Tip 2
“Look side, farther side, all the way side!” Sometimes I find it difficult to get students to turn their heads. Clarity of focal intent can be tricky. Students often think they are turning their heads when they are merely shifting their eyes. Of course, the eyes can be used effectively, but if dancers want to display a clear focal intent, they need to turn their heads.

To address this, say, “Look with your nose.” Students immediately understand that when they use their noses as guides, their focal intent becomes visible—particularly important when dancers are preparing to perform in large theaters and auditoriums. This trick is especially useful for cleaning unison work in ensemble pieces. If all the dancers “look” with their noses, their focal points will be clear, both to themselves and the audience.


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.