September 2016 | 2 Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers

Photo by Carolyn DiLoretto

Photo by Carolyn DiLoretto

Modern Dance Walks and Escaping the Mirror

By Patrick Corbin

Tip 1
Young dancers often become self-conscious and timid when asked simply to walk; make sure to teach students this necessary skill.

Try these two variations on the modern dance walk. In a classic Graham-esque walk, the dancer steps with feet and legs slightly turned out, the pelvis and torso pressing firmly and equally forward in space, and the arms held curved downward at the sides. With each step, the pointed feet pass through coupé side, and the tips of the toes brush the floor gently. A variation is a walk in which the feet pass through coupé “on the walk,” meaning toes are flexed instead of pointed.

For an effective modern dance walk, the most important sensations to concentrate on are feeling the back and chest, and feeling the shifting of weight. Suggest that students think of pushing the room’s entire volume of air along, using every inch of their bodies.

Tip 2
Are your students stuck in the mirror? They may be addicted to looking at their own images, or they may be using the mirror as a tool to mask sequencing problems. In my own teaching, I became weary of repeating, “Don’t get stuck in the mirror.” One day, instead of repeating myself once again, I pointed at the mirror and shouted, “She lies!” This broke the students out of their mirror stupor with a laugh; for the rest of class, they used the mirror less. I now use this idea almost daily. When I notice students focusing on the mirror, I point to it and say, “What does she do?” The students respond with a resounding “She lies!” As a result of this practice, my students now depend less on the mirror.


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.