Step by step modern dance moves: arm and leg movements
Friday, August 24, 2007
Modern dance, made famous by Martha Graham, Isadora Duncan and Merce Cunningham, among many others, rebelled against the rigid, strict rules of ballet, striving to show emotions through more natural movement. Its basic form is parallel feet positions and angular arms.
Classes begin with basic exercises and proceed to short combinations the students perform in the center.
A typical class can include the following movements:
1. Curl down and up. In a standing parallel first position (feet pointed front a few inches apart), arms at your side, begin by looking down and continuing to curl the spine over, without collapsing into the waist. About halfway down, bend your knees slightly (demi-plié), keeping the knees aligned with your toes, all the while, continuing to curl the torso down. When you've reached the extent of your forward movement (arms will be dangling on or close to the floor), straighten your knees. Then demi-plié again, and begin "restacking" the spine upward. Again, halfway up, straighten the knees. When you're fully aligned upright again, repeat.
2. Side twists. Seated on the floor with one leg bent toward groin, the other crossed over with foot flat on floor, arms to seconde (arms at shoulder height, elevated slightly in front of side). Lifting from waist, twist opposite arm toward crossed-over knee, turning the torso as one piece. Grasp the outside of the crossed-over knee with the opposite arm, the other arm flows to dancer's lower back. Gently pull front arm to twist even further. After holding for about five seconds, lift arms back to shoulder height à la seconde and twist to face front. Repeat with opposite legs crossed.
3. Leg swings. Begin in standing parallel first position, arms in second. Tendu right leg (slide leg forward with toe pointed while balance is upright; no weight on the moving leg), then rapidly brush the right leg through first position and backward, letting the leg leave the floor, slightly bending the knee at the apex of the swing. Brush the right leg forward, through first position, and again let the leg leave the floor, bending the knee slightly. Repeat two or three times, then point the leg to the front on the floor and slide it back into first position. Repeat with the left leg.
4. Flat back. Standing in second position, arms down, bend forward from the hips, keeping the head and spine aligned and moving as one piece, until the torso is parallel with the floor. While bent over, take arms through second position into high fifth (arms held overhead) with palms facing each other. Keeping the arms still, raise the torso as a single entity erect. Turn the palms outward and push the arms back through second and down to the sides. Repeat.
5. Tendu. Standing in first position parallel, arms in second, slide the right foot forward, keeping the toes pointed and on the floor as far forward as possible without putting any weight on the working leg or shifting balance from the standing leg. Pull the working leg back into first position, letting the foot work through a relevé (heel up and ball of foot on floor) before it rests on the floor with weight momentarily placed on it. Immediately, slide the right foot to the side (it won't be exactly side but slightly in front), again keeping the toes on the floor and the foot going through a relevé before fully extended. Reverse, momentarily putting weight on the working leg when in first position. Then slide the foot to the rear until the toe is pointed, then slide it back to first position, leading with the toes. Slide the right foot out again to the side. Repeat the pattern with the left leg.
6. Leg overs. Lying on your back with your lower back against floor, arms extended to side at shoulder height, raise right leg up perpendicular to the floor (or as high as the student's flexibility will allow), without bending the knee and with the toes pointed. Lower leg toward the left side, trying to touch your toes to your left hand, keeping shoulders on the floor. After a few seconds, bring right leg back to upright, then lower to starting position, pushing the lower back into the floor and controlling the leg with your abdominal muscles. Follow with the left leg. It sometimes helps if the student looks opposite the working leg as it crosses over.
7. Lunges. From a standing first position, slide the left foot forward, bend the knee and place weight on the forward leg, keeping the back leg straight, foot in high relevé (heel elevated). Both hands are placed next to the left forward foot, which is flat on the ground. Shift weight on the hands to the right and lift the left arm straight up, looking at the left hand as it points to the ceiling. Return the left hand to the floor, and straighten the left leg, putting the right foot flat onto the floor. Slide the left leg to join the right, keeping the body in a "V," then slide the right leg forward and bend the knee, pulling the left foot into a high relevé. Raise the right arm to the ceiling, and then back to the floor. Straighten and slide the right leg to join the left, walk hands back to the feet and curl up to erect position.
8. Isolations. Standing in parallel first and with the head erect, bring the head back to the front, then drop it forward, erect, then backward, and back to erect. Look sharply to the left, back to front, then to the right, making sure the eyes actually see at each side.
Still standing with arms to side, drop your head forward, then to one side, to the back, the other side and back to the front. During this, keep shoulders still. Repeat a couple of times, and then roll the head to the opposite direction. End with the head facing front and erect.
Raise both shoulders up, and then back to normal height. Repeat about four more times. With arms to second, lift right shoulder up to ear, then roll it forward, lift it back up to the ear, and roll it backward. After a couple of repeats, shift to the other shoulder. Once both shoulders have been exercised separately, put them together, with one shoulder rolling forward and the other backward simultaneously.
Lower arms to the waist, then lift chest up and forward while keeping hips and shoulders still. Return ribs to normal, and then push them to the back. Repeating this a few times, then move the ribs from one side to the other. After a couple of repeats, circle the ribs first to the left (forward, side, back, side), then to the right.
Bringing arms up to second position, demi-plie and contract side to raise one hip, then let it return to normal. Repeat on the opposite side. Repeat hip raises about three more times, then thrust the hips forward, center and back. End with the hip circling first left, then right.
Once the warming-up and technique-strengthening exercises are finished, the teacher will give students moving steps and combinations to learn and execute. Samples could be the following.
1. Chassé. Stand with weight on leg foot, right leg pointed to side, arms in second. Shift weight onto right foot, demi-plié, slide left foot to join right, jump from both feet straight up vertically and land with weight on both but more on left so can immediately slide right foot out again, join feet and jump with a half-turn to face opposite direction. Repeat twice more, end facing front.
2. From a standing first position with naturally turned out feet, arms at side, lift right leg, knee bent at 90 degrees and facing front, toes pointed while raise arms forward to shoulder height. Simultaneously open right leg to side and arms to second. With a small elevé (lift heel off floor) and turning the left foot outward, shift the right leg to the back with knee still bent into a table or attitude. Lower left foot to flat. Straighten right leg (arabesque) and lower torso to left side, right arm pointing to ceiling, left arm stretching to side, then continue right arm to meet left in high fifth over the head. Keeping the right leg still, twist torso and arms so facing down, swing torso to front, contract stomach and bring arms in with an envelopé of the right leg (draw in to standing knee, then slide foot to floor), straightening to starting position. Repeat with the left leg, torso to right.
3. Stand with weight on right foot, left pointing back, arms in second. Walk forward, toes leading left, right, demi-plié and piqué (step onto straight leg) onto left demi-pointe (heel elevated), draw right leg in with bent knee while hug shoulders. Lower left foot to flat, developé right parallel leg through passé (toe of working leg to standing leg's knee) and forward while extend arms up, palms together to high fifth parallel. At peak of developé, elevé left foot and push arms down to side, palms down. Walk right, left, demi-plié and repeat on right foot.
Author: Written by Kathy Lee Scott