Technique: Ana Marie Forsythe

How I teach Horton's Lateral T

Amid the flourishing 1930s American modern dance scene, Lester Horton began shaping a technique that would serve as the foundation for much of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater repertoire. “Alvin was never shy in saying that Horton was most influential to his choreography,” says Ana Marie Forsythe, chair of the Horton department at The Ailey School. After her students’ first semester of Horton classes, Forsythe sends them to see the company perform. “It’s always fun to hear my students report back, ‘Oh, I saw a lateral T! I saw a hinge,’” she says. “But of course Alvin used the technique so artistically, it just blends in.”

Even if your students don’t dream of performing in Ailey’s Revelations, Forsythe describes Horton technique as invaluable in creating strong, long and versatile dancers. “Jazz dance uses many of Horton’s shapes and movements, like the hinge, table position and flat-backs. It helps dancers understand how to use their adductors, and how to move their body from their pelvis. It made me a better ballet dancer because of the use of parallel,” she says.

Horton’s motivation was to explore how many shapes and directions the body can move. “The technique has a huge range of dance vocabulary that explores many areas of the body,” says Forsythe. When Horton began codifying his technique in the 1950s, he created movement studies called fortifications and preludes that train a dancer to move precisely and artistically.

Forsythe starts her classes standing, with a sequence of roll-downs, flat-backs and a mix of Horton’s 17 fortifications that focus on strength-building and six preludes to help develop students’ artistry. Her students also practice the lateral T, a key element of the Horton technique.

Here, Forsythe and Ailey II dancer Paige Fraser demonstrate a lateral-T series that exemplifies the clear lines and physical strength vital to the technique.

“It’s either a T-shape, or it’s not. Horton liked this clarity of line. There’s no ambiguity, so it’s easy for people to see and understand in their own bodies when they’re

learning to dance.” —Ana Marie Forsythe

A native of New Jersey, Ana Marie Forsythe began studying the Horton technique with Joyce Trisler and, at 14, joined the Joyce Trisler Danscompany. In 1973, Forsythe started teaching at The Ailey School and, since 1979, has been the chair of the Horton Department. She leads an annual Horton pedagogy workshop attended by teachers from around the globe, and this June, she stepped down as director of the Ailey/Fordham BFA program. Forsythe is a co-author of the book The Dance Technique of Lester Horton and has created three DVDs documenting the technique. In addition to The Ailey School, she has been on the faculty of Vassar College, The Boston Conservatory, The New School and the State University of New York at Albany.

Paige Fraser, 21, is a senior in the Ailey/Fordham BFA program and a member of Ailey II.

 

 

 

Photo: Ana Marie Forsythe and Paige Fraser at the Ailey Studios in NYC (by Matthew Murphy)

Dance Teachers Trending
Barbara Bashaw in Thompson Hall of Columbia Teachers College. Photo by Kyle Froman

Barbara Bashaw has always been a pioneer. Since kicking off her career in education by building a dance program from the ground up at an elementary school in Brooklyn, she's gone on to become an inspiring force in teacher training. Now, as director of the new doctoral program in dance education at Columbia University's renowned Teachers College and as executive director of the even newer Arnhold Institute for Dance Education Research, Policy & Leadership, she's in a position to effect change nationwide.

"The study of dance education is a young field," Bashaw says. "Music and visual arts are far ahead of us, in terms of the research that has been done, as well as the foothold they have in education. Anywhere education is being discussed, we want to put dance on the table—and that means developing researchers and championing research that will push public policy." In a climate where arts education feels both more endangered and more necessary than ever, Bashaw is ready to blaze a trail.

Keep reading...
Instagram
Karen Hildebrand (center) with 2019 DT Awardee Marisa Hamamoto and members of Infinite Flow. Photo by Joe Toreno

Every year in our summer issue, we honor four dance educators for their outstanding contributions to the field. Recipients have included studio owners, professors, program directors, K–12 teachers and more, whose specialties run the gamut of dance genres.

We need your help to identify this year's best in the profession. Do you have a colleague or mentor who deserves to be recognized as a leader and role model?

Send your nomination by March 1, 2020. You can e-mail us at danceteachereditors@dancemedia.com with the following details:

Keep reading...
Sponsored by Akada Software
Photo by Jenny Studios, courtesy of Utah Dance Artists

Running a dance school used to involve a seemingly endless stream of paperwork. But thanks to the advent of software tailored specifically for dance studios' needs, those hours formerly spent pushing papers can now be put to better use.

"Nobody opens a dance studio because they want to do administrative work," says Brett Stuckey, who leads Akada Software's support team. "It's our job to get you out of the office and back into your classroom."

We talked to Stuckey about how a studio software program can streamline operations, so you can put your energy toward your students.

Keep reading...
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Q: I'm having such a love-hate relationship with mirrors right now. They can be distracting, as well as cause emotional distress for my students. At the same time, they're a really useful tool. I know some teachers remove theirs altogether. Is this something you recommend?

Keep reading...
Dance Teacher Tips

Susan Pilarre has been closely tied to the School of American Ballet for nearly her entire life.

From her first class there at age 11 through her 16-year career with its affiliated company, New York City Ballet, Pilarre learned directly from the great choreographer George Balanchine, absorbing the details of his unique style. Sensing her innate understanding of his principles, Balanchine encouraged her to teach; she joined SAB's permanent faculty in 1986. Since then, she has become recognized as an authority on Balanchine's teachings, instilling SAB and NYCB's distinctive speed, clarity and energy into generations of dancers.

Here, Pilarre shares how the specifics that Balanchine insisted upon in class contribute to the strength, beauty and musicality that define his style—and dispels common misconceptions.

Keep reading...

To celebrate Valentine's Day in the most dance-centric way possible, we sat down with five powerhouse dance-teaching couples to talk about their love stories. What do they admire about each other? What are their couple goals and their teaching philosophies, and how do they make their relationships work, especially when they work together? Get ready to swoon!

Keep reading...
For Parents
Photo by Paul B. Goode, courtesy of BAE

Watching through the studio windows—or even from the sidelines in a Mommy and Me class—can surely make parents wonder what exactly our little tykes are getting out of weekly ballet lessons. After all, they're repeating the same things class after class. Are they bored? Are they progressing? Why are they doing that again?

Keep reading...
Site Network
Photo by Nina Lokmadzhieva, courtesy of Varna IBC

The oldest ballet competition in the world doesn't have the funds for the show to go on: The 29th edition of the Varna International Ballet Competition, scheduled for July 12–30, 2020, has been postponed indefinitely.

Keep reading...
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Q: I have a 15-year-old student who has problems keeping her heel fully on the ground during a demi-plié. How can I help her?

Keep reading...
Site Network
The eight 2020 Prix de Lausanne prize winners. Photo by Rodrigo Buas, courtesy of PdL

The 2020 Prix de Lausanne has officially come to a close after a thrilling week of classes, coaching sessions, competition performances and networking forums. The annual competition, which was live streamed around the world and watched over 1.1 million times, gave 77 dancers an opportunity to perform and take class in front of an international panel of judges. In addition to a classical variation, candidates had to master a contemporary solo by Mauro Bigonzetti, Jean-Christophe Maillot, Cathy Marston, Wayne McGregor, Heinz Spoerli or Richard Wherlock.

Keep reading...
Dance News
Photo by Wendy Turner, courtesy of Boulder Jazz Dance Workshop

This summer, as for the past 42 years, students will flock to Colorado to immerse themselves in jazz dance training and performance. High school and college students, professional artists and teaching artists alike will find opportunities for growth and connection.

The Boulder Jazz Dance Workshop honors tradition while also embracing innovation and change within the jazz dance genre and dance field in general. Before executive/artistic director Lara Branen began the Workshop, she and her co-founder Michael Geiger had studied at separate times with San Francisco jazz teachers Ann Garvin, Linda Heine and Ed Mock. Later Lynn Simonson became their primary inspiration. Each year Branen invites new guest artists to join long-term faculty who devotedly return year after year, including: Wade Madsen (modern dance), Nancy Cranbourne (jazz), Christy McNeil Chand (jazz) and Meghan Lawitz (contemporary). This summer will include lyrical, musical theater rep and a heels class, in addition to the program's regular offerings.

Keep reading...
Site Network
Getty Images

Nope, there's still no Oscar for Best Choreography—but we now get to reveal the winner of our own Dance Spirit award for Best Movie Choreography of 2019! Though we're big fans of all seven of the nominated choreographers, and think each one deserves to be acknowledged for their contributions to some of our favorite films this year, there can only be one winner. And based on your votes, that is...

Keep reading...

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox