A Blythe Coach

Do the Locomotion OR Walk Like a Dancer: walking, running, & other techniques of travel

How I do love to travel! Sadly due to the global pandemic, I am not able to travel as far afield at present as I ordinarily like to do regularly. Thankfully, I am still able to walk around the city of Cologne, and also dance!

Walking, strutting, marching, sliding, under-curves, over-curves, crawling, turning, rolling, grapevines, triplets, gallops, skips, and many more movements take us from one place to another in dance. As Mary Joyce succinctly states in her book Dance Technique for Children: “‘Locomotor’ simply means going from one place to another as opposed to axial or ‘on the spot’ movement.” (p.155)

In dance, we use both axial and locomotor movements, with technique classes generally progressing from more in-place body-half, rising and lowering movements, and movements of the upper and/or lower body in-place which then expand to include traveling or locomotor movements which increase in size as the body is warmed and as skill advances. 

Last week I outlined various categories of allegro or jumps, and those steps and categories are a great way to get from place to place and describe the kind of footwork that we use along the way when it leaves the ground into a jump, which may travel to a new place or return to the same place.

Here we are going into the various forms of walking, running, and combination movements, which I have also done in Episode 48 of the Podcast, and in future videos I will break down each of these specific locomotor movements and provide an opportunity to practice them alone and in combination.

Walking: a highly complex coordinated event

Walking itself is an exceedingly complex activity coordinating movements of the whole body and all of it’s many systems and built on many basic developmental movement patterns.

As Peggy Hackney explains in her book, Making Connections: Total Body Integration through Bartenieff Fundamentals, “Even a simple walk or jog is a cross-lateral phenomenon (i.e., a highly complex coordination event) and requires support of all earlier patterns, including Breath, Core-Distal Connectivity, Head-Tail, Upper-Lower, and Body-Half. For simplicity’s sake, let’s focus on how a basic ability to push into the floor with the foot and sequence that into a reach with the opposite arm into space makes possible walking or running. The propulsion of the body weight through space can be most effectively accomplished through beginning the intent to forward action in the lowest part of the pelvis; supporting that intent with a push through the grounded leg, sequencing through the internal core, letting the arm get the message and providing counterbalance cross-laterally, while at the same time reaching forward with the free leg to accept the weight. (p.23)

Walk and run with the grace of a ballerina

My new video is “Winsome Walking: move gracefully as a ballet dancer

Crawling & movement patterns for locomotion

Before we learn to walk, first we learn to crawl, as Hackney also details in the chapter on Body-Half Connectivity under Homolateral Yield & Push From the Lower– “Crawling” (p.168-9), developing important movement patterns in support of walking and other future locomotor movements. I’m looking forward to exploring crawling and dance in a future video 🙂

Another key to well-coordinated walking is Upper-Lower Connectivity under Use of the Iliopsoas in Walking (Weight Shift) p.128-9. You will hear references and learn more about the psoas muscle and movement patterning and how these ideas translate to dance in other blogs and videos.

Walk, March, Run, Skip, Gallop, Slide…

Joyce explains the range of locomotor steps clearly: “Locomotor steps are based on the ways we transfer weight on our feet. We transfer weight on the ground and through the air from one foot to the other, from one foot to the same foot, or we land on two feet simultaneously. 

Although all steps are built upon the step, hop, and jump, dancers have come to regard the following basic locomotor steps:

Walk, Step, March, Stamp: A transfer of weight from one too the other on the ground
Run, Toe Jog, Prance: A transfer of weight from one foot to the other in the air.
Leap: A run with more time in the air than on the ground
Hop: Taking off and landing on the same foot
Jump: Landing on two feet
Skip: A step-hop in uneven rhythm
Gallop: A step-leap in uneven rhythm, an overcurve
Slide: A step-leap in uneven rhythm, an undercurve.” 
(Dance Technique for Children p.156)

These basic steps can take myriad forms through level changes, different rhythms, sizes, shapes and spatial directions and orientations. I find it so fascinating to see the same basic patterns performed in wildly different ways, such as in ballet and hip hop. Indeed, the music, rhythm, and approach to space with which steps are performed greatly impact the form a step takes and how the audience perceives it.

As examples, take the steps of gallop and slide above, which are both performed to uneven rhythms but which take the form of an over-curving (as in glissade or pas de chat) path and under-curving path (as in chassé) through space respectively. Or look at types of skips or temps levé that take different shapes in the air or are danced to different rhythms, such as those Alwin Nikolais and Murray Louis describe: “Skipping: as opposed to a ¾ undercurve, skipping can be a duple or a ⅜ rhythm with emphasis on the push off to upward instead of low transfer of weight.” (The Nikolais/Louis Dance Technique p.95)

There are endless variations on these basic locomotor movements, such as Grapevine, Pas de Bourrée, Triplet, Balancé, March; 3-Step Turn, Chainée Turn, & Chassé Turn; Tumbling & Rolling, performed in different ways depending on the style or technique of dance and the choreogapher’s intent. 

Jumping and Traveling Steps Resources

Last week’s Arts of Allegro blog, Arts of Allegro Podcast, and Types of Jumps YouTube Video are a nice general introduction to the various types of jumps that exist in dance.

The “The 7 Movements of Ballet” YouTube Video, 7 Movements of Ballet YouTube Playlist, and Sauter (jump), Glisser (glide), and Tourner (turn) videos from that series cover a few of the most common locomotor movements in ballet, and I have also taught more complex traveling steps such as Balancé or waltzing and Pas de Bourée

Still to come: March & Prance, Skip & Pas de Chat, Chassé, further jumps such as Changements & Soubresaut, Sissonne and many more.

We may not be able to visit other cities or countries right now, but thank goodness we’re still able to explore different types of movement, develop dance technique, improvise, choreograph, even “travel” through diverse styles and movement qualities! I look forward to exploring these with you in the future!

Blythe Stephens, MFA
she/her or they/them
A Blythe Coach:
move through life with balance, grace, & power

2 thoughts on “Do the Locomotion OR Walk Like a Dancer: walking, running, & other techniques of travel

  1. Pingback: Rollercoaster of Dance: Traveling Through Undercurve & Overcurve Pathways | A Blythe Coach

  2. Pingback: Brilliant Batterie - Fluttering Footwork in Balletic Leg Beats | A Blythe Coach

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