Horton, Stretching, Sleep

HORTON is a form of modern dance, developed by Lester Horton (1906-1953), an American dancer, teacher, and choreographer. He created this technique as an anatomical approach to creating a well-rounded healthy dancer. Horton incorporates Native American folk dance, Japanese arm gestures, Javanese and Balinese isolations, and Afro-Caribbean elements.

The Horton technique is a codified syllabus that is separated into movement categories comprised of detailed exercises called Studies, which include Projections, Locomotions, Preludes, Rhythms, Improvisations, and Fortifications. The fortifications are considered the core of Horton technique. They establish a framework of movement mechanics, of muscular development and coordination, elasticity and range, rhythm and timing of phrasing, and movement quality.

Some dancers that were trained by Lester Horton include Alvin Ailey, Joyce Trisler, and Bella Lewitzky. Horton technique improves flexibility, strength, coordination, and body awareness. A former student of Alvin Ailey American dance school, Karen Gayle, is the School at Steps’ Horton instructor.

Stretching Improves Flexibility
What is Flexibility? According to ACSM, flexibility is the range of motion around a joint.

As dancers we are consistently pushing our flexibility to its fullest extent. Stretching will not only keep our bodies sharp and injury free, but also increase our flexibility. Remember to stretch and strengthen the muscles that support you in a parallel position as well as the ones that work your turn out. Horton technique is a great way to do that and should be included in your weekly dance schedule.

Types of stretching:

  • Static Stretching: A slow, passive stretch held for 15-30 seconds or longer. This is best done AFTER class, when your muscles are warm and elastic.
  • Ballistic Stretching: Using uncontrolled bouncing or bobbing movements to get a stretch. Because of high injury risk, it is recommended that only athletes who undergo a sport or exercise that has ballistic or plyometric movements use this type of stretching.
  • Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation Stretching (PNF): In this type of stretching the muscle is engaged in an isometric contraction for about 6 seconds, then it is let go and relaxed into a slow, passive stretch to the point of limitation.
  • Active Isolated Stretch (AIS): An active stretch in which the opposite muscle is engaged, so that the muscle being stretched is completely relaxed (for example, engaging the quads to relax the hamstrings); then on the exhale of the breath, the stretch is held for 2 seconds at its maximum length and then released. This is repeated for 3-10 repetitions. Studies have shown that AIS works just as well as Static Stretching and is easier on the joints. AIS can also be used as a warm up because it brings blood flow to the muscles.


After you have done your laterals for the day, stretched, and cooled down, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to rest and recover! Adequate rest will give you more energy the next day to execute your Horton lateral-Ts and figure-4 turns!

  • SLEEP Make sure to get 8 hours of sleep a night. Avoid an overload on caffeinated beverages and products throughout the day (especially close to bedtime), so that you are able to fall asleep at a decent hour. While you are sleeping you are rejuvenating your immune, nervous, skeletal and muscular systems.
  • REST Make sure that you are not over-training and give yourself at least one day off from physical activity a week. When you over-train you are more likely to get injured. Give your body a rest!
  • REPAIR When you dance your body is consistently breaking down muscle. In order to build new, stronger muscles your body needs to rest and recover.

Fun Facts:

  • Modern dance was created as a rebellion against classical ballet.
  • The record for the longest period without sleep is 18 days, 21 hours, 40 minutes.
  • Brown bats sleep about 20 hours a day. Giraffes sleep about 2 hours a day.
  • Remember to breath! Your muscles need oxygen in order to perform.
  • Contortionists have an unusual natural flexibility that is enhanced with gymnastic training. Depending on the spine’s direction of flexibility, contortionists are categorized as either front benders or back benders. Few are good at both.

Use yoga as a warm up prior to your Horton class to help loosen your muscles so that you can achieve the perfect flat back position! Check out TaraMarie Perri’s yoga class here at Steps on Broadway!

What do you enjoy doing on your ‘day off from dance’?