Horton Technique

Kerenor Sharabi is an Israeli soloist dancer, choreographer, and instructor performed and worked for over 20 years with the biggest dance companies all over the world. Her mission is to promote contemporary dance, choreograph and teach, give my over three decades of knowledge and experience to the world. Here she shares an interesting article about the Horton Technique that is famous about build strength as physical control and prowess for dancers.

Author of the article: Kerenor Sharabi

Biographical summary Lester Horton 1906-1953

Lester Horton – dancer, choreographer and creator of the Horton technique. Among the leaders and first creators of techniques in modern dance. Horton developed his method in Los Angeles during the 1940s to the mid 1950s. During this period it expanded and evolved from classicism to modernism.

Horton was born in 1906 in Indianapolis. While he was young he was fascinated by the culture of the Indians, studied their teachings, danced their dance and was greatly influenced by them as well as by the dancer, Michio Ito.

An interesting landmark took place in 1922 – when Horton watched for the first time a professional dance performance by Denishon dancers directed by Ruth St. Dennis and Ted Shawn. These dancers presented modern variations of Indian and Oriental dances, the colorful costumes, the exotic movements attracted Horton to dance and explore this material. During the 1920s, Horton moved to Chicago to professionally study classical ballet, but found the rigid rigor of this style limiting him. In 1928, Horton created the piece “The Song of Hiawatha” and brought it to California, a place to base his career and his life.

In 1934, Horton formed a troupe from which he danced, created works and performed all over the US, as well as many choreographies for films mainly between the decades 1940-1950.

In 1944 Horto was forced to retire as a dancer due to an injury but continued to create dances for his troupe and for films. (Houston Ballet – page 237).

During this period, Horton developed his method known to us today – as the Horton technique. In addition to creating the technique/method and his choreographies, in 1946 Horton founded the Lester Horton Dance Theater – one of the first permanent theaters dedicated to modern dance in the USA, in The structure of the lesson

Basic Concepts

An example of a part of a basic movement dictionary:

1. Positions of the legs:

A. Parallelism – the feet are parallel to each other. 1. First position: the feet are parallel at a distance of five centimeters from each other. 2. Second position: the feet are parallel in the width of the pelvis. 3. Fourth position: the feet are parallel with one foot in front and the other behind at a distance of one foot’s length.

B. Naturalness – the feet at an angle of 45 degrees

2. Positions of the legs:

third. Parallelism – the feet are parallel to each other. 1. First position: the feet are parallel at a distance of five centimeters from each other. 2. Second position: the feet are parallel in the width of the pelvis. 3. Fourth position: the feet are parallel with one foot in front and the other behind at a distance of one foot’s length.

d. Naturalness – the feet at an angle of 45 degrees. 1. First position: feet at a 45 degree angle and the heels touching each other. 2. Second position: the feet at an angle of 45 degrees in the width of the pelvis. 3. Wide second position: feet wider than shoulder width apart.

3. Positions of the hands:

A. Parallels – 1. Medium height – the arms are at shoulder height in front and the palms face each other. 2. High – the arms stand up, palms facing each other.Los Angeles (until it closed in 1960). Horton was one of the first choreographers in the USA who insisted on the integration of races/origins in his band. (Horton Technique by Joshua Legg – January 1, 2007).

B. Natural – the hands are low – stand along the body, but do not touch it and the palms face each other.

third. Egyptians – 1. Closed – the arms are at shoulder level in front, the forearms are vertical and the palms face inward. 2. Open – the same position, but the palms face each other. 3. Diagonal – the arms form a kind of rhombus.

4. COCCYX BALANCE – sitting on the buttock (on the coccyx bone) the hips diagonally forward, the calves bent parallel to the floor, the toes stretched, the back is tilted diagonally back, the hands are also parallel to the ground.

5. Flat back – divided into several positions: back, forward, and to the side. 1. Back – the legs are in the second parallel position, the torso is tilted diagonally backwards and the hands continue the line of the torso. 2. Forward – a second parallel stance, the torso in forward tilt, creating a 90 degree angle, the hands continue the line of the torso towards the pelvis. 3. To the side – the legs are in a wide natural second position, the torso is tilted to the side, the pelvis pulls to the opposite side, the arms are parallel, continuing the line of the torso towards the head.

6. LUNGES- dropping the body in different directions in different positions in the positions of deep forward, sideways and crossed. For example, one type of lunch: the hands are spread out to the sides of the body with the legs rounded, the palms face down and the elbow points up, the head is bowed, one leg is in a deep fold and the other is straight in a wide second natural position.

7. Pressing the pelvis – gesture movement of the leg by a small attitude, the standing leg is straight and facing outward, the pelvis presses forward, the torso is tilted back, the hands are in a diagonal oblique position.

8. The deer position – standing and kneeling. When standing – the same position as on the knees: attitude parallel to the floor at 90 degrees backwards and the standing leg parallel to the floor, the body bent forward, one straight hand forward at shoulder height and the other straight back at shoulder height.

9. SWING – natural movement of the body is used as decoration in the dance and is a substitute for the other elements of the dance. Divided into: horizontal and loose. Horizontal – the body moves horizontally from side to side. Released – Bego starts on the right side falls to the center and then moves to Shmuel’s side.

10. T POSITION – the shape of the letter T in positions: for Belonging to today’s demands: With the upper body strength of a sprinter/distance runner, the flexible back of a gymnast, and the jointed feet and legs of a classical dancer, Horton dancers are an athletic and expressive tool. The method creates power and intensity, something that many choreographers demand.

Comprehensive perception in the Horton technique

Between the years 1920 and 1940, Horton developed a dance technique based and influenced by Indian dances and anatomy studies.

The Horton technique is based on strength, strength and anatomical knowledge and deals with the question: “How far can our body move, and what are its possibilities” – something that strengthens the claim and evidence that Horton was careful to test the limits of his dancers at all times – as Bella Levitsky, a dancer in Love for 14 years, and who together with him and on it the whole system was built). The method allows the dancers to develop physical ability, strength while being highly dramatic. The technique works a lot in developing power, strength and flexibility while emphasizing falls. The combination of the rotations in the parallel stand that strengthen the muscles.

The uniqueness in the simplicity of the movement, as indicated in the video, creates clean and clear lines – something that allows the accessibility of this technique to dancers of all levels, including beginner dancers and even people who are not dancers – to be exposed to this unique method.

Lester Horton died of a heart attack in 1953 before he could finish writing down and reinforce his ideas, so the way his method is presented differs from teacher to teacher. One thing that is stable and constant is that the method is designed to correct and improve the limitations of dancers so that they can strive to succeed in any dance style they choose for themselves. In addition, Horton was interested in clearly defined forms, the way a dancer can move through the forms using power, energy and realizing possibilities in space.

“Horton’s method does not accept the idea of one or two movements or their opposite,” Forsythe explains. The method is dynamic and dramatic, develops flexibility and strength, and works with energy that is constantly in motion/activity.ward, backward and sideways.

The main emphasis in learning the method at a beginner level is to create length in the spine and hamstrings. The emphasis at all levels of study is on the development of musicality and the quality of performance. As the students progress, the exercises become longer and more complicated: Martin, who teaches the method at an art high school in Los Angeles, describes the exercises as “almost like a musical exercise. Like concert pieces.” Forsyth continues: “I’ve been teaching this method for over 40 years, and I continue to be impressed by the intelligence and humor that Horton incorporated. This is what strengthens the junction of my heart after many years. It is very accessible to dancers. And I love how it helps create dancers who are long and strong.” Horton believed it was important to quickly warm up the body and get the blood flowing,” says Forsythe, “so the class starts standing, unlike other modern dance methods that start sitting.”

The order of the exercises changes according to the understanding and interpretation/decoding of the teacher and according to the level of the students.

The class progresses in the center of the studio with verses/verses of movements, pirouettes, and types of jumps from one foot.

Don Martin, who studied with Lester Horton and is responsible for the band’s horn, explains that the exercises are all related to each other. “The movements are never without meaning, there is always a “smooth” transition between one idea or act and another.”

Horton’s technique/method is the basis/foundation of masterpieces like Revelations and Cry. In recent years there has been a “resurgence” of Horton’s technique/method in the US, especially in the West where Horton created most of his works. (Horton Technique by Joshua Legg – January 1, 2007). Companies that use the method: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Philadanco, Joyce TrislerDanscompany, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Dallas Black Dance Theater, and Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Company.

Milton Myers claims that the method strengthens and increases the range of expression of any body, not only a proportional body. Ana Marie (Forsythe, head of the Horton department at Alvin Ailey’s school, adds by saying that warming up with the Horton method, like Bar in ballet, moves from simple to complex exercises. It starts with roll downs and flat backs and ends with strengthening studies, many of which teach dancers to make the transition from the floor to knees to standing smoothly. Cynthia Riesterer claims that the method touches every part of the body and that “each Of the reinforcements based on the work of a specific part of the body or the quality of the movement” Risterer teaches at the Cincinnati School for the Creative and Performing Arts. James Truitte (1923-95) says that the method creates dancers who have an amazing ability to pay attention to details. Don Martin shares that the method creates people with discipline, passion, and purpose. Ezra Ezard, who is studying in the Ailey/Fordham BFA program for a bachelor’s degree in art, says, “The method not only challenges me physically but also challeng Horton (along with Martha Graham and Doris Humphrey) is one of three American teachers whose methods have established highly influential schools, and who, among other things, are reviving their choreographies as classical works. The Horton technique is now taught in cities all over the US. (From the preface of Lester Horton: Modern Dance Pioneer, by Larry Warren)

Key principles in technique

The technique is based on anatomical knowledge, the work is on muscle extension, strength, flexibility and separation of body parts, the emphasis in the work is on the ease of movement, the development of the movement, the shaking of the throw and off-balance of the movement, there is a great significance to the rotation and curvature of the spine, which is characteristic of contraction and – Release of Martha Graham. According to Horton, similar to Graham, the body is the source of all movements.

The impulses of the movement come from the shoulder, thorax, diaphragm and hip pelvis. The movements in the Horton technique are performed to the extreme, all parts of the body are flexible to the limit of physical ability and the same applies to the strength, speed and speed of his movements.

Horton created a dictionary describing forms and situations in his technique, in order to spread it, he gave each series of movements a name, a title to facilitate the students’ orientation. And also arranged it in order of levels: from level 1, up to level 4, which is the most difficult and complex.

Horton referred to dance as an art, a tenth-of-a-lifetime part that everyone can achieve that touches our body movements, our daily rhythm and the statics of our reflexes.

Appendix 1

The perception of the body according to the Horton technique

• His personal style emphasizes a powerful stillness at the waist while at the same time the legs and hands move in asymmetrical movements.

• As you level up, the exercises become longer and more complex

how to prepare

Dancers coming to their first Horton class can brush up on their knowledge of jazz dance. A lot of jazz teachers incorporate Horton’s ideas into their warm-ups,” says Ana Marie Forsythe, head of the Horton department at Alvin Ailey’s school. For example, Horton includes flat backs and lateral stretches, tilt lines and lunges, Movements that are done in a jazz warm-up In addition, the Horton technique/method includes circular and shooting movements that are focused on stretching in opposite directions.

Outside the classroom, you can turn to graphic design, typography, and architecture to understand the clear and clean lines that you see in the Horton technique/method. For example, “We do a lateral T and it looks like a capital letter T,” explains Forsythe.es my mind.” in the bibliography


1. Delavallade, Carmen. Perron, Wendy. In the beginning there was Alvin and Carman. Dance Magazine, Dec 2008. Vol. 82 Issue 12, p34-36

2. Strauss, Rachel. The Hows of Horton. Dance magazine. Feb 2007. Vol 81. Issue 2 p130-132

3. Dance Resource Center of Los Angeles and Southern California, December 3 1967

4. www.dancespirit.com/articles/765


1. Lester Horton Technique – the warm-up, kultur, 1990, U.S.A.

2. Lester Horton Technique Intermediate level, kultur, 1990, U.S.A.

3. Lester Horton Technique – advanced level, kultur, 1990, U.S.A.

Appendix 1

From a video recording Lester Horton Technique – Intermediate level


The warm-up includes: Flatbacks, Primitive squat descent, Lateral & release swings, Leg swing, Deep forward lunges.


These are short movement phrases that bring the dancer to improve concentration, orientation in space and dynamics. The movement sentences are built from the exercises – according to level, and they contain movement motifs from the cornerstone of the technique. The exercises are performed on both sides of the body and come out of the same warm-up exercises that were performed earlier during the class


Exercises that were built and designed to strengthen different areas of the body and in preparation for more complex exercises.

Fortification to strengthen the Achilles tendon and lateral muscles:

A number of exercises will be performed which will emphasize the strengthening of the above and which will include the following motifs: Hinge movement, split stretch, front fall, Basic rise & fall, Flat back in plié


There are 6 exercises in the Horton technique and they are performed according to difficulty levels.

Balance – which gives the dancer improved balance and posture, concentration and high technique

Below are some terms and types of exercises:

Coccyx Studies – different variations according to the level of the dancers. The exercises will always be performed at slow speed x1 and double speed x2 times.

Table Balance – There are many variations, classified by levels.

T Balance with side fall

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