Graham Technique: Deep Stretches

Part 2 of our Graham Technique series taught by RDT dancer, Lauren Curley. Follow along as she teaches about deep stretches!

Graham Floorwork:

Key Elements / Terminology

  • Contraction: Engagement that radiates from the center out the limbs. Most frequently referenced in terms of contracting the torso, or engaging the pelvic floor and abdominal wall. The hands and feet are often contracted in response to the torso. For kids, I often describe it as “how your stomach feels when you throw up”.
  • High Release: Often in Graham technique the sternum will lift upward in response to the contraction of the core. This is called a high release. In this position it is important to note that the vocal chords should not be strained. Encourage students to try saying their name out loud when holding their high release. If their name sounds garbled, they have collapsed their vocal chords and need to support the back of their neck. Feeling like they have a light beaming out of their sternum and up to the ceiling will help them find the upper back flexion needed.
  • Spiral: Often described as being similar to the stripes on a candy cane or a barbershop pole, the element of spiral comes up a lot in the Graham technique. I like the image of a wet towel being wrung out to describe the counter engagement that happens between the pelvic floor and the shoulder girdle. Oftentimes (but not always) the head will follow the spiral of the back so that the entire spine is spiraling.
  • Breath: One of the most important elements of Graham is the use of breath. Contraction comes from breath, as does all other movement. This doesn’t necessarily mean that students need to make noise as they move.. but that their movement shouldn’t feel “stuck” or “tense”. Emphasize the way breathing can increase articulation and mobility in movement.

Music: Graham technique requires specific music. Kevin Sport has several different albums available on iTunes and Spotify that are specifically designed for Graham class and the tracks are labeled with their corresponding exercises. These recordings are from the CD titled “Sacred Garment”.

Deeps Stretches

Pay especially close attention to the hands and feet when the body contracts and releases!

Begin with your legs in second position, palms down over the line of your legs, and torso in neutral. Contraction 1-2, deepen it forward 3-4, release on diagonal 5-6 and rise upright 7-8. Repeat to the right, and then to the left. Your contraction will be what changes you from side to side, so stay in the diagonal until the new phrase begins.

On the & bring your arms up to a diamond position and repeat center, right, and left with the arms in diamond, allowing your elbows to come parallel as you contract. On the & again change your arms, this time to a wide V position. Repeat the sequence again, center, right, and left with the elbows once again bending and coming parallel on the contractions. The final set will be with the soles of the feet touching and hands holding the ankles. Finish your phrase in a high release.


Lauren began her training in Lowell, Massachusetts at Walker’s Dance. She was a scholarship recipient at the University of Hartford’s The Hartt School, graduating Summa Cum Laude with her BFA in Dance Performance. In her time at Hartt, Lauren furthered her training at the Jose Limon Dance Foundation, Martha Graham School, Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance, and Henny Jurrien Stichting (NL). Upon graduating she was offered a contract with Repertory Dance Theatre, where she has performed works by world-renowned choreographers such as Jose Limon, Elisa Monte, Donald McKayle, Danielle Agami, and Zvi Gotheiner. Lauren is a faculty member at Creative Arts Academy and teaches master classes at studios and University programs throughout the country. She has been a member of the company since 2014.

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