A spatial design for movement.

This is a floor pattern I devised for “prances” in modern dance classes, but it could be used in any number of ways and for a variety of purposes. First, the diagram:

The diagram shows the movement of each individual. The blue lines are traveling while facing in the direction of travel (forward); the green lines travel in the directions indicated, but stepping backward.

You might try this walking first. Four steps travel forward, then make a 1/4 to the right and take two steps, and another 1/4 step to the right for two more steps. Now reverse: take four steps backward, and then make a 1/4 turn to the right (think of opening the right shoulder backward, or of turning clockwise) to take two backward steps, and another 1/4 turn for two more backward steps. This leaves you in a position to begin the phrase forward again.

The pattern progresses on a long diagonal, so it works best to begin in a corner at the back of the room, stepping forward in a line parallel to the back wall. One to four people could begin together, with others joining after the first group has completed their first phrase.

Variation 1: Beginning mid-phrase
Instead of having each individual or group beginning when the one before them has completed the entire phrase, have them begin after only half of the phrase, so that they start forward while the previous group is moving backward.

Variation 2: Partners
Have partners face each other to begin. One partner faces as in the original form described above, to step forward; the other partner is facing them, prepared to begin on the backward part of the pattern. (Here again, each pair or group could begin after only half the pattern is completed by the previous pair or group, or after the whole pattern is completed.) They should try to stay together, and take as much space moving backward as forward.

Variation 3: Prancing
This is a challenging pattern for fast “prancing” (or “trotting” or “jogging” if you wish) because the changes of direction require quick shifts of weight and momentum.

Variation 4: Rhythmic Patterns
Try adding rhythms, rather than equal durations. For example, instead of four steps, use two “anapest” patterns (short short long), and one anapest instead of the two steps. Perhaps the backwards movements could be “dactylic” instead. Students might clap, say, or sing their patterns, and then later change so that they’re voicing the opposite pattern of what they’re stepping (in other words, their partner’s pattern). You might also try the spatial pattern with other movements such as skipping, or put a more complex rhythmic phrase over it.