Mary Lisa Burns, director of the Cunningham School and longtime teacher there, says, "Merce thinks of dancing as being an enlargement of everyday movement…”
So, the technique involves principles rather than just combinations. It teaches the dancer "how to do something," as he puts it, instead of teaching the dancer how to move like the teacher.
Even when he was still dancing, Merce would often explain instead of demonstrate a phrase. "Rather than show the movement, if you explain it, the students have to think it through differently."