Teachers & Role Models

From Pros Who Know, Tips for Finding the Best Music for Class

For former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer Lydia Roberts Coco, who teaches Horton technique at Ballet Virginia International, music is motivation. Photo by Summer Greene, courtesy of BVI

When selecting music, teachers and choreographers have to find something that complements and enhances the work. Music and dance should correspond perfectly. As Balanchine most famously said, "Dance is music made visible." And, "See the music; hear the dance." An added challenge for teachers in class, however, is picking the right tracks that will keep kids focused and engaged.

Here are 10 teachers on how they approach the, at times, arduous process of choosing music.


Melinda Sullivan, Tap

Sullivan was the first tap dancer to be a top 10 finalist on "So You Think You Can Dance." Photo courtesy of Sullivan

When Melinda Sullivan finds a piece that she feels drawn to, she often listens to the song over and over again, focusing each time on a different instrument's rhythm. Another favorite trick is to start with one simple step—to keep the time to the music—and use that as a theme she can return to. "You don't need to do every step you know in a dance," she says. "It should be arranged and thoughtful. You need to keep in mind the overarching composition of not just the picture but the music, too."





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