Following his undeniable excitement from attending a New Kids on the Block concert at age 6, Kenny Wormald's parents enrolled him at the Gold School in Brockton, Massachusetts. Since then, whether he's teaching at a NUVO or Break The Floor convention, running his new studio, Playground L.A., or performing on "Dancing with the Stars," it's fair to say that for the former Justin Timberlake dancer, the music has always been the driving force behind his dancing.
"I'll play the song over and over again, really studying the music, and then it's easier to pick out a snare, or a high-hat or a kick drum," he says, which helps create his dynamic choreography.
Photo courtesy of DTS
This attention to detail and the development of his unique smooth style was solidified in 2007. "Dancing with a live band on Justin's tour was the pinnacle for me," he says. "Since then I'm a huge fan and teacher of what I call the 'Fred Astaire with sneakers on' style." He defines this as a hybrid of the traditional hip-hop style and the street—less-perfect hip hop—plus incorporating all the technique he's had his whole life: tap, modern and jazz. Wormald's dedication to inspiring his students stems from the amazing teachers he grew up taking lessons from. "If I can just challenge one student to work harder, even for one day, that's what really motivates me," he says.
Kenny's latest project is his new studio in West Hollywood, Playground L.A. Photo by Hedi Slimane
With so much music to choose from today, whether it's for a convention class or choreography, he credits Spotify as an invaluable music source. "I have access to almost any song and a lot of new artists," he says. When picking music for convention classes, the song is vital. "There's sometimes 400 to 500 kids in a room, and if they're not motivated by the song, it's hard to get students to attack the choreography the way I want them to. I love when the whole room connects."
Photo by Jim Carmody
Danceology Performing Arts Campus
San Diego, CA
Be your students' coach—not their friend Coaching dancers is Lucia's passion. To get results, she uses discipline tempered with inspiration. "I am not interested in being their friend," she says. "There is time to laugh, but there are boundaries. Kids listen and do as I say because they understand what is expected of them. Expectations are set and never change."
Don't let parents help you run your biz She encourages parents to enjoy classroom viewing, but has a strict policy of no parents or adults other than staff upstairs. A common mistake is having parents help run a business, she says. "We are a professional team, not volunteers," says Lucia. "We coach minds and teach bodies. We support dance competition, and we prepare young people for success on a stage and in life, the wins and losses. There's discipline and team bonding, and we help with scholarships and college. There are many opportunities, and we work as a team to find the right chemistry for a college education or other direction."
In Take the Lead, actor Antonio Banderas wins over a group of reluctant inner-city students with a racy tango performance. While the 2006 film was inspired by Pierre Dulaine, ballroom dancer and founder of Dancing Classrooms, teaching in a public school is rarely as easy as it looks in the movies. From financial challenges to lack of administrative support and parental involvement, public-school teaching differs greatly from the studio environments in which most dance educators began their own training. We asked several public-school teachers to share their passion for the hardest job they've ever done. —Kat Richter
"So why did you quit?"
It's a question I've been asked hundreds of times since I stopped dancing over a decade ago. My answer has changed over the years as my own understanding of what led me to walk away from greatest love of my life has become clearer.
"I had some injures," I would mutter nervously for the first few years. This seemed like the answer people understood most. Then it became, "I was just not very happy." Finally, as I passed into my 30s, I began telling the uncomfortable truth: "I quit dancing because of untreated depression."
Fall is back-to-ballet-school time and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is introducing the HS First Steps scholarship program to help facilitate access to classical ballet classes for young dancers.