Additional Guides and Resource

Jae Man Joo

Music for contemporary ballet

Jae Man Joo’s route to professional dancer status in New York City is the stuff dreams and clichéd movie plots are made of. Only a month after moving to the city in 1996 from his native Korea, Joo was spotted in class by Complexions Contemporary Ballet artistic directors Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden and offered a spot in the company. When Joo retired from dancing in 2006, he became Complexions’ ballet master. In 2011, Richardson and Rhoden again approached him, this time asking him to be their associate artistic director. When he started choreographing for the company in 2007, it made perfect sense—he already knew every dancer’s strength and weakness.

Because his choreography can be both intricately nuanced and full-blown, Joo usually leans toward music with some space in it, as you’ll see in his music recommendations below. “I don’t like too many textures happening at once,” he says. “Clean music gives me more room to create the movement and focus on how the dancers move.” DT


Artist: Toru Takemitsu

Song: Adagio piano pieces

“His piano music is so beautiful—unique, and sometimes very silent. Because the music is so pure, I use it when I’m creating movement. It gives me a lot of room to experiment.


Artist: Keith Kenniff

Album: The Malady of Elegance

“He makes postmodern classical piano music. I use it for rehearsing, but I really wanted to use it for a piece and finally did—for my last Complexions piece, recur. I love it because it’s such tender music, with so much love in it. When I listen, it makes me think about where I came from, my past, my childhood.”


Artist: Johann Sebastian Bach

Album: Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, as played by Vito Paternoster

“I guess everybody loves Bach, but I’m really crazy about his music. It’s so dance-friendly! It’s very deep, very soulful. You can listen to his music on a rainy day with a cup of coffee or use it for choreography—it makes everybody want to dance.”


Artist: Pietro Mascagni

Song: “Intermezzo,” from the opera Cavalleria Rusticana

“This is my favorite music of all time. I don’t think I can choreograph to it—everybody knows it—but I can always listen to it and feel amazing.”




Artist: Paul Giger

Album: Towards Silence

“It’s all about the power of the string. I want to choreograph to this music. I listen to the radio a lot, and I make sure to find out who the composer is if I like a piece. This music feels like it comes through my veins.”


Photo by Jin-Hwang, courtesy of Joo



Introducing and teaching rhythm can seem easy, but in reality it can prove to be a complicated concept—especially for younger dancers to grasp. At Ballet Hispánico's School of Dance in New York City, Los Explorers for 3- to 5-year-olds uses classic salsa and tango music to help kids acquire rhythmic awareness.

Here Rebecca Tsivkin, early childhood programs associate, and Kiri Avelar, associate school director, offer exercises to help youngsters feel the beat.

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Dance Buzz
Panelists (left to right): Emily Nusbaum, Eric Kupers, Judith Smith, Deborah Karp and Suzanna Curtis. Photo by Aiano Nakagawa, courtesy of Luna Dance Institute

This past Saturday, I visited Luna Dance Institute in Berkeley, California, to attend the Dance & Disability Discourse & Panel—a discussion with five artists, educators and researchers about access and equity for disabled students in dance education. Here are three statements from the discussion that I found eye-opening.

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Todd Rosenlieb, left, of The Governor's School for the Arts. Photo by Victor Frailing, courtesy of Todd Rosenlieb

You're setting choreography on your class and most of the students are picking it up. One dancer, though, is having difficulty remembering the steps. You review the material several times, but you fear that this is starting to hold back your more advanced students. Still, you're worried the struggling dancer will be left behind. What is the best way to proceed?

Memorizing choreography is an essential skill for dancers. Fast learners have more time to work on the technique and artistry within a combination, and they are often the first to catch the eyes of directors. Like most skills, learning pace can be improved. Encouraging students to develop their own memorization methods will help them approach choreography with confidence.

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Dancer Health
Neuromuscular expert Deborah Vogel with Jordan Lazan, right. Photo by Jim Lafferty

By strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the foot and ankle, a dancer can help prevent or correct existing pronation. Having strong intrinsic foot muscles keeps the arches aligned, preventing them from dropping inward.

Here, Vogel shares three strengthening exercises to help correct and prevent pronation. She advises dancers to include these in their cross-training regimen.

Mobilize your ankles. (Step 1)

For this ankle mobilization exercise, having a TheraBand wrapped around your ankles puts pressure on your feet to pronate. By resisting that action and keeping your feet centered through the relevé, you're essentially training the ankle where center is.

  • Sitting up straight in a chair, with your feet planted on the floor a few inches apart, tie a TheraBand in a loop around your ankles. You can place a yoga block vertically in between your knees to maintain space between your legs.

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Photo courtesy of New York Live Arts

Ellen Robbins' modern dance classes for kids and teens are legendary in New York City. Robbins, who has been teaching kids how to dance since the 1970s (and whose pupils included the actresses Claire Danes and Julia Stiles), takes the standard recital model and turns it on its head. Her students—ranging in age from 8 to 18—are the choreographers for the annual concert she produces at esteemed NYC venue New York Live Arts.

If that approach sounds borderline insane to you (we know you're all deep in the throes of recital season right now), consider Robbins' unique teaching philosophy: Improvisation is present in every aspect of class, for every age group. Here are four ways she shapes her youngest dancers into choreographers—almost without their realizing it!

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Teachers & Role Models
Former students of Kelley gather around a cardboard cutout made in his honor at the recent tribute. Photo courtesy of Merritt

Every dancer has a teacher who makes an impression. The kind of impression that makes you want to become a dancer or a teacher in the first place. For Mara Merritt, owner of Merritt Dance Center in Schenectady, NY, and countless others, that teacher was Charles Kelley.

Known as "Chuck" to most, Kelley was born December 4, 1936. He was a master teacher in tap, jazz and acrobatics, who wrote syllabuses for national dance conventions like Dance Masters of America. Growing up in upstate New York, Merritt's parents, both dance teachers, took her into Manhattan every Friday to study with Kelley. First at the old Ed Sullivan Theater and the New York Center of Dance in Times Square, then years later at Broadway Dance Center.

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