Chebar Williams' ballet class sets up competition students for success.

Williams is currently on faculty with NUVO.

After Chebar Williams tore a ligament in her ankle while dancing with the Joffrey Ballet, she made a humble move. She had already reached professional status in ballet, but she enrolled herself at The Ailey School. “Honestly, I thought that with my ballet training, modern would be an easy transition,” she says. “But in the ’80s, ballet companies weren’t doing contemporary work, so it was like retraining myself. Starting over.”

After guesting with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Williams moved to L.A., where she threw herself into more unfamiliar styles—jazz and hip hop—and began teaching ballet in the commercial world. She’s been on the convention circuit for 18 years, mixing her classical foundation with knowledge of many dance forms. “These kids aren’t bunheads, but I believe in maintaining the integrity of classical ballet,” she says. “It’s about fostering that discipline and respect while opening their hearts and minds so that they can hopefully experience the same emotions they feel when doing, say, contemporary.” DT


Artist: Venti Petrov

Album: Venti’s Class

“I once tried to do the ‘cool’ thing and use something like Coldplay for ballet because I thought it would inspire students to get more involved in class. But I found that the kids would just lose focus, so I stick to classical piano music. This CD is good for advanced levels and has wonderful changes of meter.” 

Artist: Pietro Galli

Album: Musique pour Danse, volume 11

“This album is great because the Paris Opéra Ballet School actually recorded their pianist live while he was playing a class, which ensures the perfect speed for most combinations.”

Composer: Chopin

Piece: Waltz No. 3 in A minor, Op. 34, No. 2, from The Pianist soundtrack

“Taking pieces from movie soundtracks can be fun because they’re classical but arranged a bit differently. I don’t want them to be afraid of ballet. I want them to leave class feeling invigorated.”

Composer: Hans Zimmer

Piece: “Zoosters Breakout” from the Madagascar soundtrack

“I use this for the minis, ages 7–10. The minute I turn this on, they recognize it. The little ones need to understand that classical music isn’t always the boring stuff Grandma plays at Christmas. This is skippy and fun.”

Artist: Quattro Piano+

Album: Quattro Piano+

“The older dancers can handle something not as strictly classical. This group is made up of four pianos, but one of them is synthesized, which gives it a bit of pizzazz. The depth and dimension is so powerful.”


Photo courtesy of NUVO Productions

The Feldenkrais Method is a somatic technique created by Moshe Feldenkrais in the 1950s. The method has two parts: hands-on sessions with a Feldenkrais teacher (Functional Integration) or group classes comprised of verbal cues (Awareness Through Movement).

Mary Armentrout, a dance teacher, choreographer and Feldenkrais practitioner, shares three ways that this somatic practice can bolster your students' training.

Keep reading... Show less
Your Studio

Oversexualizing young kids has been a hot topic among dance teachers in recent years. It's arguably the most controversial topic teachers and studio owners are faced with. Deciding which choreography, music or costumes are appropriate—or not—isn't always black and white and can be easily overlooked. Is showing the midriff too much for minis? Is this choreography too provocative? Is this popular song too suggestive for a competition piece? The questions can seem endless with no clear objective answers. Until now.

Keep reading... Show less
To make dancers stronger and less injury-prone, Burns Wilson suggest adding floor barre or conditioning classes. Photo courtesy of Burns Wilson

With a career spanning 30-plus years in the dance field, Anneliese Burns Wilson has cultivated a unique perspective on health and injury prevention for dancers. From teaching ballet to teaching anatomy, she then founded ABC for Dance, which publishes dance-teaching materials. Now through research for her next book, which will focus on training the female adolescent dancer, she's delving even deeper into topics many dance teachers have overlooked.

Keep reading... Show less
Erdmann (left) on set for "Hairspray Live" (courtesy of Erdmann)

When Wicked ensemble member Kelli Erdman was training at Westlake Dance Center in Seattle, Washington, her teacher Kirsten Cooper taught her that focussed transitions would be pivotal to her success as a dancer. Now as a professional, she applies this advice to her daily performances, asserting that she will never let the details of her dancing get blurry.

Keep reading... Show less
Khobdeh dancing Taylor's Speaking In Tongues. Photo courtesy of PTDC

For Parisa Khobdeh, music does more than set the tone for a piece—it's enabled her to connect with movement. And once she joined Paul Taylor Dance Company in 2003, Taylor's body of work deepened this connection. "His choreography showed me the music, the architecture and the space," she says. "I now see the music."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Buzz

We haven't been able to stop watching Lil' Mushroom since she popped and locked her way into Ellen's heart last week. We know you've got a long night of teaching ahead, and this is the dance inspiration you need to get you through. Check it out and tell us what you think about her killer moves over on our Facebook page! (She starts blowing minds at about 2:16.)

Keep reading... Show less

Because the chassé is often neglected during the execution of this traveling step, Judy Rice asks her students to do a minimum of a six-inch chassé before transitioning into the pas de bourrée. She encourages dancers to pay close attention to their shoulders and hips in effacé, too. "Kids tend to open it up. They look like they're fencing," she says. "You don't want that." Both shoulders and hip bones should be facing the corner.

Keep reading... Show less





Get DanceTeacher in your inbox

Win It!