When Dana Foglia first made the switch from ballet and modern to commercial dance, she was taken aback by auditions requesting that she dance in sky-high stilettos. “I’d worn heels before, but I’d certainly never danced in them,” Foglia says. “Dancers don’t often think of it as something that they should practice, but it makes a huge difference once you get into the commercial world.” To give dancers the chance to rock their pumps in the studio, she teaches stiletto heels classes at Broadway Dance Center in NYC—a huge hit with auditioning professionals—in addition to classes in street jazz and contemporary.

 

No matter the style, her goal is to prepare students for the reality of being a commercial dancer. “I want everybody to walk out having learned something more than just steps,” says Foglia. She infuses her classes with tips learned throughout her career—from the intricacies of the dance industry to lessons on professionalism. She pulls from experience dancing in numerous music tours, award shows and TV appearances on So You Think You Can Dance, The Today Show and BET’s 106 & Park.

 

And though she’s danced for plenty of pop sensations, from Beyoncé to New Kids on the Block, Foglia’s choice of music for class is a little less mainstream. Since discovering work by Danish musician Trentemøller, she has searched iTunes to find other artists who share his energetic synthesized style. “Once in a blue moon I’ll use popular songs,” she says. “But I found a love for electronic music, which makes me feel futuristic and new age. It suits my movements and really inspires me.” Here, Foglia shares some of her favorite selections. DT

 

Artist: Trentemøller

Albums: Beta Boy and Into the Great White Yonder

 

“Electronic music like this is great for my contemporary and street jazz classes. I use the song ‘Beta Boy’ in my warm-up, which begins with jogging and jumping jacks. ‘Sycamore Feeling’ is great to choreograph to. It’s really upbeat and it has a kind of house music feel to it.”

 

Artist: Nosaj Thing

Album: Drift

 

“I love all of his songs. They give me the feeling that I just need to create when I hear them. They’ve also got an electronic feel. I’ve choreographed to some of them in class, and I sometimes use them in my warm-up if I haven’t choreographed to them yet. Some of my favorites are ‘Us’ and ‘Coat of Arms.’”

 

Artist: Esthero

Album: Wikked Lil’ Grrrl

 

“Esthero’s voice is really interesting. People should know about this artist—she’s one of my go-tos. I like using her music for choreography in my stiletto heels class, especially the songs ‘Beautiful Lie’ and ‘Fastlane.’”

 

Artist: Björk

Albums: Army Of Me: Remixes and Covers and Telegram

 

“I love that Björk, though a little more mainstream than I usually go for, gives a real creepy feel. I especially like her remixes, since her voice is mixed with a lot of other sounds and beats. I love the ‘Cover Me’ remix, and also ‘A(R)Mour’ which is a great remix of her song ‘Army of Me.’”

 

* Follow Dana Foglia as she navigates the commercial dance scene on the hit online reality show “Dance212”! The new season starts this month, only at http://dance212.com.

 

Photo: Dana Foglia (by Rhapsody James)

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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Photo courtesy of DM archives

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Photo by Grant Halverson, courtesy of ADF

As a soloist with William Forsythe's Ballet Frankfurt and later as his assistant, Elizabeth Corbett got to experience firsthand the groundbreaking choreographer's influence on contemporary ballet. "I find it fascinating and never-ending," she says of his work. "It was a repertory that was constantly changing over time and still is." Now on faculty with the American Dance Festival, Corbett brings Forsythe's repertory and processes to the dancers in class every summer.

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During seated stretches, I encourage my students to sit straight on their sits bones and then fold forward at the hips—even if they don't go forward very far. One student tells me that if she sits as I instruct, she can't reach forward at all. Why?
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In 2011, New York City–based choreographer Pedro Ruiz returned to Cuba after 21 years of dancing with Ballet Hispanico and more than 30 years being away. The experience was so moving that he created The Windows Project as a continuous cultural collaboration between American artists and Cuban dancers.

"I was so overwhelmed seeing all the dancers do Afro-Cuban dance with live music. It was the moment my soul reconnected to Cuba and to my roots," says Ruiz of his first trip back. "I started weeping." He saw that, while Cuban companies and schools have amazing knowledge and passion for dance, they needed access to train with teachers in a variety of techniques, and choreographers outside of Cuba. "Cuba is still struggling economically, so the dancers also don't have good ballet shoes or costumes, and The Windows Project was my way to begin to help," he says.

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Midway through every semester at Indiana University Bloomington, contemporary professor Stephanie Nugent notices that her students aren't quite as awake as they were the first week of classes. They're tired from midterm exams and bring less energy to the studio. Nugent, too, feels the lull. "Teaching in academia is an arc with many peaks and valleys," she says, noting that the repetition of exercises can get monotonous. "On days when it feels like we've been doing the same thing over and over, I give students an improvisational prompt, and it reignites all of our interests. It's something to investigate, rather than something to repeat."

Most teachers experience a moment of stagnation at some point. Maybe students aren't progressing as fast as you feel they should, or you feel uninspired by the daily routine. Factors outside the studio, like administrative work, can also deplete your energy reserves. During these low and slow times, consider the following ideas to find inspiration and give yourself—and your students—a boost.

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Photo by Jennifer Zmuda, courtesy of BalletMet

Long before switching from ballet to Broadway became de rigueur, Edwaard Liang shocked everyone by leaving New York City Ballet to join the Broadway cast of the musical Fosse. Eleven years later, he defied expectations again by taking over as BalletMet's artistic director—without putting his robust freelance choreography career on hold. Liang, it seems, doesn't pay much heed to the conventional approach to a dance career.

In his four years with BalletMet, Liang has sought to challenge his dancers with diverse repertory that goes far beyond the typical confines of classical and contemporary ballet. This month, to celebrate BalletMet's 40th anniversary, the company teamed up with Ohio State University's dance department and the Wexner Center for the Arts to offer a smorgasbord of dance styles: from William Forsythe's singular brand of leggy-brainy dance to Ohad Naharin's exuberant Minus 16, performed alongside OSU dance students. Here, he talks to DT about the effect his choices have had on his career.

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