What music should you play for students who are hearing-impaired? Antoine Hunter, who is hard-of-hearing himself, chooses loud songs with a heavy beat or brings in a live drummer. “Every hard-of-hearing student is completely different,” he says. “Some can hear a bird and not a motorcycle. I can hear a motorcycle and not a bird. But, thank goodness, I can hear a bit of Miles Davis.”

The Oakland, California–based dancer is deaf in his left ear and has partial hearing in his right. He is founder and director of Urban Jazz Dance Company and has performed with numerous other companies. Hunter’s true passion, however, has always been teaching. He teaches ballet, hip hop, modern, jazz, African and creative dance to students of all ages at 10 different schools and performing arts centers in California’s Bay Area.

Whether teaching hearing or hearing-impaired students, Hunter often uses American Sign Language in his classes, and he separates students based on dance ability and experience, not on how well they can hear. “I had a class where many of my students could hear the drummer and many could not,” he says. “So one day, I asked those who couldn’t to touch the side of the drum while I hit it. The vibration made them jump back saying, ‘Wow, that is loud!’ Then, when they danced, they remembered the rhythm of those vibrations.”


Artist: John Philip Sousa

Album/Song: Boys Gotta Dance!, “Semper Fidelis”

“For going across the floor in my pre-ballet classes, I love to start off with marching like the Nutcracker soldiers. This song is also perfect for doing chassé and jump combinations. I like to use classical music with a heavy beat in ballet class. That way hard-of-hearing, deaf and hearing students can all enjoy it.”




Artist: Miles Davis

Album/Songs: Doo-Bop, “Chocolate Chip” and “High Speed Chase”

“I use these songs in my jazz class for a center floor workout. ‘Chocolate Chip’ is easy to follow and has a strong enough beat to hear and feel. I also use this for my hip-hop classes when students are having a hard time keeping rhythm. I use ‘High Speed Chase,’ which has a faster tempo, to speed up our dancing. I love keeping dancers on their feet, and this keeps them moving. Students love this album because it’s fun and upbeat.”



Artist: Maceo Parker

Album/Song: Roots Revisited, “Children’s World”

“I love to use this for creative dance. “Children’s World” starts slow and then speeds up just a bit to get students excited. This music works for hard-of-hearing, deaf and hearing students. Everyone can get something out of this song.”




Artist: Roy Hargrove

Album/Song: Habana, “O My Seh Yeh (reprise)”

“This music is great for warming up in many of my classes. In adult ballet, I use it during pliés and stretches at the barre. Or, in my children’s jazz class, I use it for warming up the head and neck.”




Artist: Erick Morillo

Album/Song: Subliminal Winter Sessions Vol. 2 (Disc 1), “Kinda New (Tiefschwartz Dub)”

“I use this for hip hop or African dance, but it’s my favorite music for going across the floor in any class. The funky beat and strong tempo really wake students up. It’s fun for all ages, and it never gets old.”




Photo by Matt Haber


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.

Next Page
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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