In 2002, Luam left behind a technology career to pursue dance and choreography full-time. The decision paid off: Now in high demand as a choreographer and dancer, Luam has worked with top recording artists such as Ludacris, Fergie, Kanye West amd Ashanti, and choreographed for stage and screen. A long-time faculty member of Broadway Dance Center, she also teaches and performs internationally. And, as if that weren't enough, 2007 saw the launch of her hip hop-inspired clothing line, L.U.A.M. (Love Understands All Music) by Wildchild Nation, which has been featured in the MTV reality series "Fashion: The Life" and  the film Step Up 2.


"Music drives the movement, I can never say it enough. As a hip-hop choreographer, I blend different styles (hip hop, street jazz, African, dancehall, etc.) into a palette I use to fit my music choices. Since I may not always use traditional hip-hop music for class, I've called it 'Hip-Hop Fusion' to allow me freedom to explore.


'Whatever the music tells me to do, I do,' I tell my students. 'Get into the music–really get into it–and you will see what I see, to help you do what I do.' And what do I do? I am a storyteller. I have to tell the story of the instruments and the artist to shape the movement. If you pick the right artists and the right songs, it pretty much choreographs itself. Here are some picks that have helped me along the way."


(Remember, you can always get the clean version of any album or song. If you can’t find it in the store, look online.)



Click here to see a clip of Luam teaching class at the August 2008 Dance Teacher Summer Conference.


Artist: Aaliyah

Album/Songs: Aaliyah; “Read Between the Lines," "Messed Up" and "Rock the Boat”

 We lost a true music icon in Aaliyah. Her album was so far ahead of its time, I discover something new to love every time I break it out. Her song choices are diverse, and her haunting voice will add something timeless to a choreographed piece.


Artist: Lil Wayne

Album/Songs: The Carter III; "A Milli," "La La" and "Got Money" 

This song is brilliantly smooth, effortless and beat-driven. Nasri is a new artist—so new in fact, that he is not out yet. He is an up-and-coming songwriter who recently penned this track for New Kids on the Block. However, his version (with his voice) is 100 times better, and he will definitely give Ne-Yo a run for his money as a singer/songwriter when he decides to drop his album.


Artist: M.I.A

Album/Songs: Kala; "Bamboo Banga," "Come Around" and "Bird Flu" 

I selfishly thought M.I.A. was my personal discovery a few years ago (with her first album Arular), but she has since blown up in the states with a successful second album. The beats are dancehall influenced pop music infused with politics and social realism. All her music makes me want to get up and move, although the stories she tells are dark.


Artist: N.E.R.D.

Album/Songs: Seeing Sounds; "Everyone Nose," "Kill Joy" and "Anti Matter" 

With this appropriately titled album, they've done it again. Bringing a rock edge to the hip hop genre, these guys are good for an energetic class or piece.


Artist: Rihanna

Album/Songs: Good Girl Gone Bad; "Sell Me Candy" "Breakin' Dishes" and "Umbrella" 

This pop princess gives me a plethora of styles and textures of songs to work with–from dance/house  to reggae, eerie ballads  to thrash rock. 


Artist: Nasri

Song: “Click Click Click”

This song is brilliantly smooth, effortless and beat-driven. Nasri is a new artist—so new in fact, that he is not out yet. He is an up-and-coming songwriter who recently penned this track for New Kids on the Block. However, his version (with his voice) is 100 times better, and he will definitely give Ne-Yo a run for his money as a singer/songwriter when he decides to drop his album.


Artist: Busta Rhymes

Song: “Don’t Touch Me”

Busta is a staple in my music catalog. He’s the ultimate storyteller, and his syncopation with the beat and unpredictable flow give dimension to his crazy metaphors. Whenever I’m suffering from choreographer’s block, I just pop in Busta or Missy [Elliott]! This particular song is like a roller coaster, and it takes you on a ride with crazy highs and lows. Busta at his best.



Artist: OneRepublic

Song: “Say All I Need”

It’s not R&B or rap, but this song is pure emotion and music. OneRepublic is behind the hit “Apologize,” and this song is just as powerful, if not more so.



Artist: Jay Z

Song: “Jockin Jay-Z”

This song is so new, you won’t find it on iTunes. In fact, Jay-Z debuted it at Kanye’s concert (which was brilliant, by the way) in August. The beat is infectious and the character of it is supremely confident, with “crazy swagger.” A great preview to his upcoming album.



Artists: Omarion, featuring Missy Elliott

Song: “Wiggle”


Though it’s technically Omarion’s song, Missy steals the show for me. She always delivers hot dance music with clever instrumentation, ad-libs and metaphors. Her lyrics paint fun pictures that make it easy to represent through choreography.



Artist: Santogold

Song: “Creator”

This girl is brilliant. I don’t even know how to classify her; just listen to the song (and watch the video for Santogold’s other song, “L.E.S. Artistes,” as soon as you can). This song is so hot, I had to make my own video for it.


And here are some of the albums I’m excited about:

Jay Z, Blueprint 3 (release date December 2, 2008)

Karina Pasian, First Love (available now)

Missy Elliott, Block Party (release date November 11, 2008)


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

"It's hard not to get too hurt in this profession."

Ann Reinking got real earlier this month at New York City Dance Alliance Foundation's Bright Lights Shining Stars gala. She was being honored as a 2017 NYCDA Foundation Ambassador for the Arts, and her speech was so moving that we had to share the entire thing with you.

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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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Teachers & Role Models

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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Teachers & Role Models
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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