Additional Guides and Resource

Rafi Maldonado-López

Music for jazz and music theater

Maldonado-López teaching jazz at Miami City Ballet School

As instructor for jazz and contemporary techniques at Miami City Ballet School and a jazz and ballet for music theater teacher at New World School of the Arts, Rafi Maldonado-López thinks he has the best of both worlds. “I come to New World and I have all my Broadway babies,” he says, “and then I go down the street and I have all of my concert dance babies.” Though this means his lesson plans don’t necessarily have a lot of overlap—his dancers at MCB are “lithe and beautiful thoroughbreds,” and his New World students are music theater kids, focused on becoming triple threats—Maldonado-López relishes the opportunity to expand the worlds of both groups. At MCB, his jazz and modern classes give the dancers a leg up when it comes to the contemporary choreography that’s thrown at them more and more often. At New World, he’s giving his students another chance to explore characterization: “When you work with music theater kids,” he says, “they want to know, ‘What am I exuding in this toward the audience? What’s the story I’m telling?’”

Maldonado-López’s own training was an amalgam of dance and theater: He apprenticed with Ballets de San Juan and studied at the Joffrey Ballet School and The Boston Conservatory before crossing over to the more contemporary Minnesota Dance Theatre and Ballet of the Dolls, a dance theater group. This eclectic education has made his daily trip from bunheads to gypsies an easy one—though he doesn’t really think there’s too big of a difference between the two. “The hair at New World is not in a bun. They work the hairography, as I call it,” he laughs. “That’s the real difference.” DT

Black Violin, Black Violin“I like a challenging warm-up. I like three-quarter tempos, stuff that’s not just square four-by-four. I like counts of 17, because that’s what gets my students to wake up choreographically, when somebody throws that at them.” 

 

 

 

StreetDance 2 movie soundtrack

“This is Miami: We always have to do Latin-Cuban. The remix of a Cuban salsa, ‘Cuba 2012,’ is fierce. I play it, and everyone at the ballet comes down. They call it Club Rafi.”

 

 

 

Patti LaBelle, Patti LaBelle: Greatest Hits

“I use this when I want to go classic and bluesy. I like to challenge my dancers to bring in their emotional maturity. You can be athletic and jump three feet off the ground, but can you show me an honest and believable relationship with another dancer onstage?”

 

 

 

Olly Murs, Right Place Right Time

“I teach young teenagers, and they’re bursting. I use this to take some stuff across the floor. His music brings excitement to the dance floor that helps the dancers generate a positive attack to the combos.”

 

 

 

Afro Celt Sound System, Volume 2: Release

“For warm-up, I always like drums. I like stuff that’s new. This is an Afro-Celtic group that’s amazing.”

 

 

 

 

Photo by Mitchell Zachs, courtesy of Maldonado-López

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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How-To
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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How-To
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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