Choreography Class, Week 1

I am teaching a Monday afternoon choreography class during Groove With Me’s summer dance program, to ten girls between the ages 11–17. At the end of the six-week program, my girls will perform something we’ve prepared in class in a final recital in Central Park. Each class is 90 minutes long.


My first class was this past Monday, July 12. Only 7 students were in class the first week; 2 signed up today (I’ll meet them next week). After introductions, I learned five of the students are 11 and 12 currently enrolled in other classes, one student is 16 with minimal hip-hop experience, and the last is 17 without any dance training. The huge age gap didn’t seem as daunting since most girls are young. Next, I explained the flow of each class: 


•    15 minutes for a short dance history lesson, where I’ll talk briefly about one choreographer, her/his style and influence (corresponding to their weekly assignments)


•    15 minute warm-up


•    30 minutes of showing weekly assignments or in-class explorations, using improvisation or quick phrase making


•    30 minutes crafting our final piece (which will be a compilation and re-organization of the assignments and/or in-class explorations)


For the last 30 minutes of this class, I gave everyone ten minutes to choreograph an eight-count phrase. They presented their short phrases one-by-one, and discussed elements of each piece. I wanted to gauge maturities of my students, test their comfort levels, and see what strength each dancer might bring to our class.


My 11s and 12s were surprisingly not too giggly or nervous when showing peers their work. Though phrases were mainly made of similar moves they’ve seen in past hip-hop classes, each was unique. Some were more daring—changing levels or facings—while others stayed mid level, facing front with some traveling steps. The most interesting phrase however, came from my 17-year-old non-dancer. In ten minutes she created a concept—drew inspiration from robots and technology—and used one gesture: one arm and leg reaching in opposite directions. She repeated the gesture eight times, facing different directions and varied her reach each time. While minimal, it was cohesive and had a task-oriented, postmodern vibe. My youngest students liked how she made sharp angles with her body—just like a robot.


For next week, I’ve asked each student to complete my favorite college assignment (I’m excited to try it out on such young dancers!): Make a short piece—under 60 seconds—using only running, walking, jumping, crawling, leaping or skipping steps. And with that assignment, our rapid-fire history lesson will start from the beginning of American modern dance: Isadora Duncan.


The photo above is a still shot from Bauhaus artist Oskar Schlemmer's 1922 modern dance work, Triadic Ballet. Maybe the first robot dancer?

Teachers Trending
Photo by Yvonne M. Portra, courtesy Faulkner

It's a Wednesday in May, and 14 Stanford University advanced modern ­dance students are logged on to Zoom, each practicing a socially distanced duet with an imaginary person. "Think about the quality of their personality and the type of duet you might have," says their instructor Katie Faulkner, "but also their surface area and how you'd relate to them in space." Amid dorm rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and backyards, the dancers make do with cramped quarters and dodge furniture as they twist, curve, stretch and intertwine with their imaginary partners.

Keep reading... Show less
Getty Images

Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.