Tired of the go-to dark and emotionally charged songs popular within contemporary dance, Marinda Davis has recently been choreographing to Broadway musicals and Frank Sinatra classics. "I'm afraid contemporary could easily become a fad, not a long-lasting genre, if we're not careful," she says. "We have to explore other types of music, versus doing what everyone else keeps doing."


Davis, who teaches at Broadway Dance Center, WILD Dance Intensive and studios throughout the country, has always used music as a tool to test dancers—a lesson she was taught. "I've always heard music in a unique way," says Davis. "My mentor Sheila Barker noticed this and taught me to interpret the song in my own way, while staying true to her intent, finding the pocket of the song."

Another influence is Pat Catterson, whom Davis studied with at Marymount Manhattan College. Catterson encouraged tempo changes within a single piece. "Kids are used to staying with the same monotonous rhythm," says Davis. For a healthy challenge, she likes to speed up, slow down or even just stop the music to find stillness, something she finds is the hardest for young dancers.

As inclined as Davis is to experiment with new music genres, she keeps her warm-up and across-the-floor music consistent for about a year in her class. "I do this so the students can really concentrate on the technique," she says, "and not have to worry about what comes next, including changes in the music."


Album: Hamilton
Artist: Various Artists, Original Broadcast Recording

"I love that you can literally hear the work Lin-Manuel put into it. The cadences, the melodies, the harmonies, the rhymes, the multisyllabic words and the use of motifs. Hamilton's hyperawareness of time and legacy is something I connect to. I can't stop creating to it."

Hamilton: An American Musical FULL SOUNDTRACK www.youtube.com


Song: "Before My Time"
Artist: J. Ralph featuring Scarlett Johansson and Joshua Bell
Album: Chasing
Ice

"The first time I heard this song, I cried my eyes out. No matter how often I use it in class, I still feel a lump in my throat when it ends. The violin is hauntingly beautiful. There's a specific irony to it, but also a vagueness that allows the listener to interpret on their own. I had originally wanted to use this song on 'Dancing with the Stars,' but it came back unapproved due to licensing."

"Before My Time" by J. Ralph Feat. Scarlett Johansson & Joshua Bell - OSCAR NOMINEE - CHASING ICE www.youtube.com


Song: "A Song For You"
Artist: Donny Hathaway
Album: Donny
Hathaway

"There will never be a song written that's more beautiful. Unlike much of the music today, it is timeless and transcendent. The glissando of the piano sounds like tears falling. The lyrics are so pure and stripped down. The love truly lies in his melody."

Donny Hathaway - A Song For You www.youtube.com


Song: "Uneven Odds"
Artist: Sleeping At Last
Album: Atlas:
Darkness

"I play this song in my warm-up. I love that its last line is 'darkness exists to make light truly count.' I think everyone needs to hear that sentence and be reminded of its power. It puts things into perspective."

Sleeping At Last - Uneven Odds www.youtube.com


Song: "Run Like the River"
Artist: Vintage Trouble
Album: 1 Hopeful
Rd.

"No matter how exhausted, this song always gets me smiling and grooving. It's about loving and believing in someone so much that you're willing to set them free. It reminds me of Sheila Barker. One day, I'll create something to this for her."

Vintage Trouble - Run Like The River (Audio) www.youtube.com


Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Jerome Capasso, courtesy of Man in Motion

Finding a male dance instructor who isn't booked solid can be a challenge, which is why a New York City dance educator was inspired to start a network of male dance professionals in 2012. Since then, he's tripled his roster of teachers and is actively hiring.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Todd Rosenberg, courtesy of HSDC

This fall Hubbard Street Dance Chicago initiates an innovative choreographic-study project to pair local Chicago teens with company member Rena Butler, who in 2018 was named the Hubbard Street Choreographic Fellow. The Dance Lab Choreographic Fellowship is the vision of Kathryn Humphreys, director of HSDC's education, youth and community programs. "I am really excited to see young people realize possibilities, and realize what they are capable of," she says. "I think that high school is such an interesting, transformative time. They are right on the edge of figuring themselves out."

Keep reading... Show less
Getty Images

Q: What policies do you put in place to encourage parents of competition dancers to pay their bills in a timely manner?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo courtesy of Kim Black

For some children, the first day of dance is a magic time filled with make-believe, music, smiles and movement. For others, all the excitement can be a bit intimidating, resulting in tears and hesitation. This is perfectly natural, and after 32 years of experience, I've got a pretty good system for getting those timid tiny dancers to open up. It usually takes a few classes before some students are completely comfortable. But before you know it, those hesitant students will begin enjoying the magic of creative movement and dance.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Photo via @igor.pastor on Instagram

Listen up, dance teachers! October 7 is National Frappe Day (the drink), but as dance enthusiasts, we obviously like to celebrate a little differently. We've compiled four fun frappé combinations on Instagram for your perusal!

You're welcome! Now, you can thank us by sharing some of your own frappé favs on social media with the hashtag #nationalfrappeday.

We can't wait to see what you come up with!

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Original photos: Getty Images

We've been dying to hear more about "On Pointe," a docuseries following students at the School of American Ballet, since we first got wind of the project this spring. Now—finally!—we know where this can't-miss show is going to live: It was just announced that Disney+, the new streaming service set to launch November 12, has ordered the series.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Tony Nguyen, courtesy of Jill Randall

Recently I got to reflect on my 22-year-old self and the first modern technique classes I subbed for at Shawl-Anderson Dance Center in Berkeley, California. (Thank you to Dana Lawton for giving me the chance and opportunity to dive in.)

Today I wanted to share 10 ideas to consider as you embark upon subbing and teaching modern technique classes for the first time. These ideas can be helpful with adult classes and youth classes alike.

As I like to say, "Teaching takes teaching." I mean, teaching takes practice, trial and error and more practice. I myself am in my 23rd year of teaching now and am still learning and growing each and every class.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Misti Ridge teaches class at Center Stage Performing Arts Studio. Photo by Arlyn Lawrence , courtesy of Ridge

The dance teachers who work with kids ages 5–7 have earned themselves a special place in dance heaven. They give artists the foundation for their future with impossibly high energy and even higher voices. Enthusiasm is their game, and talent is their aim! Well, that, self-esteem, a love for dance, discipline and so much more!

These days, teachers often go a step beyond giving tiny dancers technical and performative bases and make them strong enough to actually compete at a national level—we're talking double-pirouettes-by-the-time-they're-5-years-old type of competitive.

We caught up with one such teacher, Misti Ridge from Center Stage Performing Arts Studio, The Dance Awards 2019 and 2012 Studio of The Year, to get the inside scoop on how she does it. The main takeaway? Don't underestimate your baby competition dancers—those 5- to 7-year-olds can work magic.

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Patrick Randak, Courtesy In The Lights PR

The ability to communicate clearly is something I've been consumed with for as long as I can remember. I was born in the Bronx and always loved city living. But when I was 9, a family crisis forced my mom to send me to Puerto Rico to live with my grandparents. I only knew one Spanish word: "hola." I remember the frustration and loneliness of having so many thoughts and feelings and not being able to express them.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Courtesy Just for Kix

As a teacher or studio owner, customer service is a major part of the job. It's easy to dread the difficult sides of it, like being questioned or criticized by an unhappy parent. "In the early years, parent issues could have been the one thing that got me to give up teaching," says Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a teacher and studio owner with over 43 years of experience. "Hang in there—it does get easier."

We asked Clough her top tips for dealing with difficult parents:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Getty Images

It's the middle of the semester and two dancers are sitting out of class, you're worried about one student's mental health and another has developed an eating disorder. Sound familiar? College can be a tumultuous time. To help address the additional demands of being a dance major, some schools have found strategies for enhancing wellness and integrating health services into their departments.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox