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Crowd-Pleasing Hits Keeps Debbie Roshe's Jazz Class on Point

Roshe (center) teaching at Steps on Broadway in New York City. Photo by Jacob Hiss, courtesy of Roshe

Although Debbie Roshe's class doesn't demand perfect technique or mastering complicated tricks, her intricate musicality is what really challenges students. "Holding weird counts to obscure music is harder," she says of her Fosse-influenced jazz style, "but it's more interesting."


The Broadway veteran describes her movement as sensual, yet dynamic—similar to her music choices. Unless she's choreographing at a regional theater for a specific musical, she prefers percussive, energetic instrumental music from a film's soundtrack with a heavy drum beat. "This helps dancers to hit the movements harder," says Roshe.

She constantly encourages students to dance sharply all the way through their fingers, as opposed to lingering or extending softly. "I rarely do a straight battement," she says. "It's more a flick, karate-kick battement. I find that that really hits the music." She also avoids choreographing to overplayed, popular tracks, but might use them when teaching class.

Roshe admits her class can be intimidating. Syncopated beats and making precise yet fluid transitions are difficult, but they draw in aspiring professional dancers. Especially Radio City Rockette hopefuls. "I'm a stickler for hitting the steps sharply and getting to the counts fast," says Roshe. "This better prepares dancers for auditions and to pick up choreography," she says. "You'll learn how to hit a beat."

Artist: Britney Spears
Album: In the Zone
Song: "Outrageous"

"Who doesn't love Britney? (Even if only secretly.) The driving beat behind her songs is definitely a class crowd-pleaser."

Britney Spears - Outrageous (official music video) www.youtube.com


Artist: Cardi B
Album: Invasion of Privacy
Song: "I Like It"

"I love this song for class because it's current, yet has a throwback vibe. I like all Cardi B, but some lyrics are dicey for class. 'I Like It' fits the bill, though, and creates a great energy."

Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J Balvin - I Like It [Official Music Video] www.youtube.com


Artist: Stefflon Don
Album: Real Ting Mixtape
Song: "16
Shots"

"This British rapper is doing a lot of collaborations with current artists that spotlight her Jamaican descent. Her phrasing is clear and upbeat with a great choreographic pulse."

Stefflon Don - 16 Shots (Official Video) www.youtube.com


Artist: Sia
Album: This Is Acting
Songs: "Bird Set Free" and
"Unstoppable"

"This whole album is amazing. I use many of the songs for the adagio section of class so dancers can work on extensions. I love her voice and lyrics, and the melodies are perfect for the elongated lines in the choreography."

Sia Unstoppable Music Video www.youtube.com


Artist: Chameleon
Album: The Monster EP
Song: "Stay Wait" and "Anthem"

"Chloe [of Chameleon] is a rising artist with a dynamic voice and a crazy range. Her lyrics are heartfelt and meaningful. I've used both these songs ('Stay Wait' for the adagio and 'Anthem' for the combination). Look for her new single 'Shiny Toy' coming out in November (with my choreography in the video) and her solo album coming in January."

Chameleon - Stay Wait ( Official Music Video ) www.youtube.com


Chameleon - Anthem ( Official Music Video ) www.youtube.com

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