How Kenny Wormald Discovered What He Calls His "Fred Astaire with Sneakers" Style

Music has always been the driving force behind his dancing, Kenny says. Photo courtesy of Wormald

Following his undeniable excitement from attending a New Kids on the Block concert at age 6, Kenny Wormald's parents enrolled him at the Gold School in Brockton, Massachusetts. Since then, whether he's teaching at a NUVO or Break The Floor convention, running his new studio, Playground L.A., or performing on "Dancing with the Stars," it's fair to say that for the former Justin Timberlake dancer, the music has always been the driving force behind his dancing.

"I'll play the song over and over again, really studying the music, and then it's easier to pick out a snare, or a high-hat or a kick drum," he says, which helps create his dynamic choreography.

Photo courtesy of DTS

This attention to detail and the development of his unique smooth style was solidified in 2007. "Dancing with a live band on Justin's tour was the pinnacle for me," he says. "Since then I'm a huge fan and teacher of what I call the 'Fred Astaire with sneakers on' style." He defines this as a hybrid of the traditional hip-hop style and the street—less-perfect hip hop—plus incorporating all the technique he's had his whole life: tap, modern and jazz. Wormald's dedication to inspiring his students stems from the amazing teachers he grew up taking lessons from. "If I can just challenge one student to work harder, even for one day, that's what really motivates me," he says.

Kenny's latest project is his new studio in West Hollywood, Playground L.A. Photo by Hedi Slimane

With so much music to choose from today, whether it's for a convention class or choreography, he credits Spotify as an invaluable music source. "I have access to almost any song and a lot of new artists," he says. When picking music for convention classes, the song is vital. "There's sometimes 400 to 500 kids in a room, and if they're not motivated by the song, it's hard to get students to attack the choreography the way I want them to. I love when the whole room connects."

Getty Images

Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

Keep reading... Show less
Robbie Sweeny, courtesy Funsch

Christy Funsch's teaching career has taken her from New York City to the Bay Area to Portugal, with a stint in a punk band in between. But this fall—fresh off a Fulbright in Portugal at the Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa, School of Dance (ESD), teaching and researching empathetic embodiment through somatic dance training—Funsch's teaching has taken her to an entirely new location: Zoom. A visiting professor at Slippery Rock University for the 2020–21 academic year, Funsch is adapting her eclectic, boundary-pushing approach to her virtual classes.

Originally from central New York State, Funsch spent 20 years performing in the Bay Area, where she also started her own company, Funsch Dance Experience. "My choreographic work from that time is in the dance-theater experiential, fantasy realm of performance," she says. "I also started blending genres and a lot of urban styles found their way into my choreography."

Keep reading... Show less
Courtesy Meg Brooker

As the presidential election approaches, it's a particularly meaningful time to remember that we are celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, when women earned the right to vote after a decades-long battle.

Movement was more than a metaphor for the fight for women's suffrage—dancers played a real role, most notably Florence Fleming Noyes, who performed her riveting solo Dance of Freedom in 1914 to embody the struggle for women's rights.

This fall, Middle Tennessee State University director of dance Meg Brooker is reconstructing Dance of Freedom on 11 of her students. A Noyes Rhythm teacher and an Isadora Duncan scholar, Brooker is passionate about bringing historic dance practices into a contemporary context.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.