Listen to Al Blackstone's Epic Warm-Up Playlist

Al Blackstone leads a class at Steps on Broadway. Photo by Daryl Getman/Transmission-Roots to Branches, courtesy of Blackstone

"I totally manipulate the energy in the room with my warm-up music. I start with something really calm and then build to something energetic. I go with sweet songs for pliés, so people soften and are vulnerable. Then I go aggressive with high-energy music for abs, and soothing music for stretches on the floor.

"I finish warm-up with step-touches to a fun song that feels like a party, so everyone can feel good. I couldn't do my splits growing up, and that was always the last thing we did before center, so I would feel bad about myself. When I started teaching, I thought, "Wouldn't it be fun if we ended warm-up with a party instead?"

"Micro Melodies": The Album Leaf

"Next to Me": Emeli Sandé

"Stop This Train": John Mayer

"Hold Back the River": James Bay

"This Gift": Glen Hansard

"Crazy Love": Irene Diaz

"The Music": Hifi Sean (feat. Celeda)

"When I Come Around": Honeywagon

"All We Want Is Love": Ane Brun

"Work Song": Hozier

"Gonna Move": Paul Pena

Teachers Trending
Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy. Photo courtesy Dance With Me

Listening to Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy riff together makes it crystal-clear why each has mastered the art of partnering in the ballroom—they've long been doing this dance in real life as brothers and business partners.

Along with their "Dancing with the Stars" pedigree (and a combined three mirror-ball trophies between them), Maks and Val (and their father, Sasha) also run Dance With Me, a dance company hosting six ProAm Dancesport competitions annually and running 14 brick-and-mortar studio locations across the U.S.

Last year, the pair launched an online component, Dance & Co. The online video platform offers beginner through advanced instruction in not only ballroom but an array of other styles, as well as dance fitness classes from HIIT to yoga to strength training. "DWTS" fans will recognize such familiar faces as Peta Murgatroyd, Jenna Johnson, Sharna Burgess and Emma Slater, along with Maks and Val themselves.

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Teaching Tips
@jayplayimagery, courtesy Kerollis

In the spring of 2012, Barry Kerollis was abruptly forced into treating his career as a small business. Having just moved cross-country to join BalletX, he got injured and was soon let go.

"I'd only ever danced with big companies before," the now-freelance dance-teacher-choreographer-podcaster recalls. "That desperation factor drove me to approach freelancing with a business model and a business plan."

As Kerollis acknowledges, getting the business of you off the ground ("you" as a freelance dance educator, that is) can be filled with unexpected challenges—even for the most seasoned of gigging dancers. But becoming your own CEO can make your work–life balance more sustainable, help you make more money, keep you organized, and get potential employers to offer you more respect and improved working conditions. Here's how to get smart now about branding, finances and other crucial ways to tell the dance world that you mean business.

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Teachers Trending
Courtesy Oleson

American dance educator Shannon Oleson was teaching recreational ballet and street-dance classes in London when the pandemic hit. As she watched many of her fellow U.S. friends pack up and return home from their international adventures, she made the difficult choice to stick with her students (as well as her own training—she was midway through her MFA at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

Despite shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, she was able to maintain a teaching schedule that kept her working with her dancers through Zoom, as well as lead some private, in-home acro classes following government guidelines. But keeping rec students interested in the face of pandemic fatigue hasn't been easy.

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