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How Convention Favorite Mark Meismer Shaped His Dream Teaching Career

Break the Floor Productions, courtesy Meismer

Revered NUVO convention teacher Mark Meismer has made a career out of not compromising his values—and it's paid off.

Take Meismer's practically unheard-of NUVO convention schedule—a weekly Friday/Saturday shift that's allowed him to prioritize time with his daughter and attend church on Sundays.


Though today Meismer has the loyal following to justify such a schedule, his beginnings were humble. He auditioned for the Orange County School of the Arts at age 14, with just two years of dance classes under his belt. "I had passion coming out of my bones, but no technique to back it up," he says. The director of the school saw something in him, and he was accepted to train despite being, as Meismer says, the least technically proficient boy there.

Fast-forward to Meismer's signing with what is now MSA Talent Agency at age 17, when he was sent to an audition and booked his first professional job dancing in Kenny Ortega's '90s teen drama, "Hull High." "I never looked back and danced professionally until I was 30," Meismer says. For roughly 13 years Meismer had the kind of big career most dancers only dream of. (We're talking dancing-behind-Madonna-and-Celine-Dion big.) He filled the time he wasn't dancing with teaching on the LA Underground convention circuit (now known as LA Dance Magic.)

At 30, everything changed for Meismer when he adopted his now-16-year-old daughter Ryan. "I was ready, and made the choice to transition the direction of my life," he says. He quit performing and teaching at conventions and focused on choreographing at local studios so he could be at home more.

But when Ryan was 2 years old, Break The Floor's Gil Stroming approached Meismer with an offer he couldn't refuse. "He knew I had a daughter that I wanted to be present for, and that religion was also important to me, so he offered me a contract that would allow me to prioritize both," Meismer says. For the past 15 years Meismer has flown into cities around the country to teach Friday nights and Saturday days for NUVO before heading home to put his daughter to bed and attend church the following morning—a schedule that is practically unheard of in the convention world.

Recently, of course, most of his teaching has happened at home, virtually—sometimes with up to 650,000 students from all over the world for Break The Floor Live events. "I thought teaching virtually would be uninspiring, but it's actually been wonderful," he says.

Even when dancers are able to return to the studio, Meismer plans to continue with some virtual teaching. "I get to teach dancers I never would have been able to before, whether because of financial circumstances or because they live far away," he says. "I have to work a little harder through the screen, but I know there are people on the other side of that camera who are looking for motivation. I intend to continue to do just that."

Dance Teacher asked Meismer how he prepares his body to teach, the snack that gets him through long days, and the dance attire he can't live without.

His warm-up philosophy:

"I am a very big advocate of doing a full-stretch warm-up before teaching. I take a lot of time to let my hips open and get my hamstrings warm so I feel ready to do the choreography without getting hurt. Beyond flexibility, it's really important to engage the core, so I do some ab work, as well."

His must-have teaching attire:

"I always wear Lululemon bottoms—I especially like the Pace Breaker shorts. I wear Apolla Shocks or Nike or Adidas soft sneakers. I've had some knee injuries in the past and they're supportive of my joints. I also like to wear Adidas T-Shirts—something soft that breathes."

His go-to snack:

"Turkey Jerky, or a ONE protein bar (coconut and lemon are my favorite flavors)"

His guilty pleasure:

"Shopping! I work hard, play hard and spend money."

What he never leaves home without:

"My S'well water bottle gives me life. I hydrate all day and night."

His lifeline food:

"Chips and salsa."

His go-to relaxation show:

"I come home from teaching and unwind by watching 'Friends,' or something else that is easy and light for an hour or so. My brain keeps going after I teach and choreograph, so it's nice to have that time to focus on something simple."

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Mary Malleney, courtesy Osato

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Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

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From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

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Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

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