Her classes are influenced by styles from classical ballet to West African; her students range in age from elementary to graduate school; and in her spare time, she creates instructional videos for tots and study abroad programs for university students. When it comes to teaching, Deborah Damast clearly has all the bases covered.

Currently, Damast is artistic advisor of dance education at New York University’s Steinhardt School and artistic director of the school’s resident company Kaleidoscope Dancers. Over the last four years, she has spearheaded an annual study abroad trip to Uganda to teach local children and learn indigenous dance forms. Despite her commitment to the university, she continues to teach young students at the Little Red School House in NYC, and she recently co-created the creative movement video series, Move ‘n Groove Kids.

Damast’s contemporary modern classes are brimming with energy and spunk, and students often approach her afterward to marvel at her music choices and ask for suggestions. “Well-thought-out music for dance class provides an opportunity to enhance the emotional experience of the student,” she says. “Using a variety of genres, rhythms and instrumentations expands the range of dynamic choices in the class content.” Here Damast shares some of her diverse selections with DT. DT

Artist: Philip Hamilton
Album/Song: Maya, “Flat Foot Freddy”
“Philip Hamilton is a NYC musician who used to play for my classes. He incorporates drums and vocalization, and his dynamic range of sound makes his music accessible for all types of movement. This song is great for small jumps or quick shifts, because it has a nice spring to it.”

Artist: Oliver Mtukudzi
Album/Song: Tuku Music, “Todii”
“Oliver Mtukudzi is from Zimbabwe, and his music is very soulful and lyrical. I use it a lot for plié combinations. It has a simplicity that allows you to work between the notes. There’s something very hopeful and profound about this music.”

Artist: Andy Monroe
Album: Joyful Noise
“Dancing to Andy’s music is like riding the crest of a wave. He plays piano and uses his voice in an incredible range of rhythms and melodies. He’s one of the favorite accompanists in NYC for the Paul Taylor School and the José Limón Institute, among others. His music is beautiful and supportive for modern dance class.”

Artist: Zap Mama
Album/Song: Adventures in Afropea, “Abadou”
“Zap Mama is an a capella group, and some of their music uses vocalization techniques that are polyrhythmic and diverse. The Abadou piece has a circular movement to it and is good for anything in a strong three rhythm.”

Artist: Angelique Kidjo
Album/Songs:  Putumayo Kids Presents: African Playground, “Battu” and Fifa, “Fifa”
“‘Battu’ employs a lot of percussion and combines Western and African instruments that result in a high-energy sound that’s good for propelling you across the floor and for intricate footwork. ‘Fifa’ is a more lyrical adagio piece that’s good for slow, sustained stretch combinations.”

Artist: Pink Martini
Album: Sympathique
“Pink Martini has a really fun range of songs that are good for going across the floor, for big jumps and for big combinations. They have a rich-sounding big-band feeling. It’s definitely worthwhile to check this album out and see all of the diversity you can find on it.”

Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Mitchell Button, courtesy of the artist

Dusty Button prefers music with a range. "There needs to be a beginning, a climax and a strong ending. Like a movie," she says. The award-winning dancer, who joined American Ballet Theatre's second company, ABT II, at 18, has always been drawn to lyric-free tracks filled with dynamic phrasing, rhythms and composition. "Whether it's the violin, piano or cello, instrumental music gives me more inspiration. I want the dancers and the audience to feel something new," she adds.

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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:

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Site Network

When the news broke that Prince George, currently third in line for the British throne, would be continuing ballet classes as part of his school curriculum this year, we were as excited as anyone. (OK, maybe more excited.)

This was not, it seems, a sentiment shared by "Good Morning America" host Lara Spencer.

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Sponsored by Dean College
Amanda Donahue, ATC, working with a student in her clinic in the Palladino School of Dance at Dean College. Courtesy Dean College

The Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College is one of just 10 college programs in the U.S. with a full-time athletic trainer devoted solely to its dancers. But what makes the school even more unique is that certified athletic trainer Amanda Donahue isn't just available to the students for appointments and backstage coverage—she's in the studio with them and collaborating with dance faculty to prevent injuries and build stronger dancers.

"Gone are the days when people would say, 'Don't go to the gym, you'll bulk up,'" says Kristina Berger, who teaches Horton and Hawkins technique as an assistant professor of dance. "We understand now that cross-training is actually vital, and how we've embraced that at Dean is extremely rare. For one thing, we're not sharing an athletic trainer with the football players, who require a totally different skillset." For another, she says, the faculty and Donahue are focused on giving students tools to prolong their careers.

After six years of this approach, here are the benefits they've seen:

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To Share With Students
Photo via Claudia Dean World on YouTube

Most parents start off pretty clueless when it comes to doing their dancer's hair. If you don't want your students coming in with elastic-wrapped bird's nests on their heads, you may want to give them some guidance. But who has time to teach each individual parent how to do their child's hair? Not you! So, we have a solution: YouTube hair tutorials.

These three classical hairdo vids are exactly what your dancers need to look fabulous and ready to work every time they step in your studio.


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Sponsored by Alternative Balance
Courtesy Alternative Balance

As a dance teacher, you know more than anyone that things can go wrong—students blank on choreography onstage, costumes don't fit and dancers quit the competition team unexpectedly. Why not apply that same mindset to your status as an independent contractor at a studio or as a studio owner?

Insurance is there to give you peace of mind, even when the unexpected happens. (Especially since attorney fees can be expensive, even when you've done nothing wrong as a teacher.) Taking a preemptive approach to your career—insuring yourself—can save you money, time and stress in the long run.

We talked to expert Miriam Ball of Alternative Balance Professional Group about five scenarios in which having insurance would be key.

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Dance Teachers Trending
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."

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To Share With Students
Via @madisongoodman_ on Instagram

Nationals season is behind us, but we just aren't quite over it yet. We've been thinking a lot about the freakishly talented winners of these competitions, and want to know a bit more about the people who got them to where they are. So, we asked three current national title holders to tell us the most powerful piece of advice their dance teacher ever gave them. What they have to say will melt your heart.

Way to go, dance teachers! Your'e doing amazing things for the rising generation!

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Sponsored by Turn It Up Dance Challenge
Courtesy Turn It Up

With back-to-back classes, early-morning stage calls and remembering to pack countless costume accessories, competition and convention weekends can feel like a whirlwind for even the most seasoned of studios. Take the advice of Turn It Up Dance Challenge master teachers Alex Wong and Maud Arnold and president Melissa Burns on how to make the experience feel meaningful and successful for your dancers:

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Studio Owners
Getty Images

Enrollment is an issue that plagues brand-new and veteran studio owners alike. Without a steady stream of revenue from new students coming through your doors, your studio won't survive—no matter how crisp your dancers' technique is or how well-produced your recitals are.

Enrollment—in biz speak, customer acquisition and retention—depends on your business' investment in marketing. How effectively you get the word out about your studio will directly influence the number of people who register. Successful businesses typically use certain tried-and-true marketing strategies to recruit and retain clients or customers. These four studio owners' tricks for kicking enrollment into high gear are modeled after classic marketing techniques.

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Sponsored by The Studio Director

As a studio owner, you're probably pretty used to juggling. Running a business is demanding, with new questions and challenges pulling your attention in a million different directions each day.

But there's a solution that could be saving you time and money (and sanity!). Studio management systems are easy-to-use software programs designed for the particular needs of studio owners, offering tools like billing, enrollment, inventory and emails, all in one place. The right studio management system can help you handle the day-to-day tasks that bog you down as a business owner, leaving you more time for the most important work—like connecting with students and planning creative curriculums for them. Plus, these systems can keep you from spending extra money on hiring multiple specialists or using multiple platforms to meet your administrative needs.

So how do you make sure you're choosing a studio management system that offers the same quality that your studio does? We talked to The Studio Director—whose studio management system provides a whole host of streamlined features—about the must-haves for any system, and the bonuses that make an excellent product stand out:

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