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.”

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Hightower

The beloved "So You Think You Can Dance" alum and former Emmy-nominated "Dancing with the Stars" pro Chelsie Hightower discovered her passion for ballroom at a young age. She showed a natural ability for the Latin style, but she mastered the necessary versatility by studying jazz, ballet and other forms of dance. "Every style of dance builds on each other," she says, "and the more music you're exposed to, the more your rhythm and coordination is built."

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Burklyn Ballet, Courtesy Harlequin

Whether you're putting on a pair of pointe shoes, buckling your ballroom stilettos or lacing up your favorite high tops, the floor you're on can make or break your dancing. But with issues like sticking or slipping and a variety of frictions suitable to different dance steps and styles, it can be confusing to know which floor will work best for you.

No matter what your needs are, Harlequin Floors has your back, or rather, your feet. With 11 different marley vinyl floors available in a range of colors, Harlequin has options for every setting and dance style. We rounded up six of their most popular and versatile floors:

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Q: I'm trying to think of ways to maximize studio space and revenue during the summer. What has worked for you?

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Sponsored by Insure Fitness
AdobeStock, Courtesy Insure Fitness Group

As a teacher at a studio, you've more than likely developed long-lasting relationships with some of your students and parents. The idea that you could be sued by one of them might seem impossible to imagine, but Insure Fitness Group's Gianna Michalsen warns against relaxing into that mindset. "People say, 'Why do I need insurance? I've been working with these people for 10 years—we're friends,'" she says. "But no one ever takes into account how bad an injury can be. Despite how good your relationship is, people will sue you because of the toll an injury takes on their life."

You'll benefit most from an insurance policy that caters to the specifics of teaching dance at one or several studios. Here's what to look for:

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In 2019, dance parents are more eager than ever to observe their child's progress, and stay up-to-date with the ins and outs of what's happening in the classroom. That means yearly recitals aren't always enough to keep them satisfied—especially if you have rules against visitors observing class from week to week. The solution? Visitor observation weeks. Trust us, the guardians and loved ones of your students will love you for it!

We caught up with Suzanne Blake Gerety, vice president of Kathy Blake Dance Studios and regular contributor to Dance Teacher's "Ask The Experts" column, to hear her tips on how to have a successful visitor observation week.

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Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

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Dancer Health
Adequate dorsiflexion mobility is needed to find a supple demi-plié needed to bound into the air and land safely. Getty Images

Dancers are trained to think often about the range of motion, stability and power of their extended lines: the point of the foot, the reach of the penché, the explosion of the sauté in the air. But finding that same mix of flexibility and strength in the flexed foot is just as integral to technique and injury prevention. Without adequate dorsiflexion mobility, it is nearly impossible to find the kind of supple demi-plié needed to bound into the air and land safely.

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Sponsored by World Class Vacations
David Galindo Photography

New York City is a dream destination for many dancers. However aspiring Broadway stars don't have to wait until they're pros to experience all the city has to offer. With Dance the World Broadway, students can get a taste of the Big Apple—plus hone their dance skills and make lasting memories.

Here's why Dance the World Broadway is the best way for students to experience NYC:

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Site Network
Irina Kolpakova in the studio with Katherine Williams. Photo by Quinn Wharton for Pointe

Being coached by a treasure like former Kirov prima Irina Kolpakova is an experience most dancers only dream of. But company members at American Ballet Theatre have been the lucky beneficiaries of her wisdom since 1990. Thanks to Instagram, where pros like Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside share snippets of their sessions with Kolpakova, any ballet lover can be a fly on the wall during rehearsals with the famed ballet mistress.

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Photo by The Fleet, courtesy of Lion's Jaw Festival

Growing up in New Jersey, Lisa Race trained with a memorable dance teacher: Fred Kelly, the younger brother of famous tapper Gene. "Fred would introduce our recitals," she says. "He would always cartwheel down the stairs." It wasn't until years later, when Race was pursuing her master's degree and chose to write a research paper on Kelly, that she realized there was a clear connection between her own movement style—improvisational and floor-based—and his. "In this television clip I watched, Fred jumps up to the piano, then jumps off it—he's going up and down and around," she says. "I thought, 'Oh, wow, all this time, I've thought of my dancing as my own, but that's where it started!' Moving upside-down and into the floor. There's a thread there. I rerouted it in different ways, but there's a connection."

Now, as a professor at Connecticut College, she concentrates on how to introduce her students to that love and freedom of upside-down work—and how to best prepare them for life after graduation, no matter what dance path they take.

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Studio Owners
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It's summertime, which means we're all starting to feel HOT! HOT! HOT!

While a warm room is certainly better than a cold room when it comes to dancing, you don't want your students to get heat stroke at your studio. To help you survive this sweaty time of year, here are tips and tricks that will keep your classrooms comfortable for an excellent class.


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