Music for Class: Beyond Ballet Basics

Kat Wildish knows ballet. After performing with New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, she became certified to teach the ABT National Training Curriculum (Primary–Level 7). Currently on faculty at The Ailey Extension, she also trains teachers for the Dance Educators of America. Wildish loves finding new variations on traditional ballet music. “I get a lot of my ballet music from They have a great selection of different performance recordings from around the world,” she says. And while she is fortunate enough to work with a classical pianist for her classes at Ailey, she loves it when he changes things up and plays The Beatles or Edith Piaf. “I find using popular tunes in ballet class makes it so much more fun,” she says. Here, she shares her outside-the-box favorites.



Artist: Eagles

Song: “Hotel California”

“My pianist adapts this to fit as an
adagio, and since many students know this song—many of them even know the words—I think it’s comforting for them to dance to it. Sometimes knowing the music allows dancers to extend through the movement and actually be more artistic with their expressions.”


Artist: Nouvelle Vague

Song: “Just Can’t Get Enough”

“This song is a bossa nova cover of the Depeche Mode classic. It is great for an interesting pirouette combo or even a petite allegro. It’s light and lifts students into their turns and jumps in an unusual way. I find that it also helps transport dancers into a different atmosphere of dance.”


Artist: Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd

Song: “Desafinado”

“This song is soft, yet perfect for an upbeat waltz across the floor. Jazz music seems to help my students feel comfortable enough to take a chance on multiple turns, or hold that
balance and/or extension just a little bit longer.”


Artist: English Chamber Orchestra & Richard Bonynge

Album: Minkus-Lanchbery: La Bayadère

“The music of La Bayadère is one of my old faithfuls. The male variation is great for a grand allegro. It has the power to motivate students to leap higher. ‘Kingdom of the Shades’ is a wonderful selection for adagio.”


Artist: Edith Piaf

Song: “L’Accordéoniste”

“We had a group of dancers visiting from France recently, and my pianist played this happy allegro for chassé turns across the floor. I found it to be very fun and amusing.”

Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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Teaching Tips
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So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

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Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy TUPAC

When legendary Black ballet dancer Kabby Mitchell III died unexpectedly in 2017, two months before opening his Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center, his friend and business partner Klair Ethridge wasn't sure she had what it took to carry his legacy. Ethridge had been working with Mitchell to co-found TUPAC and planned to serve as its executive director, but she had never envisioned being the face of the school.

Now, Ethridge is heading into her fourth year of leading TUPAC, which she has grown from a fledgling program in an unheated building to a serious ballet school in its own sprung-floor studios, reaching hundreds of students across the Tacoma, Washington, area. The nonprofit has become a case study for what it looks like to carry out the vision of a founder who never had the chance to see his school open—and to take an unapologetically mission-driven approach.

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