Dance Teacher Tips

Music for Class: Breaking Ballet Boundaries

Photo by Jae Man Joo, courtesy of Complexions Contemporary Ballet

From the moment Dwight Rhoden walks into the studio in sneakers and skinny jeans, students know this is no average ballet class. It may start at the barre like any other, but going off-center is encouraged, a plié combination full of deep contractions leaves dancers sweating and the adagio could be set to fast-paced trance music. This intense contemporary ballet class prepares students for Rhoden's singular choreographic approach.

“Most professional dancers will take a ballet class and then do contemporary choreography," he says, “but they don't use their body in this different way in a classroom structure. So Desmond Richardson and I developed our own style."

Rhoden and Richardson co-founded Complexions Contemporary Ballet, which has wowed audiences with this blend of contemporary dance and classical ballet for 15 years. Rhoden has choreographed for the company, as well as added to the repertory of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Joffrey Ballet and New York City Ballet/Diamond Project, among others. In addition to teaching Complexions company class, he's brought his contemporary dance class to companies, studios and universities around the country.

Rhoden's unique movements are paired with music that adds to the individuality of his class. Whenever possible, he employs the skills of accompanist Matthew Ferry, who either plays percussion or every part of the piano he can, inside and out. Sometimes Rhoden combines Ferry's work with other music, and when his favorite accompanist isn't around, Rhoden relies on playlists that vary from classical to electronica.

“Music choices for me are more about the mix and the differences between them than the music itself," he says. “It's very valuable in class to switch music up so dancers are able to interpret and make artistic choices even in a classroom setting."

Artist: Johann Sebastian Bach

Song: “Sonata for Violin Solo #1"

“I like using Bach's single instrument pieces like this because there's space between the notes. It's interesting to see how dancers fill that space and the choices they make when showing the movement."

Artist: Autechr

Album: Quaristice

“Autechre is an English electronica group that uses a lot of rhythm on some tracks and others sound more like soundscapes—long texture with no tempo at all. When the music has no definition, I don't generally count. I push the dancers to discover the innate rhythm that's present in movement."

Artist: Robert Lidstroem

Album: Recitation

“Lidstroem is a Swedish trance producer. Trance music is defined as being between 130 and 155 beats per minute. It's kind of brisk, and I like to use it for allegro. This creates an interesting juxtaposition of music and movement."

Artist: Frédéric Chopin

Song: “Preludes"

“Chopin is very mathematical, so I use his music for quick movement and really intricate work. His right hand will be moving quickly on the piano and is more percussive, while his left hand is sustained. Dancers can hear multiple things in one piece of music and bring it to life in the movement."

Artist: George Frideric Handel

Songs: “Harpsichord Suites Nos. 4 and 5"

“I use harpsichord music once dancers are really warmed up and doing a movement phrase. For example, after the barre they may do tendus with a pirouette and also be using their upper body, carving through the space. I use this music for movement like that."

Artist: Daft Punk

Song: “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger"

“Daft Punk is house music but also considered more electronic. I like this because it's just different. For me, the music I use depends on the day. One day I could be using Bach for a new phrase and the next day it could be house music."


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."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
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:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

If you're not prepared, studio picture day can be a real headache. But, if done right, it can provide you with gorgeous photos that will make your students and parents happy, while simultaneously providing you with marketing content you will be able to use for years to come.

Here are five tips that will help you pull off the day without a hitch.

Keep reading... Show less
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:

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Via YouTube

In its 14 years of existence, YouTube has been home to a world of competition dance videos that we have all consumed with heedless pleasure. Every battement, pirouette and trendy move has been archived somewhere, and we are all very thankful.

We decided it was time DT did a deep dive through those years of footage to show you the evolution of competition dance since the early days of YouTube.

From 2005 to 2019, styles have shifted a whole lot. Check them out, and let us know over on our Facebook page what you think the biggest differences are!

Enjoy!

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
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:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo courtesy of Koelliker

Sick of doing the same old stuff in technique class? Needing some across-the-floor combo inspiration? We caught up with three teachers from different areas of the country to bring you some of their favorite material for their day-to-day classes.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
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:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Thinkstock

Q: I have a very flexible spine and torso. My teachers tell me to use this flexibility during cambrés and port de bras, but when I do, I feel pain—mostly in my lower back. What should I change so I don't end up with back problems?

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

If you're a studio owner, the thought of raising your rates most likely makes you cringe. Despite ever-increasing overhead expenses you can't avoid—rent, salaries, insurance—you're probably wary of alienating your customers, losing students or inviting confrontation if you increase the price of your tuition or registration and recital fees. DT spoke with three veteran studio owners who suggest it's time to get past that. Here's how to give your business the revenue boost it needs and the value justification it (and you) deserve.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Margie Gillis (left); photo by Kyle Froman

Margie Gillis dances the human experience. Undulating naked in a field of billowing grass in Lessons from Nature 4, or whirling in a sweep of lilac fabric in her signature work Slipstream, her movement is free of flashy technique and tricks, but driven and defined by emotion. "There's a central philosophy in my work about what the experience of being human is," says Gillis, whose movement style is an alchemy of Isadora Duncan's uninhibited self-expression and Paul Taylor's musicality, blended with elements of dance theater into something utterly unique and immediately accessible. "I want an authenticity," she says. "I want to touch my audiences profoundly and deeply."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Teaching arabesque can be a challenge for educators and students alike. Differences in body types, flexibility and strength can leave dancers feeling dejected about the possibility of improving this essential position.

To help each of us in our quest for establishing beautiful arabesques in our students without bringing them to tears, we caught up with University of Utah ballet teacher Jennie Creer-King. After her professional career dancing with Ballet West and Oregon Ballet Theater and her years of teaching at the studio and college levels, she's become a bit of an arabesque expert.

Here she shares five important tips for increasing the height of your students' arabesques.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox