Music for Class: Bringing Sass to Class

Boston-based dancer, choreographer and wildly popular teacher Marcos Aguirre has made a name for himself with his own style of hip hop. He incorporates jazz and modern elements into high-powered routines that pack his classes at Jeannette Neill Dance Studio. “Whatever comes out of my body, I don’t fight it,” he says. “My classes are high-energy cardio with definitely some sass in it. I always get sassy.” Aguirre has shown off his smooth moves on “So You Think You Can Dance,” BET’s “106th & Park,” Kat De Luna’s “Whine Up” music video and MTV’s “MADE.” His most passionate project is the Wrush Dance Crew that he founded last year, which is currently making waves in the Boston area. His music choices for class are as diverse as his choreography, but the following artists have been known to make repeat appearances on Aguirre’s playlists. DT

Artist: Britney Spears
Album: Blackout
“Britney is my number one that I use for everything. I basically started dancing because of her music. I was shy growing up, and she made me unleash. The Blackout album is just so dance. Everything’s very up-tempo, so I like to use it for my warm-ups.”

Artist: Missy Elliott
Album: Miss E… So Addictive
“This is just such a hip hop–inspired CD with songs like ‘Get Ur Freak On’ and ‘One-Minute Man.’ It’s great for jam-packed choreography. Missy Elliott is so amped that it never gets old for me. Even if it is from 2001, it always seems so new and fresh.”

Artist: Timbaland
Album: Shock Value
“Timbaland’s beats are insane. He’s very clever with them. If you take the time to really listen to what you’re dancing to or what instruments are involved, you can just hear so much. It inspires me to do different things with my dancers.”

Artist: M.I.A.
Album: Kala
“You can’t really hear or understand what she’s saying, but it’s all about the beats to me. I use a lot of her songs for shows because I like to be original and use music that not everyone uses. When you use something different, you’re forced to do something different.”

Artist: Lady Gaga
Album: The Fame
“Lady Gaga is so unique in the scene right now. Her energy is amazing and her music is so inspiring. Every song gets you out of a bad mood—‘Just Dance’ explains it right there. If I’m not feeling happy or I’m an emotional wreck, I just dance.”

Artist: Aaliyah
Album: Aaliyah
“Aaliyah sings like an angel. I never get sick of her music, and it just makes me want to dance. She was lost way too early and was so ahead of the game. I love to let her music live on, so I use it as much as I can.”

Photo by and courtesy of Evgenia Eliseeva

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 onstageblog.com, 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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After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

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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