Elvia Marta

Music choices from San Francisco School of the Arts' Elvia Marta


As dance department director at San Francisco School of the Arts, Elvia Marta stages one of the most anticipated dance events in the area, her students’ annual performance at the Cowell Theater. The level of ability demonstrated by the dancers makes it hard for sold-out audiences to believe that they’re watching high school students. What’s Marta’s secret? She chooses to produce only one show per year (the school’s other art departments typically put on two), to give her students adequate time to prepare and work on technique. But it’s more than just technique that makes her young students perform at a near-professional level.

“In order to draw an audience in, you have to be so wide open and put out so much energy,” Marta says. “I want my students to find a sense of freedom and abandonment, and I push them to the level of performance all the time, even if it’s just class. I call it dancing on the edge––where it gets scary—and I tell them, ‘I want you to fly.’ Their spirits come out in ways that I can’t even explain. And the audience eats it up.”

The Panama native has danced with Consuelo Atlas’ company Expansion and the San Francisco Opera ballet company, worked with singers Gil-Scott Heron and Roberta Flack and holds a degree in dance and a teaching credential from San Francisco State University. Marta has been at the School of the Arts for 29 years, and she also teaches adult classes at ODC Dance Commons. She calls her style “modern jazz blues.” Strongly Horton-based, it also includes Limón, Graham, ballet, Afro, jazz and salsa. “This style allows me to be flexible, so I’m not having to teach the same thing all the time,” she says. “It feels really rich, and I like the challenge.” With so much variety, Marta has the freedom to go in many directions when choosing music for class and choreography. Here, she shares a few of her favorites. DT


Artist: Gotan Project

Album: Tango 3.0

“I like to use Gotan Project for pliés with my high school students. The group also has beautiful songs for across-the-floor that have a tango feeling to them.”




Artist: Andreas Vollenweider

Album: Air

“When music is a little slower and in a 3-count, I can use some Limón influence in my work. In the Limón technique, there are a lot of releases from your center, so my students really love it when I use Vollenweider’s music because it allows for dancing that is really freeing.”


Artist: Christina Aguilera

Song: “I’m OK”

“I try to do choreography for my students that is meaningful, so I like to pick songs that have a strong message. I just did a piece to ‘I’m OK,’ which is all about domestic violence and abuse. I like when dance has a relationship to life in some way.”


Artist: Nina Simone

Album: The Very Best of Nina Simone

“Nina Simone keeps me connected to the spiritual depth that I found as a young salsa dancer. I use her music for choreography a lot. She lends herself really well to blues dancing.”



Albums: Buddha Bar I–X

“I use this series at the very beginning of class for my set warm-ups and tendus. I love world music, and these albums really connect to the part of me that is into meditation. They have a lot of songs that have an Indian influence and are very spiritual, which I love because dance is like my church; it’s my religion.”


Photo by Andy Mogg, courtesy of Elvia Marta

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

Dance teachers have a lot of strengths (communicating corrections, choreographing gorgeous movement, planning excellent recitals, cleaning technique—just to name a few) but when it comes to interior design—talent isn't exactly a given. So when studio owners remodel or build, worrying about the decor can feel a little overwhelming (you've got just a few too many other things to worry about, don't you?).

No need to fear! In 2019 we have Pinterest, which shows us all the latest trends we should know about. To help you make the best design decisions for your studio, we've compiled a list of public Pinterest pins we think you'll love.

You're welcome!

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
Dance Teacher Tips
Vanessa Zahorian. Photo by Erik Larson, courtesy of Pennsylvania Ballet Academy

At the LINES Ballet Dance Center in San Francisco, faculty member Erik Wagner leads his class through an adagio combination in center. He encourages dancers to root their standing legs, using imagery of a seed germinating, so that they feel more grounded. "Our studios are on the fifth floor, so I'll often tell them to push down to Market Street," says Wagner. "They know that they should push their energy down to the street level." By using this oppositional force, he says, dancers can lengthen their bodies to create any desired shape.

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
Getty Images

After years of throwing summer parties at your studio, you're likely fatigued by coming up with themes and event details. You want your students to have a good time, but you're also up to your eyeballs in choreography and costume decisions.

Never fear! We've come up with party themes and activities to do during the event. Delegate tasks to your teachers and office managers, and voilà! You have a stress-free party ready to go.

Have a blast, people!

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

Q: I recently returned to a modern dance class after a long absence. While I didn't feel any acute pain at the end of class, the next morning I could barely walk from the soreness in both my Achilles. What can I do to fix this?

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

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

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

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.

Keep reading... Show less
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.

Keep reading... Show less


Get DanceTeacher in your inbox