Music for Class: What's on Luam's Playlist?

In 2002, Luam left behind a technology career to pursue dance and choreography full-time. The decision paid off: Now in high demand as a choreographer and dancer, Luam has worked with top recording artists such as Ludacris, Fergie, Kanye West amd Ashanti, and choreographed for stage and screen. A long-time faculty member of Broadway Dance Center, she also teaches and performs internationally. And, as if that weren't enough, 2007 saw the launch of her hip hop-inspired clothing line, L.U.A.M. (Love Understands All Music) by Wildchild Nation, which has been featured in the MTV reality series "Fashion: The Life" and  the film Step Up 2.

 

"Music drives the movement, I can never say it enough. As a hip-hop choreographer, I blend different styles (hip hop, street jazz, African, dancehall, etc.) into a palette I use to fit my music choices. Since I may not always use traditional hip-hop music for class, I've called it 'Hip-Hop Fusion' to allow me freedom to explore.

 

'Whatever the music tells me to do, I do,' I tell my students. 'Get into the music–really get into it–and you will see what I see, to help you do what I do.' And what do I do? I am a storyteller. I have to tell the story of the instruments and the artist to shape the movement. If you pick the right artists and the right songs, it pretty much choreographs itself. Here are some picks that have helped me along the way."

 

(Remember, you can always get the clean version of any album or song. If you can’t find it in the store, look online.)

 

 

Click here to see a clip of Luam teaching class at the August 2008 Dance Teacher Summer Conference.

 

Artist: Aaliyah

Album/Songs: Aaliyah; “Read Between the Lines," "Messed Up" and "Rock the Boat”

 We lost a true music icon in Aaliyah. Her album was so far ahead of its time, I discover something new to love every time I break it out. Her song choices are diverse, and her haunting voice will add something timeless to a choreographed piece.

 

Artist: Lil Wayne

Album/Songs: The Carter III; "A Milli," "La La" and "Got Money" 

This song is brilliantly smooth, effortless and beat-driven. Nasri is a new artist—so new in fact, that he is not out yet. He is an up-and-coming songwriter who recently penned this track for New Kids on the Block. However, his version (with his voice) is 100 times better, and he will definitely give Ne-Yo a run for his money as a singer/songwriter when he decides to drop his album.

 

Artist: M.I.A

Album/Songs: Kala; "Bamboo Banga," "Come Around" and "Bird Flu" 

I selfishly thought M.I.A. was my personal discovery a few years ago (with her first album Arular), but she has since blown up in the states with a successful second album. The beats are dancehall influenced pop music infused with politics and social realism. All her music makes me want to get up and move, although the stories she tells are dark.

 

Artist: N.E.R.D.

Album/Songs: Seeing Sounds; "Everyone Nose," "Kill Joy" and "Anti Matter" 

With this appropriately titled album, they've done it again. Bringing a rock edge to the hip hop genre, these guys are good for an energetic class or piece.

 

Artist: Rihanna

Album/Songs: Good Girl Gone Bad; "Sell Me Candy" "Breakin' Dishes" and "Umbrella" 

This pop princess gives me a plethora of styles and textures of songs to work with–from dance/house  to reggae, eerie ballads  to thrash rock. 

 

Artist: Nasri

Song: “Click Click Click”


This song is brilliantly smooth, effortless and beat-driven. Nasri is a new artist—so new in fact, that he is not out yet. He is an up-and-coming songwriter who recently penned this track for New Kids on the Block. However, his version (with his voice) is 100 times better, and he will definitely give Ne-Yo a run for his money as a singer/songwriter when he decides to drop his album.

 

Artist: Busta Rhymes

Song: “Don’t Touch Me”
 

 
Busta is a staple in my music catalog. He’s the ultimate storyteller, and his syncopation with the beat and unpredictable flow give dimension to his crazy metaphors. Whenever I’m suffering from choreographer’s block, I just pop in Busta or Missy [Elliott]! This particular song is like a roller coaster, and it takes you on a ride with crazy highs and lows. Busta at his best.

 

 

Artist: OneRepublic

Song: “Say All I Need”
 

 
It’s not R&B or rap, but this song is pure emotion and music. OneRepublic is behind the hit “Apologize,” and this song is just as powerful, if not more so.

 

 

Artist: Jay Z

Song: “Jockin Jay-Z”
 

 
This song is so new, you won’t find it on iTunes. In fact, Jay-Z debuted it at Kanye’s concert (which was brilliant, by the way) in August. The beat is infectious and the character of it is supremely confident, with “crazy swagger.” A great preview to his upcoming album.

 

 

Artists: Omarion, featuring Missy Elliott

Song: “Wiggle”

 

Though it’s technically Omarion’s song, Missy steals the show for me. She always delivers hot dance music with clever instrumentation, ad-libs and metaphors. Her lyrics paint fun pictures that make it easy to represent through choreography.

 

 

Artist: Santogold

Song: “Creator”
 

 
This girl is brilliant. I don’t even know how to classify her; just listen to the song (and watch the video for Santogold’s other song, “L.E.S. Artistes,” as soon as you can). This song is so hot, I had to make my own video for it.

 


And here are some of the albums I’m excited about:


Jay Z, Blueprint 3 (release date December 2, 2008)


Karina Pasian, First Love (available now)

Missy Elliott, Block Party (release date November 11, 2008)

 

Teacher Voices
Getty Images

I often teach ballet over Zoom in the evenings, shortly after sunset. Without the natural light coming from my living room window, I drag a table lamp next to my portable barre so that the computer's camera can see me clearly enough. I prop the laptop on a chair taken from the kitchen and then spend the next few hours running back and forth between the computer screen of Zoom tiles and my makeshift dance floor.

Much of this setup is the result of my attempts to recreate the most important aspects of an in-person dance studio: I have a barre, a floor and as much space as I can reasonably give myself within a small apartment. I do not, however, have a mirror, and neither do most of my students.

Keep reading... Show less
Music
Allie Burke, courtesy Lo Cascio

If you'd hear it on the radio, you won't hear it in Anthony Lo Cascio's tap classes.

"If I play a song that my kids know, I'm kind of disappointed in myself," he says. "I either want to be on the cutting edge or playing the classics."

He finds that most of today's trendy tracks lack the depth needed for tap, and that there's a disconnect between kids and popular music. "They have trouble finding the beat compared to older genres," he says.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Courtesy Lovely Leaps

After the birth of her daughter in 2018, engineer Lisa McCabe had reservations about returning to the workforce full-time. And while she wanted to stay home with the new baby, she wasn't ready to stop contributing financially to her family (after all, she'd had a successful career designing cables for government drones). So, when she got a call that September from an area preschool to lead its dance program, she saw an opportunity.

The invitation to teach wasn't completely out of the blue. McCabe had grown up dancing in Southern California and had a great reputation from serving as her church's dance teacher and team coach the previous three years (stopping only to take a break as a new mother). She agreed to teach ballet and jazz at the preschool on Fridays and from there created an age-appropriate class based on her own training in the Cecchetti and RAD methods. It was a success: In three months, class enrollment went from six to 24 students, and just one year later, McCabe's blossoming Lovely Leaps brand had contracts with eight preschools and three additional teachers.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.