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)

 

Dance Teachers Trending
Roshe (center) teaching at Steps on Broadway in New York City. Photo by Jacob Hiss, courtesy of Roshe

Although Debbie Roshe's class doesn't demand perfect technique or mastering complicated tricks, her intricate musicality is what really challenges students. "Holding weird counts to obscure music is harder," she says of her Fosse-influenced jazz style, "but it's more interesting."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Dean College
Amanda Donahue, ATC, working with a student in her clinic in the Palladino School of Dance at Dean College. Courtesy Dean College

The Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College is one of just 10 college programs in the U.S. with a full-time athletic trainer devoted solely to its dancers. But what makes the school even more unique is that certified athletic trainer Amanda Donahue isn't just available to the students for appointments and backstage coverage—she's in the studio with them and collaborating with dance faculty to prevent injuries and build stronger dancers.

"Gone are the days when people would say, 'Don't go to the gym, you'll bulk up,'" says Kristina Berger, who teaches Horton and Hawkins technique as an assistant professor of dance. "We understand now that cross-training is actually vital, and how we've embraced that at Dean is extremely rare. For one thing, we're not sharing an athletic trainer with the football players, who require a totally different skillset." For another, she says, the faculty and Donahue are focused on giving students tools to prolong their careers.

After six years of this approach, here are the benefits they've seen:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Thinkstock

Since the dawn of time, performers have had to deal with annoying, constant blisters. As every dance teacher knows (and every student is sure to find out), blisters are a fact of life, and we all need to figure out a plan of action for how to deal with them.

Instead of bleeding through pointe shoes and begging you to let them sit out, your students should know these tricks for how to prevent/deal with their skin when it starts to sting.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Alternative Balance
Courtesy Alternative Balance

As a dance teacher, you know more than anyone that things can go wrong—students blank on choreography onstage, costumes don't fit and dancers quit the competition team unexpectedly. Why not apply that same mindset to your status as an independent contractor at a studio or as a studio owner?

Insurance is there to give you peace of mind, even when the unexpected happens. (Especially since attorney fees can be expensive, even when you've done nothing wrong as a teacher.) Taking a preemptive approach to your career—insuring yourself—can save you money, time and stress in the long run.

We talked to expert Miriam Ball of Alternative Balance Professional Group about five scenarios in which having insurance would be key.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Brian Guilliaux, courtesy of Coudron

Eric Coudron understands firsthand the hurdles competition dancers face when falling in love with ballet. Now the director of ballet at Prodigy Dance and Performing Arts Centre in Frisco, Texas, Coudron trained as a competition dancer when he was growing up. "It's such a structured form of dance that when they come back to it after all of the other styles they are training in, they don't feel at home at the barre," he says.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Kendra Portier. Photo by Scott Shaw, courtesy of Gibney Dance

As an artist in residence at the University of Maryland in College Park, Kendra Portier is in a unique position. After almost a decade of performing with David Dorfman Dance and three years earning her MFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she's using her two-year gig at UMD (through spring 2020) to "see how teaching in academia really feels," she says. It's also given her the rare opportunity to feel grounded. "I'm going to be here for two years," she says, which offers her the chance to figure out the answers to some hard questions. "What does it mean to not dance for somebody else?" she asks. "What does it mean to take my work more seriously? To realize I really like making work, and figuring out how that can happen in an academic place."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Turn It Up Dance Challenge
Courtesy Turn It Up

With back-to-back classes, early-morning stage calls and remembering to pack countless costume accessories, competition and convention weekends can feel like a whirlwind for even the most seasoned of studios. Take the advice of Turn It Up Dance Challenge master teachers Alex Wong and Maud Arnold and president Melissa Burns on how to make the experience feel meaningful and successful for your dancers:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Deanna Paolantonio leads a workshop. Photo courtesy of Paolantonio

Deanna Paolantonio had been interested in body positivity long before diabetes ever crossed her mind. As a Zumba and Pilates instructor who had just earned her master's degree in dance studies, she focused her research on the relationship between fitness and body image for women and young girls. Then, at age 25, just as she was accepted into the PhD program at York University in Toronto, she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by The Studio Director

As a studio owner, you're probably pretty used to juggling. Running a business is demanding, with new questions and challenges pulling your attention in a million different directions each day.

But there's a solution that could be saving you time and money (and sanity!). Studio management systems are easy-to-use software programs designed for the particular needs of studio owners, offering tools like billing, enrollment, inventory and emails, all in one place. The right studio management system can help you handle the day-to-day tasks that bog you down as a business owner, leaving you more time for the most important work—like connecting with students and planning creative curriculums for them. Plus, these systems can keep you from spending extra money on hiring multiple specialists or using multiple platforms to meet your administrative needs.

So how do you make sure you're choosing a studio management system that offers the same quality that your studio does? We talked to The Studio Director—whose studio management system provides a whole host of streamlined features—about the must-haves for any system, and the bonuses that make an excellent product stand out:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Robin Nasatir (center) with Peter Brown and Vicki Gunter. Photo by Christian Peacock

On a sunny Thursday morning in Berkeley, California, Robin Nasatir leads her modern class through a classic seated floor warm-up full of luscious curves and tilts to the soothing grooves of Bobby McFerrin. Though her modern style is rooted in traditional José Limón and Erick Hawkins techniques, the makeup of her class is far from conventional. Her students range in age from 30 all the way to early 80s.

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

Q: I need advice on proper classroom management for dancers in K–12—I can't get them to focus.

A: Classroom management in a K–12 setting is no different than in a studio. No matter where you teach, I recommend using a positive-reinforcement approach first. As a general rule, what you pay attention to is what you get. When a student acts out, it's generally done in order to gain attention. Rather than giving attention to them for inappropriate behavior, call out other students who are exhibiting the positive behaviors you desire. Name the good actions, and all of your students will quickly learn what it takes to be noticed.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox