Music for Dance Class: High School Musical

Students at Bellaire High School, in Bellaire, Texas, know a thing or two about dance—thanks to their teacher, Sanja Korman, who was recognized as the National Dance Association’s 2008 K–12 Educator of the Year. “As a high school teacher, my music repertoire needs to be diverse and very appealing to teenagers,” says Korman. “I try to let my students dance to something that they enjoy listening to, because it helps them relate to the music, which will further enable them to pursue their love for dance.” Korman recommends offering some non-U.S. artists to help broaden advanced students’ knowledge. “For my performing classes, I try to offer an array of artists to expand students’ horizons in a multicultural sense.” Check out a few of Korman’s favorites here.  DT

Artist: Leona Lewis

Song: “Bleeding Love”

“This is such a versatile song. It’s ideal for a hip-hop class, but lately I’m using it for lyrical hip hop. There are two different rhythms throughout the whole song. It’s really great to help students learn to dance by following the lyrics.”

Artist: Jordin Sparks (duet with Chris Brown)

Song: “No Air”

“A beautiful song when you are teaching partnering and lifting! It allows you to teach your students to express themselves through their motions, while also enhancing the skills needed to perform with another person.”

Artist: Madonna 

Song: “Die Another Day”

“Madonna’s music is appealing to my students. When I am working on progressions or across the floor warm-up exercises, I use Madonna’s or Britney Spears’ upbeat songs!”

Artist: Taylor Swift 

Song: “Love Story”

“I use this song for my freshman classes. It has everything necessary for beginning dance students: a steady beat, nice lyrics and great sound!”

Artist: Björk

Song: “Jóga”

“My modern dance company did a dance to this song. It is very eclectic and allows for more abstract choreography. It sounds very different but is beautiful in its own way.”

Artist: Elisa 

Album: Dancing

“The whole album is great! I love her voice and lyrics. ‘Dancing’ is a great song as well—it’s beautiful to choreograph a contemporary piece to. This is another example of those songs that can offer two rhythms at the same time. My performing modern dance class is making a contemporary routine to this song, and every day we are discovering another dance sequence that works for it.”

Artist: Goran Bregovic 

Albums: Ederlezi and Tales and Songs from Weddings and Funerals

“I often use these songs to expose my students to other cultures and new sounds. The songs are very unusual, with atypical rhythms on both albums. I like to tell students a story about the particular song’s roots, folk background tales, traditions and customs before they listen, which makes it even more interesting.”

Getty Images

Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

Keep reading... Show less
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, 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.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.