Jenn Freeman began her impressive performance career immediately after graduating from New York University—dancing for Keigwin + Company, Abraham.In.Motion and Sonya Tayeh—but she’s also a sought-after instructor. “I’ve had a deep desire to be a teacher since I was 12 or 13,” she says. “I have videos of myself at that age, alone in my living room just hosting classes for the camera.”

Freeman now teaches on a national level for Adrenaline, The Dance Sessions and Elevate, and at Winter Move, the annual workshop she founded in Boise, Idaho. Her goal is to give her students a good challenge and hold them accountable for having the ability to pick up choreography quickly and accurately, and to express it adequately, with intention.

“There’s a beautiful improv culture happening right now, so dancers are getting a lot of training in being themselves and interpreting the choreography. But it’s made me fall back in love with being very specific with what I’m asking from my students,” she says. “The three staples in my class are clarity of the shapes and movement, dynamic clarity and clarity of focus. I want the whole class to be with me, on the same page, breathing, open and present.” DT

Artist: Blue Hawaii

Album: Untogether

“Before I start a choreography session or a class, I like to set the tone of the space to clear out the energy. When I have adequate time, I will start this album at the beginning and let it play, because I love every song. I find that this music generates a sense of isolation, which is nice when dancers are warming themselves up. It creates a focused, centered environment to start working in.” 

 

Artist: Wildbirds & Peacedrums

Album: Heartcore

Song: “Nakina”

“I’ve been using this song in class frequently for the past year. It has an enduring steady meter throughout, which makes it great for progressions or any exercise when starting and stopping the music is not conducive. The bass-drum meter is so clear that the dancers can forget about counting and can feel the rhythm instead. I find that dancers are very present and connected when moving to this song. The artist’s voice is powerful, and it helps bring out passion in the movement.” 

Artist: Yellow Ostrich

Album: The Mistress

Song: “Fog”

“I love music that creates an epic, limitless environment, allowing the dancers to feel like they can fly (this is especially helpful in a convention setting, where space on the dance floor can be limited). This song does just that. There is no clear tempo, so it requires the dancers to be patient and present when learning the timing—not to anticipate. This is also a great song to play during improvisation exercises. Because of the rich sound, it is easy to find moments to indulge in, and the vast feeling of the sound encourages dancers to take risks.” 

Artist: Antonio Sanchez

Album: Birdman (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Song: “The Anxious Battle for Sanity”

“I love music that has a varying time signature, and I also have an innate love for the dynamic sound of drums. I fell in love with Antonio Sanchez’s jazz drum solo he created for the movie Birdman. I choreographed a duet titled “now WE are,” inspired by patterns arising in a burgeoning coexistence. The chaotic, passionate vibe of this music served as the perfect environment for the piece.” 

Artist: Library Tapes

Album: Höstluft

Song: “Mellan Ljud Och Text”

“I also love music that involves no standard meter at all—pieces that explore sound in a more abstract form. In my choreography I am attracted to music that plays the supporting role to the dancing. I often like to create the movement first and then incorporate the music later. This grants more freedom in movement discovery. This is also a great song for improvisational exercises.” 

Photo by Ian Stuart, courtesy of Freeman

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Photo by Kyle Froman

Darla Hoover was at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet's studios running a rehearsal in 2014 with director Marcia Dale Weary. Hoover had just returned the day before from staging a ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia. Jet-lagged, she mixed up her words when giving a correction.

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Though she loved choreographing, the high school student showcase wasn't quite enough for Julie Deleger, a recent graduate of The College Preparatory School in Oakland, California. The answer for her was an independent-study project during her last semester there. "Choreography is so personal that sometimes you need to take more or less time with it," she says. "Doing it on my own was really helpful. I let the project guide me rather than having to adhere to a specific set of rules."

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