Leading a DanceMakers, Inc., ballet class

When Keith Clifton was 18, he booked a Dr Pepper commercial, and his performance career took off. He was part of a number of successful projects, including multiple “Be a Pepper” commercials, the 52nd annual Academy Awards with Donald O’Connor and 42nd Street at the Shubert Theatre in Los Angeles. And when Roland Dupree asked him to teach for Dupree Dance, Clifton became inspired by the other convention teachers. “I immediately knew I wanted to do what these people were doing,” he says. “They were actively changing children’s lives and making a difference in them as people and as dancers.”

He found the transition from performing to teaching surprisingly simple. “When you’re standing in the front of a room or on a stage teaching, you are entertaining,” he says. “You have to be an extrovert and find your niche, almost like a stand-up comedian, to make sure you’re keeping the class energized and excited about learning.”

Now, with a teaching career as impressive as his performance credits (after co-founding L.A. Danceforce and EDGE Performing Arts Center, he opened his own successful studio in 1996), Clifton spends his weekends traveling with DanceMakers, Inc. “Ballet is the foundation of all styles of dance, and to have the privilege and honor to teach it is a huge responsibility,” he says. And musicality plays a big role. “I try to be musical even in the way I speak and count, to encourage the dancers to really feel the music and tell its story,” he says. “It’s about them learning how to phrase their movement and mimic what they hear with their bodies.” DT

 

 

Artist: Josu Gallastegui

Album: Measure for Measure

“This album is one of my favorite, reliable choices. From adagio to allégro and plié to pirouette, it is straightforward and easy to count. The artist has a passionate approach to the piano, and his playing is full of character. The arrangements allow me to enjoy the melody and phrasing even after years of use. His other albums are great, too. My Turn is another favorite, because the melodies are luscious and haunting.”

 

 

Artist: Jamie Narushchen

Album: At the Movies with Narushchen

“For some truly beautiful music that is arranged for exercise and education, this is my go-to. Narushchen plays pieces that are light, fun, romantic and melancholy. He includes classics like Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag,” but also choices that might be more recognizable to children, like “We’re in the Club Now” from Disney’s Up and “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The melodies are soothing and allow for concentration and focus, but the familiar tunes also keep children excited as they anticipate what song they might hear next.”

 

 

Artist: Douglas Schultz

Album: Music from Company Class, Vol. 1

“This album has all the perfect tempos and elements a ballet class needs. His pirouette and waltz tracks are long enough to allow for repetitions when your class is at a size that you need to divide your students into groups. It’s a great album to turn to on days when your creativity isn’t at its highest, and you just need music that’s well-played and will help both you and your students conquer class. His style is very classical.”

 

 

Artist: David Plumpton

Album: Modern Melodies Inspirational Ballet Class Music

“He takes pieces from both popular movies and artists and puts them into waltz format. On this album, he meets the needs of a teacher who wants a true ballet class with contemporary music selections that will help keep younger students from running for the door when they haven’t yet gained an appreciation for piano music. He also has beautiful approaches to more classic music for class on other albums.”

 

 

Photo by Brien Rich, courtesy of DanceMakers, Inc.

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