Lydia Roberts Coco, a Former Ailey Dancer, Finds Motivation in Music

Horton class at Ballet Virginia International. Photo by Summer Greene, courtesy of Ballet Virginia International

For Lydia Roberts Coco, music is motivation. The former lead dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater opts for percussion music with precise counts when teaching Horton at Ballet Virginia International in Norfolk, Virginia, but she also knows when to pull out all the musical stops. "When I find my students are not dancing with as much life as I would like to see, I teach a more contemporary-style combination at the end of class to music that has beautiful lyrics. My goal is to try to get more emotion and passion out of my dancers."

When Coco isn't teaching modern or ballet, she choreographs for and coaches young dancers preparing to compete in Youth America Grand Prix, a responsibility she enjoys because of the extra time spent focusing on each dancer's unique qualities. “Oftentimes I am first inspired to choreograph by the dancer herself. I simply love creating in the studio, and then enjoying watching it all unfold as a dancer makes it her own," she says.

Coco works hard to build her students into confident, mature performers. “I find that young dancers, especially in the teenage years, become self-conscious and hold back from dancing to their utmost ability in front of their peers. I want them to know when they step onstage that they are there to share their gifts, their beauty. When I was in Ailey, before we went onstage Ulysses Dove would tell us, 'You have nothing to prove, only to share.' I always loved that."

Teaching Tips
Courtesy Jill Randall

Fall may be fast-approaching, but it's never too late to slip in a little summer reading—especially if it'll make you all the more prepared for the perhaps crazier-than-usual season ahead.

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Sponsored by A Wish Come True
Courtesy A Wish Come True

Studio owners who've been in the recital game for a while have likely seen thousands of dance costumes pass through their hands.

But with the hustle and bustle of recital time, we don't always stop to think about where exactly those costumes are coming from, or how they are made.

If we want our costumes to be of the same high quality as our dancing—and for our costume-buying process to be as seamless as possible—it helps to take the time to learn a bit more about those costumes and the companies making them.

We talked to the team at A Wish Come True—who makes all their costumes at their factory in Bristol, Pennsylvania—to get an inside look at what really goes into making a costume, from conception to stage.

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Studio Owners

Jana Belot's 31-year-old New Jersey–based Gotta Dance has six studios, 1,720 students and, usually, 13 recitals. In a normal year, Belot rents a 1,000-seat venue for up to 20 consecutive days and is known for her epic productions, featuring her studio classes and Gotta Dance's pre-professional dance team, Showstoppers. Until March, she was planning this year's jungle-themed recital in this same way.

When the pandemic hit, Belot soon decided to do a virtual recital instead. Due to the scale of the production—300 to 500 dancers performing in each of the 13 shows—postponing or moving to an outdoor venue wasn't practical. (Canceling, for her, was out of the question.)

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