Michelle Barber grew up studying jazz dance in Ohio, before moving to New York City to begin training under and working for Frank Hatchett and Sheila Barker. Now, she teaches weekly classes at Broadway Dance Center, where she's created her own brand of movement, incorporating the different styles that fall under the umbrella of jazz dance.
Class begins with a high-energy song to help students start moving and get their blood pumping during warm-up. Barber's musical variety is reflected in her class combinations, which frequently mix classical jazz with more lyrical, funky or theatrical movement. “I want my students to learn how to blend styles, but do all of that with a very strong technical base," she says, noting that she spends a lot of time outside of class making sure her choreography connects to the music. “I'm big on performance and really putting your heart and soul into dance, not just doing the steps. I want my students to have that feeling of release when it all clicks and feels good, and you just let go." DT
“This husband-and-wife team has a beautiful sound that I love. This album, in my opinion, is a piece of art. Every song is so different and moves me in a special way. I have choreographed to it, used it in my warm-up and simply enjoyed listening to it when I'm commuting to class. There's something about it that warms me."
Album: I Am
“I love Leona's powerful voice. It's so beautiful. She has a mature sound, and her songs are uplifting with a positive message. This album is perfect for combinations and also for progressions. You can't go wrong with this one."
Album: I Cry When I Laugh
“Jess has a strong, soulful voice and fun musical changes and depth in her music. Usually, I like a couple of songs on an album, but with Jess I can use every song. Love that! From ballads to up-tempo, it inspires my creativity."
Album: Comeback Queen
“I just started listening to this album. I'm drawn to her unique sound—it has a gritty and raw feeling. I can't wait to choreograph to it."
Album: The Best of Gavin DeGraw
“Gavin is one of my all-time favorite singer/songwriter/musicians, with his solid rock, soulful sound. His music always gets me moving. Whenever Gavin comes out with a new song, I am all over it."
Photo (top) by April Cook, courtesy of Broadway Dance Center