Music
Allie Burke, courtesy Lo Cascio

If you'd hear it on the radio, you won't hear it in Anthony Lo Cascio's tap classes.

"If I play a song that my kids know, I'm kind of disappointed in myself," he says. "I either want to be on the cutting edge or playing the classics."

He finds that most of today's trendy tracks lack the depth needed for tap, and that there's a disconnect between kids and popular music. "They have trouble finding the beat compared to older genres," he says.

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Music
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.

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Music
Courtesy Goodwin

For Jaimie Goodwin, finding new music is like a scavenger hunt. Using Spotify's Discover Weekly feature (which recommends new music based on her preferences), she will spend a day listening to playlists, exploring new artists and waiting for inspiration to strike.

"I'll play a ton of songs until one absolutely moves me and I have to rewind," she says. This sweet spot, says Goodwin, who's a faculty member for REVEL Dance Convention and Titans of Dance, tends to be underground artists with raw, gritty vocals and strong bass lines. "I'm usually drawn to authentic music that makes me feel something," she says.


The "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 3 top 10 finalist, known for her flawless extensions and control, learned to hear music differently from her childhood dance partner, Travis Wall, who began choreographing her solos when she was 13. "He introduced me to hearing more than just the vocals," she says, and helped her to begin noticing the phrases and accents between the lyrics.

This expanded Goodwin's musical interpretation, resulting in her feeling a deeper connection to the movement. She infused a new layer of passion into her artistry, one that she incorporates into her work as a teacher and choreographer. "Even though I'm a technician, steps can become sterile and boring unless you add emotion," she says. "Music with the right dynamics can help bring that out in dancers of all ages."

Goodwin knows picking music can be frustrating, at times even feeling like a catch-22. "It's easy to navigate toward popular songs that move you," she says, adding that the choreography process is 10 times harder if you don't love the music. But she urges teachers to avoid reusing overplayed songs.

"As a judge, I'm sick of hearing 'You Say' by Lauren Daigle, and I love that song," admits Goodwin. Her advice? Explore your favorite genres and artists with tools that personalize and curate playlists like Fans Also Like on Spotify and For You on Apple Music. Or consider a throwback tune: Early albums by Jewel and Ani DiFranco, artists Goodwin now considers old enough to use, have a rawness that she has trouble finding in more contemporary music. Recently, she choreographed a solo to Jewel and her student didn't know who the artist was. "I was shocked," says Goodwin, "but the song was fresh for her."

Goodwin told us why she loves some of her go-to songs—and made us a playlist chock-full of teaching gems.

Trevor Hall's "You Can't Rush Your Healing"

"I listen to this song when I need to calm down. It's great for a warm up or a cool down."

Rozzi's "Bad Together"

"This song has fire to it that I love moving to."

Mantaraybryn's "Stand Tall the Four of Us"

"I listen to this more for myself. It's vibey and uplifting. I've always wanted to use this for a piece, I just haven't had the right group yet."

Gatton's "When Scars Become Art"

"It has this relaxed vibe with beautiful, acoustic vocals."

Dermot Kennedy's album Without Fear

"I listen to him on repeat but I don't choreograph to him because everyone does. His music just moves me!"

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