Nick Lanzisera Loves Teaching Adults

Photo by Aidan Gibney, courtesy of Lanzisera

Walking into Millennium Dance Complex in Los Angeles at 11:30 am on any given Tuesday or Thursday, you're likely to find a large group of dancers flocking to take Nick Lanzisera's class. Millennium's staff says his contemporary class is so popular, he often fills their rooms with up to 80 students.

Lanzisera, whose professional credits include The Oscars, The Grammys, the MTV Video Music Awards, High School Musical 2 and 3, Fame, Footloose and more, got his teaching start as a substitute for one of his mentors, Erica Sobol, at Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio. Though he didn't expect to become an educator until later in his career, Lanzisera enjoyed the experience so much that he began to sub in regularly. One of those classes was attended by a manager at Millennium, who invited him to teach their new contemporary class, and he has maintained the same Tuesday/Thursday slot for nearly eight years.

It was at Millennium that he discovered his niche in working with adults. "Over the years it has become clear to me that technique is not the focus of my class," he says. "I let the technique live in my combos, but the movement quality comes first. People quickly discover that the legs and turns that I incorporate are optional. That's the beauty of an adult class. I would rather have dancers' legs be low but have a beautiful quality to them. I thrive with this demographic because I am just putting the finishing touches on their dancing. I'm taking their movement from good to oh-so-good."

About two years after booking his spot at Millennium, he applied to teach at Edge Performing Arts Center. After a long vetting process that included subbing various classes over a period of time, he booked their 2:30 to 4 pm Saturday slot, earning him a faculty position at the two most prominent studios in L.A.

Despite the high-pressure environment of the commercial dance world (L.A. is not for the faint of heart), Lanzisera says he strives to have a welcoming class. "My moves can feel intimidating, but I want the energy in the room to be uplifting. I want it to be a space where dancers can learn and not be stressed, even if they're not perfect. I'm not telling anyone to point their foot harder—they already know how to do that. I'm teaching them the details of improving their movement quality, within a positive environment."

GO-TO SNACK "RXBars are my favorite. They're high in protein, have minimal ingredients and they're tasty. My personal favorite flavor is the blueberry, and I get them at Whole Foods."

FAVORITE AFTERNOON ENERGY BOOSTER "I'm a coffee fanatic. My go-to boost is definitely a cold-brew coffee. Is that healthy? I'm not sure. Does it work? Absolutely!"

MUST-HAVE TEACHING ATTIRE "Lululemon everything. I never understood the hype until I got my first pair of their jogger sweatpants. I wash my dance clothes so much, and they still look the same. An added bonus—if you are a teacher, you can sign up for the Sweat Collective, which gives pretty decent discounts."

DAILY WARM-UP "I do my warm-up with my class. I think it's important that we are all active together, and that I'm aware of how things feel. Plus, it keeps me in shape."

Mary Malleney, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.

Keep reading... Show less
For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending

From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.