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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."

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By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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