Pop–Slide–Groove–Lunge! Get ready, here comes the King of Pop! Lisa Pillow, director of Lisa’s Dance Spot in Austell, Georgia, created a tribute to Michael Jackson for the studio’s 2010 recital. To mark the one-year anniversary of his tragic death, 110 students bobbed and moon-walked to the pop star’s memorable hits, making “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” an unforgettable matinee recital for 350 family members and friends.

-"Workin' Day and Night"
-"Stranger in Moscow"
-"Thriller"
-Pre-ballet students in "I'll Be There"


 

From top:
-Intermediate jazz students in "Thriller"
-Studio director Lisa Pillow in "Smooth Criminal"
-"Ease on Down the Road" for the beginner level
-"Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" for intermediate/advanced dancers



Lisa’s Dance Spot specializes in recreational jazz, hip hop, ballet and tap dance. In a two-and-a-half-hour show, Pillow and staff mixed Jackson’s hit songs and moves with the students’ class work. With the many Top 10 hits and decades of recordings, there was a lot to choose from, and Pillow felt the show would appeal to audiences of all ages. “The great thing about Michael’s music,” she says, “is that it’s still fresh and still grabs you now in 2010.”

 

The recital took place in a local theater. With a show budget of less than $5,000, Pillow kept the set simple—a black backdrop was lit with the studio’s logo—and let the dancers be the focus of the production. The director herself and two assistants, clad in spats and pinstripe Zoot suits, kicked off the show with a rendition of “Smooth Criminal.” In the spirit of a Jackson concert, she had a friend serve as emcee to keep the energy high between numbers. The full ensemble closed the show by boogying to the title piece, “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough,” and took their final bow to roaring applause.

 

Lisa’s Dance Spot’s MJ-inspired numbers:

 

Song: “Can You Feel It” by The Jacksons

Genre: Jazz

Level: All dancers

Costume: Black attire with white gloves

Choreography: The full cast opened the show with Jackson’s signature head-bob moves.

 

Song: “Ease On Down the Road” from The Wiz

Genre: Musical theater

Level: Beginner/intermediate

Costume: Yellow halter dresses fringed with silver sequins and a silver headband

Props: Silver canes

Choreography: Two dancers spun onto the stage, as if just out of Dorothy’s house. More dancers boogied onstage tapping their canes and swishing their hips. The dancers formed a pyramid at the end to bounce the piece to a Broadway finish.

 

Song: “I’ll Be There” by Jackson 5

Genre: Ballet

Level: Pre-ballet

Costume: Pink and black leotard and tutu with a feather headpiece

Choreography: The precious ballet babies showed off their port de bras, chassés and tendus for an adoring audience.

 

Song: “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson

Genre: Ballet

Level: Intermediate/teen

Costume: White and silver flowing dresses with white headscarves

Props: Silver mirror

Choreography: Dancers decorated their own mirrors and used them in the port de bras of this more classical ballet piece.

 

Song: “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” by Michael Jackson

Genre: Jazz/hip hop

Level: Intermediate/advanced

Costume: Black leotards, silver shorts and silver twine laced up one leg

Choreography: The Dancing Divas mixed in classic moves like the lawnmower and railroad arms into this toe-tapping rhythm. They formed a giant dancing caterpillar marching to the beat.

 

Song: “You Can’t Win” from The Wiz

Genre: Tap

Level: Beginner (ages 3–5)

Costume: Pink and black leotard and tutu with a feather headpiece

Choreography: Like Jackson’s Scarecrow character in The Wiz, these tiny tappers used scarecrow walks with their marches and toe touches.

 

Song: “Scream” by Janet and Michael Jackson

Genre: Hip hop

Level: Intermediate/advanced

Costume: Black sneakers, black leggings, yellow and pink baggy dresses, fingerless gloves and a tilted black hat

Choreography: This funky hit mixed hip-hop moves with robotic popping and locking movements.

 

Song: “Stranger in Moscow” by Michael Jackson

Genre: Modern/lyrical

Level: Intermediate

Costume: Yellow and orange flowing dresses

Choreography: With dramatic gestures and floor work, this lyrical piece told the story of a stranger searching for something and finding it at the end in a loving embrace from her friends.

 

Song: “Thriller” by Michael Jackson (pictured)

Genre: Jazz

Level: Intermediate

Roles: Jackson and Zombies

Costume:

Jackson: Red sequin Members-Only jacket and red jazz pants

Zombies: Dad’s old white button-up dress shirt cut up and torn, black pants or bottoms, teased hair and lots of dark eye makeup

Choreography: Incorporating moves and phrases from the original “Thriller” video, these jazzers brought down the house with the “funk of 40,000 years.”

 

Tips, Tricks & Tracks

 

Why Jackson?

Jackson’s music has inspired studio director Lisa Pillow all her life. At age 16 she won a beauty pageant after performing the “Thriller” dance, and as a teacher and studio owner, she lives by Jackson’s example. “He’s the kind of person who inspires people to be better than what they are,” she says.

 

Set the Mood

Pillow and her teachers played Jackson songs all year in the studio to build excitement for the show.

 

Overcoming Obstacles

State-wide flooding in September 2009 destroyed Lisa’s Dance Spot. Though initially devastated, Pillow was able to rebuild in two months’ time, with the help of her supportive network of family and friends. “That’s what Michael would have done. He faced adversity and got through it,” says Pillow. “Now our studio is bigger and better. The flood didn’t stop me.” In June 2010, “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” burst onto the Mable House Barnes Amphitheatre.

 

More Music Ideas:

 

Michael Jackson

—“The Way You Make Me Feel”

—"Beat It”

—“They Don’t Care About Us”

—“You Are Not Alone”

—“Ben”

—“Black or White”

—“Ghost”

—“Will You Be There” (Free Willy soundtrack)

 

Jackson 5

—“I Want You Back”

—“ABC”

—“Dancing Machine”

 

The Jacksons

—Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)

 

 

Click here for a video of three routines from Lisa Pillow's Michael Jackson-inspired recital!

 

 

Photo courtesy of Lisa’s Dance Spot

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Hightower

The beloved "So You Think You Can Dance" alum and former Emmy-nominated "Dancing with the Stars" pro Chelsie Hightower discovered her passion for ballroom at a young age. She showed a natural ability for the Latin style, but she mastered the necessary versatility by studying jazz, ballet and other forms of dance. "Every style of dance builds on each other," she says, "and the more music you're exposed to, the more your rhythm and coordination is built."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Burklyn Ballet, Courtesy Harlequin

Whether you're putting on a pair of pointe shoes, buckling your ballroom stilettos or lacing up your favorite high tops, the floor you're on can make or break your dancing. But with issues like sticking or slipping and a variety of frictions suitable to different dance steps and styles, it can be confusing to know which floor will work best for you.

No matter what your needs are, Harlequin Floors has your back, or rather, your feet. With 11 different marley vinyl floors available in a range of colors, Harlequin has options for every setting and dance style. We rounded up six of their most popular and versatile floors:

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Insure Fitness
AdobeStock, Courtesy Insure Fitness Group

As a teacher at a studio, you've more than likely developed long-lasting relationships with some of your students and parents. The idea that you could be sued by one of them might seem impossible to imagine, but Insure Fitness Group's Gianna Michalsen warns against relaxing into that mindset. "People say, 'Why do I need insurance? I've been working with these people for 10 years—we're friends,'" she says. "But no one ever takes into account how bad an injury can be. Despite how good your relationship is, people will sue you because of the toll an injury takes on their life."

You'll benefit most from an insurance policy that caters to the specifics of teaching dance at one or several studios. Here's what to look for:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

If you're not prepared, studio picture day can be a real headache. But, if done right, it can provide you with gorgeous photos that will make your students and parents happy, while simultaneously providing you with marketing content you will be able to use for years to come.

Here are five tips that will help you pull off the day without a hitch.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Via YouTube

In its 14 years of existence, YouTube has been home to a world of competition dance videos that we have all consumed with heedless pleasure. Every battement, pirouette and trendy move has been archived somewhere, and we are all very thankful.

We decided it was time DT did a deep dive through those years of footage to show you the evolution of competition dance since the early days of YouTube.

From 2005 to 2019, styles have shifted a whole lot. Check them out, and let us know over on our Facebook page what you think the biggest differences are!

Enjoy!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by World Class Vacations
David Galindo Photography

New York City is a dream destination for many dancers. However aspiring Broadway stars don't have to wait until they're pros to experience all the city has to offer. With Dance the World Broadway, students can get a taste of the Big Apple—plus hone their dance skills and make lasting memories.

Here's why Dance the World Broadway is the best way for students to experience NYC:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo courtesy of Koelliker

Sick of doing the same old stuff in technique class? Needing some across-the-floor combo inspiration? We caught up with three teachers from different areas of the country to bring you some of their favorite material for their day-to-day classes.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Thinkstock

Q: I have a very flexible spine and torso. My teachers tell me to use this flexibility during cambrés and port de bras, but when I do, I feel pain—mostly in my lower back. What should I change so I don't end up with back problems?

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

If you're a studio owner, the thought of raising your rates most likely makes you cringe. Despite ever-increasing overhead expenses you can't avoid—rent, salaries, insurance—you're probably wary of alienating your customers, losing students or inviting confrontation if you increase the price of your tuition or registration and recital fees. DT spoke with three veteran studio owners who suggest it's time to get past that. Here's how to give your business the revenue boost it needs and the value justification it (and you) deserve.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Margie Gillis (left); photo by Kyle Froman

Margie Gillis dances the human experience. Undulating naked in a field of billowing grass in Lessons from Nature 4, or whirling in a sweep of lilac fabric in her signature work Slipstream, her movement is free of flashy technique and tricks, but driven and defined by emotion. "There's a central philosophy in my work about what the experience of being human is," says Gillis, whose movement style is an alchemy of Isadora Duncan's uninhibited self-expression and Paul Taylor's musicality, blended with elements of dance theater into something utterly unique and immediately accessible. "I want an authenticity," she says. "I want to touch my audiences profoundly and deeply."

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox