The Golden Age 

Movie musicals reached a zenith in the first half of the 20th century with the rise of Hollywood icons like Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly. Discuss with your dancers how these performers—the first triple-threats—popularized the genre, what made them captivating and how students can incorporate their trademark moves into their performances. For the first act of your show, create a tribute to these artists. Use a cyc that allows for gobos and video projections. 

An American in Paris

Open your show with a number inspired by this 1951 classic, starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. It has one of the longest uninterrupted dance sequences in the history of cinema (13 minutes!). For the number, string together songs from George Gershwin’s score, such as “Embraceable You,” “Wonderful” and “Our Love Is Here to Stay.” Like the film, showcase ballet, tap and musical theater dance. Set the scene with a simple Parisian gobo.

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm

Next, put your little ones front and center with a montage of classic tunes from this 1938 film, starring Shirley Temple and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. This number will give you a chance to shine the spotlight on creative movement and beginning jazz and tap students. Since the movie is about Rebecca’s surreptitious mission to make a radio broadcast, incorporate vintage microphones and speakers into your set. For “An Old Straw Hat,” dress dancers in straw hats and overalls, and give them watering cans. For “Come and Get Your Happiness,” opt for sailor dresses and saddle shoes. Finally, get extra use out of your Nutcracker soldier costumes with a number to “Parade of the Toy Wooden Soldiers.” 

Small Town Girl, Flying Down to Rio, Singin’ in the Rain

Give every student a chance to be a star, and end this section with a production number that pays homage to screen legends. Organize it like an Oscars ceremony, with a podium and golden statuette, and project video excerpts onto the cyc. Research each star’s iconic roles and dress dancers accordingly. For instance, tap virtuoso Ann Miller in Small Town Girl would wear a short royal blue dress with fringe and matching heels and dance to “I’ve Gotta Hear That Beat.” Pair up two dancers to be Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in a glamorous forehead-to-forehead dance inspired by Rio’s “The Carioca.” Cast a leggy ballet dancer as Cyd Charisse to channel “Broadway Rhythm Ballet” number from Singin’ with a sultry green dress, choker and cropped black wig.  

Raise the Roof 

Many notable dance numbers take place on rooftops. Use a generic skyline backdrop or gobo to set the scene, and rent or build rooftop scenery to run across the back of the stage. Alter the mood and time of day of each dance by changing the lighting. 


Evoke this 1992 movie musical about a group of young newspaper peddlers who fight a wage cut in turn-of-the-century New York City with energetic fancy floorwork, soft-shoe tapping and unpredictable jumping sequences to “Once and for All” from the movie soundtrack. Dress your jazz, musical theater or tap dancers in pageboy caps, knickers, argyle socks, suspenders and tank tops. 

Moulin Rouge!

Recreate Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor’s sweet soiree on the roof of the Moulin Rouge to the sounds of “Elephant Love Medley.” Darken the stage to create a nighttime effect with red-tinged lighting. The look should be glamorous. Cast two advanced lyrical, jazz or ballroom dancers to play the leads—your boy can wear a tuxedo and your girl can wear a red halter evening gown. Create additional parts with a corps of cancan dancers. Capture the opulent feel of the film with glitzy accessories, over-the-top stage makeup and high-powered turning and kicking choreography for the corps. Your lead pair should move more softly, with gentle lyrical lifts, ballroom dancing and plenty of romantic dips. 

Mary Poppins

Replicate the “Chim-Chim-Cheree” number from the 1964 film about London’s favorite nanny. Use chimney sweeps for props; make them yourself (or enlist students to help) by spray-painting brooms black. Jazz dancers can wear black pants and button-ups, and smudge their faces with charcoal-colored eye shadow.  

In the Studio

In this section, celebrate films that dramatize the life of a dancer. Create a studio scene with portable barres and mirrors placed upstage right and left. If the theater has a piano, ask if you can use it as a prop for this section. (Extra points for live accompaniment!)  

The Turning Point

Challenge your advanced ballet dancers with the rehearsal scene of Romeo and Juliet. Use music from Sergei Prokofiev’s score to stage the balcony pas de deux. Dress your dancers in 1970s-style leotards and wrap skirts in neutral shades, and have them put up their hair in French twists. 

Center Stage

Create a mock rehearsal that features an arrogant choreographer who keeps stopping to rant and rave, a corps of obedient but confused ballet dancers and a snobby ingénue. Outfit everyone in leotards and practice tutus; your lead could wear a bright color. The choreographer can don general gym attire, or be more sinister with a cane and formal dance teacher attire. “Adagio for a Ballet Class” by Dmitry Polischuk creates an authentic score. 

White Nights

Pair up your ballet  and tap dancers for a battle of technique, inspired by the competition between Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines in this ’80s classic. The battle can include successive pirouettes and fast tapping. 


Who can forget Jennifer Beals’ audition scene? Ask parents to play snooty judges for this retro jazz number set to Irene Cara’s “What a Feeling.” Set up a record player and judges’ tables with water glasses and scattered papers. Go all-out with ’80s high-cut leotards, legwarmers, big hair and step-ball-changes. Dress the judges in glasses and stodgy suits with shoulder pads.   

Hit the Dance Floor 

For the final movement of your recital, celebrate onscreen moments that take place in social settings. This will make the audience feel a part of the show and conclude on an upbeat note. 

Saturday Night Fever

Go to the disco with “You Should Be Dancing’” by The Bee Gees! Position jazz dancers around the outside of the stage to create the effect of a dance floor, and use a disco ball and colored strobe lighting. Dress students in bell-bottoms, glittery button-ups, slinky dresses and heels.   

Save the Last Dance

Follow up the disco scene from the last number with a hip-hop club number that includes a few crowd-pleasing mini-battles. Allow advanced hip-hop dancers a few counts of eight to freestyle to “You” by Lucy Pearl, featuring Snoop Dogg and Q-Tip. Outfit students in trendy urban looks.  

Dirty Dancing

Bring back the entire cast for a production jazz number that evokes the feel-good ending of Dirty Dancing with “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.” Have dancers enter the stage by coming down the aisles of the theater. You can even bring up the house lights and drag a few willing audience members onstage and into the aisles to join in.  DT

Kristin Lewis is a writer in New York City.  


Dance Teachers Trending
Roshe (center) teaching at Steps on Broadway in New York City. Photo by Jacob Hiss, courtesy of Roshe

Although Debbie Roshe's class doesn't demand perfect technique or mastering complicated tricks, her intricate musicality is what really challenges students. "Holding weird counts to obscure music is harder," she says of her Fosse-influenced jazz style, "but it's more interesting."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Dean College
Amanda Donahue, ATC, working with a student in her clinic in the Palladino School of Dance at Dean College. Courtesy Dean College

The Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College is one of just 10 college programs in the U.S. with a full-time athletic trainer devoted solely to its dancers. But what makes the school even more unique is that certified athletic trainer Amanda Donahue isn't just available to the students for appointments and backstage coverage—she's in the studio with them and collaborating with dance faculty to prevent injuries and build stronger dancers.

"Gone are the days when people would say, 'Don't go to the gym, you'll bulk up,'" says Kristina Berger, who teaches Horton and Hawkins technique as an assistant professor of dance. "We understand now that cross-training is actually vital, and how we've embraced that at Dean is extremely rare. For one thing, we're not sharing an athletic trainer with the football players, who require a totally different skillset." For another, she says, the faculty and Donahue are focused on giving students tools to prolong their careers.

After six years of this approach, here are the benefits they've seen:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips

Since the dawn of time, performers have had to deal with annoying, constant blisters. As every dance teacher knows (and every student is sure to find out), blisters are a fact of life, and we all need to figure out a plan of action for how to deal with them.

Instead of bleeding through pointe shoes and begging you to let them sit out, your students should know these tricks for how to prevent/deal with their skin when it starts to sting.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Alternative Balance
Courtesy Alternative Balance

As a dance teacher, you know more than anyone that things can go wrong—students blank on choreography onstage, costumes don't fit and dancers quit the competition team unexpectedly. Why not apply that same mindset to your status as an independent contractor at a studio or as a studio owner?

Insurance is there to give you peace of mind, even when the unexpected happens. (Especially since attorney fees can be expensive, even when you've done nothing wrong as a teacher.) Taking a preemptive approach to your career—insuring yourself—can save you money, time and stress in the long run.

We talked to expert Miriam Ball of Alternative Balance Professional Group about five scenarios in which having insurance would be key.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Brian Guilliaux, courtesy of Coudron

Eric Coudron understands firsthand the hurdles competition dancers face when falling in love with ballet. Now the director of ballet at Prodigy Dance and Performing Arts Centre in Frisco, Texas, Coudron trained as a competition dancer when he was growing up. "It's such a structured form of dance that when they come back to it after all of the other styles they are training in, they don't feel at home at the barre," he says.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Kendra Portier. Photo by Scott Shaw, courtesy of Gibney Dance

As an artist in residence at the University of Maryland in College Park, Kendra Portier is in a unique position. After almost a decade of performing with David Dorfman Dance and three years earning her MFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she's using her two-year gig at UMD (through spring 2020) to "see how teaching in academia really feels," she says. It's also given her the rare opportunity to feel grounded. "I'm going to be here for two years," she says, which offers her the chance to figure out the answers to some hard questions. "What does it mean to not dance for somebody else?" she asks. "What does it mean to take my work more seriously? To realize I really like making work, and figuring out how that can happen in an academic place."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Turn It Up Dance Challenge
Courtesy Turn It Up

With back-to-back classes, early-morning stage calls and remembering to pack countless costume accessories, competition and convention weekends can feel like a whirlwind for even the most seasoned of studios. Take the advice of Turn It Up Dance Challenge master teachers Alex Wong and Maud Arnold and president Melissa Burns on how to make the experience feel meaningful and successful for your dancers:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Deanna Paolantonio leads a workshop. Photo courtesy of Paolantonio

Deanna Paolantonio had been interested in body positivity long before diabetes ever crossed her mind. As a Zumba and Pilates instructor who had just earned her master's degree in dance studies, she focused her research on the relationship between fitness and body image for women and young girls. Then, at age 25, just as she was accepted into the PhD program at York University in Toronto, she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by The Studio Director

As a studio owner, you're probably pretty used to juggling. Running a business is demanding, with new questions and challenges pulling your attention in a million different directions each day.

But there's a solution that could be saving you time and money (and sanity!). Studio management systems are easy-to-use software programs designed for the particular needs of studio owners, offering tools like billing, enrollment, inventory and emails, all in one place. The right studio management system can help you handle the day-to-day tasks that bog you down as a business owner, leaving you more time for the most important work—like connecting with students and planning creative curriculums for them. Plus, these systems can keep you from spending extra money on hiring multiple specialists or using multiple platforms to meet your administrative needs.

So how do you make sure you're choosing a studio management system that offers the same quality that your studio does? We talked to The Studio Director—whose studio management system provides a whole host of streamlined features—about the must-haves for any system, and the bonuses that make an excellent product stand out:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Robin Nasatir (center) with Peter Brown and Vicki Gunter. Photo by Christian Peacock

On a sunny Thursday morning in Berkeley, California, Robin Nasatir leads her modern class through a classic seated floor warm-up full of luscious curves and tilts to the soothing grooves of Bobby McFerrin. Though her modern style is rooted in traditional José Limón and Erick Hawkins techniques, the makeup of her class is far from conventional. Her students range in age from 30 all the way to early 80s.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Q: I need advice on proper classroom management for dancers in K–12—I can't get them to focus.

A: Classroom management in a K–12 setting is no different than in a studio. No matter where you teach, I recommend using a positive-reinforcement approach first. As a general rule, what you pay attention to is what you get. When a student acts out, it's generally done in order to gain attention. Rather than giving attention to them for inappropriate behavior, call out other students who are exhibiting the positive behaviors you desire. Name the good actions, and all of your students will quickly learn what it takes to be noticed.

Keep reading... Show less


Get DanceTeacher in your inbox