Prologue

Open with a number set to Van Morrison’s “Hey Mr. DJ.” Cast eight dancers as disc jockeys—each representing a station—and costume them in a way that embodies their respective styles of music. For example, the classical station DJ can wear a tuxedo, while the country station’s host dons boots and a cowboy hat.

In one corner of the stage, set up a booth with several record players and a microphone to represent a sound studio. Paint the back wall of the booth as though it’s covered floor to ceiling with records. (Enlist local art students to help.) After each number, the DJ for the next one can step into the booth and mime choosing which song to play. During these bits, play pre-recorded introductions. For instance, prior to the “Top 40” number, the DJ can say, “And now—he’s no stranger to the music charts—here is Chris Brown, with ‘With You’!”

Top 40

Genre: Intermediate lyrical

Tweens will love dancing to hit singer-dancer Chris Brown’s love song “With You.” Cast a boy and a girl as the lead couple, with a class of lyrical dancers as the corps. The costumes should be light and breezy, but colorful to match the vibe of the song. The lyrics describe spending time with a significant other, so make the movements sweet and charming. One idea is to have the lead couple constantly in some sort of physical contact, whether it’s a lift or just holding hands while doing footwork. The beat is slow enough for intermediate-level dancers to show off multiple pirouettes and complicated fouetté sequences, but not too slow for extensions. For other Top 40 song ideas, peruse the charts at www.billboard.com.

R&B

Genre: Advanced lyrical

In a number to Joss Stone’s “Music,” create a gritty lyrical piece about a love affair with music. Challenge yourself to create movement that always originates from the heart and then extends into the rest of the body, as if the music itself lives in and pours out from the dancer’s heart. Go all out with Joss Stone–inspired face paint. Think hippie peace signs, hearts and flowers (try sweat-proof stage makeup and body paint) and deep-red hair extensions.

Classic Rock

Genres: Intermediate and advanced jazz, creative movement

For this dance, choose a three-song classic-rock medley. Begin with a jazz piece to Journey’s monster ballad “Open Arms.” The sweeping chorus lends itself to dramatic head-tossing, layouts, level changes and switch leaps. Outfit the class in ’80s-style wigs (think big, feathered bangs). Each dancer can wear a different colored headband, a high-legged leotard and multiple pairs of neon ankle warmers.

Follow up with a hate-to-love number to “Cryin’” by Aerosmith for advanced jazz dancers. Check out the music video starring Alicia Silverstone and lead singer Steven Tyler’s daughter, Liv Tyler, on YouTube for choreography ideas. One option is to use a corps of boys with one girl as the lead love-object. This dancer should portray a fun-loving heartbreaker, outfitted in a flashy costume that stands out against the others—try loud prints, sequins and fringe. Choreograph a series of lifts in which the lead dancer’s feet never touch the ground.

Finish the medley with “Mr. Roboto” by Styx for beginning jazz dancers. Go for a robot look with silver unitards, combat boots and gloves, and choreograph jerky, angular, robotic dance moves. Work with students on keeping their torsos rigid and their arms stiff. Pay homage to the music video by using strobe lights at the end of the piece (but not throughout, as it may be too much for young ones to stay oriented onstage).

Classical

Genre: All levels of ballet

For a classical music station, choreograph to Bach’s “Suite for Solo Cello No. 2.” (Yo-Yo Ma’s 1998 recording is particularly lovely.) Showcase a different level for each of the suite’s six movements, the Courante being ideal for beginning ballet since it’s less than two minutes long. Reserve the Menuett for a pas de deux, the Gigue for pointe and the Allemande for a solo. Use the other two pieces for larger corps work. Costume the entire suite with variations on the same theme. For instance, the dancers in each movement can all wear the same style bodice but different skirts, including romantic tutus, platter tutus and wrap skirts.

Talk Radio

Genres: Modern, contemporary, dance-theater

Create a dance-theater piece that incorporates spoken word. The dialogue should imitate an NPR-style talk radio interview. (Check out NPR’s free podcasts on iTunes.) The theme of the interview, which the dancers speak aloud, should inform the movement. Write an interview with a local artist or community activist, or search the news for intriguing stories. Find inspiration, say, in the Genographic Project (www3.nationalgeographic.com/genographic), a worldwide study in which participants volunteer their DNA, helping researchers track human migratory patterns. The concepts of human journey and exploration offer interesting movement ideas. For instance, if you have a large class, orchestrate complicated geographic patterns and shapes that mimic migration paths, then translate those shapes into a single movement for each dancer. Dress the students in simple, pale-colored unitards. If you go with a news item regarding the environment, use earth tones. Or use black, white and gray shades to mimic newspaper print. You can also have dancers research their own ancestry and use their findings to shape your choreography.

Country-western

Genre: Beginning tap

Score audience laughs with a number for your baby tappers set to “Firecracker” by Josh Turner. Dress them in cowboy and cowgirl outfits with fringed plaid shirts, leather vests and cowboy hats. Attach taps to the bottom of cowboy boots, and send your little ones electric-sliding,
shuffle-stepping and line-dancing across the stage.

To add to the rodeo theme, you might also have dancers gallop around the stage on hobby horses or recruit two older students to don a two-person horse costume.

Oldies

Genre: Tap

Following the seriousness of talk radio, lighten up the mood with a number to “Be Bop a Lula” by Gene Vincent, set in a 1950s diner. The girls can wear big skirts with blouses tied at the navel, cat-eye glasses like these, from Fun-shop.com, and deep red lipstick, while the boys sport black jeans, white T-shirts and slicked-back hair. Cast two dancers as waitresses (extra points if you put them on roller skates!) and one as the burger flipper. Set the scene with a bar, malt glasses, a jukebox and shiny red barstools. Try to incorporate swing movements and partnering to tie into the theme.

Weather & Traffic

Genres: Tap, jazz, creative movement

To incorporate “weather and traffic,” ask a student to record a “heavy rain” forecast and use this as an introduction to a morning commute–themed number to “Taking Care of Business” by Randy Bachman, “5:15” by The Who or “9–5” by Dolly Parton. Dress a group of tap dancers as suit-and-tie-clad professionals driving to work. The movement should create a freeway effect, with each dancer moving in columns as though driving in lanes. A few dancers can be obnoxious “weavers,” who move faster in and out among the others. Have arm movement be gestural; for instance, an arm that arcs over the head can represent windshield wipers. Others can incorporate various elements of the morning weekday routine, such as getting coffee, walking the dog, packing a briefcase and reading the newspaper. Some dancers can act as construction workers, baristas and dog walkers. You can even ask hip-hop dancers to portray street performers. Creative movement students can be dressed as schoolchildren walking in a line to school. The overall effect of the stage should be one of organized chaos. Use a cityscape backdrop.

Finale

Bring back your DJs and a few dancers from each number for an upbeat finale to “Radio” by Smash Mouth. The quirky music lends itself to a variety of genres, including pointe, tap and jazz. 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
Thinkstock

Dance teachers are just as apt to fall into the trap of perfectionism and self-criticism as the students they teach. The high-pressure environment that is the dance world today makes it difficult to endure while keeping a healthy perspective on who we truly are.

To help you quiet your inner critic, and by extension set an example of self-love for your students, we caught up with sports psychologist Caroline Silby. Here she shares strategies for managing what she calls "neurotic perfectionism." "Self-attacking puts teachers and athletes in a constant state of stress, often making them rigid, inflexible and ultimately fueling high anxiety rather than high levels of performance," Silby says. "Perfectionistic teachers, dancers and athletes can learn to set emotional boundaries. They can use doubt, frustration and worry about missing expectations as cues to take actions that align with what they do when teaching/performing well and feeling in-control. Being relentless about applying a solution-oriented approach can help the perfectionist move through intense emotional states more efficiently."

Check out those strategies below!

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 Teacher Tips
Thinkstock

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
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
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
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 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
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
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

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox