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Sultry Jazz Teacher Sabrina Phillip Keeps Her Students Strong With These Warm-Up Tips

"Push yourself to your extremes and see how far you can go. I don't expect you to be perfect, but I expect you to try," says Phillip. Photo by Chehon Wespi Tschopp

Anyone planning to take a contemporary jazz class from Sabrina Phillip at Edge Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles better be ready to sweat—pushing physical limits is this teacher's specialty. "I want dancers in my class to work really hard," says Phillip. "I want them to be inspired to push their boundaries and become well-rounded students so that they can have long careers."


The classically trained bunhead turned sultry jazz goddess begins class with a heat-generating warm-up that incorporates movements like reaching, lunging and yoga. From there, the energy never drops. She directs stretches and exercises on the entire right half of the body before shifting to the left side to increase difficulty. "It's like doing leg day at the gym," says Phillip. "You don't give the sides of your body a break in between stretches. It feels overwhelming, but it gets you stronger." After the fatigue has set in, she further challenges her students by guiding them through développé, plié and balance exercises. Her 30- to 35-minute warm-up often finishes with a difficult core exercise series, like planks or V-sits.

The intensity of this warm-up prepares Phillip's dancers for the combination that is sure to have avant-garde inversions, turns and challenging transitions. "I really like exploring different pathways in my choreography," Phillip says. "I always try to avoid the expected transition and find something more interesting—even if it's much harder." The best part? Phillip participates in every difficult moment of class from start to finish, so whenever her dancers are tempted to stop, she boldly reminds them, "If I can do this, so can you!"

FOOD SHE CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT: "Cheese! All the cheese…"

FAVORITE BOOK FOR ARTISTIC INSPIRATION: "I really liked Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, because it talks about the 10,000-hour rule and how it is the key to success in any field. I really believe in that."

RECOMMENDED VIEWING FOR DANCERS: "I think it's important to know the greats who came before us. I would definitely recommend watching old Hollywood musicals like West Side Story, Sweet Charity (really anything Fosse), Annie, Guys and Dolls and Singin' in the Rain."

HOW SHE STAYS IN SHAPE: "Working on my choreography often is a great workout, and I take my own class. I also love yoga and going to the gym."

MUST-HAVE FITNESS SUPPLIES: "Good running shoes, a foam roller or balls of varying densities for rolling out the kinks after class."

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