Teachers Trending

Stacie Webster Chooses Soulful Music, Old and New, for Contemporary Jazz Class

Stacie Webster at Turn It Up. Photo courtesy of Webster

While contemporary jazz teacher Stacie Webster keeps her choreography rooted in traditional jazz, she likes to incorporate soulful music in the studio. "I gravitate toward deep house music because it's a mixture of house, jazz, funk and soul," says Webster, who has taught for the Broadway Dance Center Children and Teens program since 2007. "It creates a good energy and everyone can relate to it, even kids." In addition to the energetic rhythms that keep the class moving and the vocals that add a storytelling element, the genre also helps students to find their authentic voices. "Even when kids are great technical dancers, they lack a certain maturity. I try to pick music they can connect with," she says.

"When I first moved to New York, Wes Veldink's class became a huge influence," she says. Veldink, who often choreographed to alternative artists like Ani DiFranco, greatly challenged and inspired Webster's conventional interpretation of musicality. "Wes taught me to listen to music differently and to communicate parts of a song that I wasn't even hearing," she says. As a result, Webster says her style became more fluid and soulful, while avoiding what she calls "sexy jazz." "I want gender roles to be open in my movement, without oversexualizing the kids, and to come from a place of authenticity that enforces the foundations and history of jazz—isolations, footwork, rhythms and community."

Whether teaching teens, an open adult class at BDC, or at a Turn It Up Dance Challenge convention, Webster says she avoids going too commercial with her music choices. Though she's not afraid to play the occasional track from artists like Alicia Keys or Drake. "If you got a job dancing for a popular artist, do you know their music? I think it's important for dancers, and myself, to know what's relevant," says Webster, who never underestimates her students. Kids today are smart and they know music and how to freestyle on their own, she says. "If you give them the authentic material and a chance, they'll match you."

Four Tet - Planet www.youtube.com

Artist: Four Tet

Song: "Planet"

Album: New Energy

"This song reminds me of choreographic principles in musical form. The layers and repetition bring new ideas and then deconstructs them as it moves forward, altering rhythm and variation on a theme. It's beautiful, colorful and fun to move to."

The Paper Kites - Willow Tree March www.youtube.com

Artist: The Paper Kites

Song: "Willow Tree March"

Album: Woodland

"This song has so much power, it's hauntingly powerful. I love how open it is, and the lyrics are a reminder that time is important and how we spend it is what we leave behind."

RENT Full Soundtrack OBC www.youtube.com

Artist: Various Artists

Album: Rent (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

"This album gave me a lot of hope. From the music, the story, the characters, to the themes of inclusivity, representation and artists' passion. I recommend listening to the whole thing."

Alanis Morissette - IRONIC (MTV UNPLUGGED) www.youtube.com

Artist: Alanis Morissette

Album: MTV Unplugged

"I love her voice and songwriting—so poetic and raw. 'That I Would Be Good' is such a reminder to value ourselves, and that we all share insecurities and have hopes and dreams and experiences navigating through life."

Kidnap Kid - Moments (feat. Leo Stannard) www.youtube.com

Artist: Kidnap Kid (featuring Leo Stannard)

Song: "Moments"

"The lyrics 'I have to move to feel like me' is an anthem for what dance feels like to me. It's about the focus, the drive and moments in time to recognize your journey.
I love it!"

Getty Images

Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

Keep reading... Show less
Robbie Sweeny, courtesy Funsch

Christy Funsch's teaching career has taken her from New York City to the Bay Area to Portugal, with a stint in a punk band in between. But this fall—fresh off a Fulbright in Portugal at the Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa, School of Dance (ESD), teaching and researching empathetic embodiment through somatic dance training—Funsch's teaching has taken her to an entirely new location: Zoom. A visiting professor at Slippery Rock University for the 2020–21 academic year, Funsch is adapting her eclectic, boundary-pushing approach to her virtual classes.

Originally from central New York State, Funsch spent 20 years performing in the Bay Area, where she also started her own company, Funsch Dance Experience. "My choreographic work from that time is in the dance-theater experiential, fantasy realm of performance," she says. "I also started blending genres and a lot of urban styles found their way into my choreography."

Keep reading... Show less
Courtesy Meg Brooker

As the presidential election approaches, it's a particularly meaningful time to remember that we are celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, when women earned the right to vote after a decades-long battle.

Movement was more than a metaphor for the fight for women's suffrage—dancers played a real role, most notably Florence Fleming Noyes, who performed her riveting solo Dance of Freedom in 1914 to embody the struggle for women's rights.

This fall, Middle Tennessee State University director of dance Meg Brooker is reconstructing Dance of Freedom on 11 of her students. A Noyes Rhythm teacher and an Isadora Duncan scholar, Brooker is passionate about bringing historic dance practices into a contemporary context.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.