Technique Videos
Students Auryanna Ascue, left, and Anna Kelly Zielke, center, with teacher Deanna McBrearty. Photo by Hunter McRae

The soutenu is a basic step often used in choreography as a transition between turning sequences or before more virtuosic movements. In class, Deanna McBrearty concentrates on the step's coordination.

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Technique Videos

Here The Ailey School's Peter Brandenhoff teaches Bournonville style, marked by its use of épaulement and quick footwork. Brandenhoff explains that at the peak of the grand jeté, it should look as if the torso is sitting atop the legs, unaffected, and the narrow second position of the arms should be presentational—like you're "giving a little tray of petit fours to the teacher," he says.

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Technique Videos
Photo by Kyle Froman

The back is an essential focus of Cynthia Harvey's ballet classes, especially as a part of port de bras. Here, she offers "plain," en face port de bras, followed by the same position with épaulement, to show the difference the back (and head and neck) can add to any position. Aspirational imagery helps students find their best épaulement: "Feel as if you have a tiara on," says Harvey. "Don't look like a student—look like a ballerina."

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Technique Videos
Alonzo King LINES' LeeWei Chao with dancer Hayley Bowman. Photo by Chris Hardy

The piqué arabesque is a ballet staple that looks deceptively simple. At Alonzo King LINES Dance Center, LeeWei Chao uses the image of standing on the edge of a cliff to inspire correct alignment, emphasizing a strong supporting side so that dancers avoid tilting and dipping forward. "Your body energy goes up," he says. "Stay on that edge of the cliff. You sense the danger there, but that's the most beautiful moment."

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Technique Videos
Robin Dunn, right, and dancer Caleb Smith. Photo by Kyle Froman

Robin Dunn loves to teach the sexy walk in her beginner hip-hop classes, because it's a basic step, yet students can put their own mark on it. Two key things to remember: Maintain a light bounce and relax the upper body throughout. "Another key thing? Put your personality into it," says Dunn.

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Technique Videos
Photo by Kyle Froman

Stepping into arabesque from développé effacé is tricky, says Kelly Slough of Mark Morris Dance Center, because it involves "that moment of truth": changing weight from one leg to the other in one movement. To make that transition easier, Slough encourages dancers to complete the weight shift as quickly and confidently as possible­—as counterintuitive as that may seem. "Taking your back with you," as she calls it, means there's less of a chance you'll underestimate the required change of weight and fall backward from the arabesque.

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Technique Videos
Photo by Chris Hardy Photography

In Antoine Hunter's jazz class, students inevitably pick up sign language just by virtue of being his student. Though he doesn't typically incorporate ASL into his class combos, this dynamic phrase, which is one of his favorites, includes four signs: "heart," " re," "gone" and "deaf."

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Technique Videos
Photo by Kyle Froman

To a certain subset of the New York City dance community, Gail Accardi is known as the Body Whisperer. For her part, Accardi calls her work "creative physical problem solving." Whether she's leading her Anatomy Awareness class for dancers, substitute-teaching Simonson Technique, or working with a private client one-on-one, Accardi has a clear vision: "I want people to gain insight into and learn to celebrate their individual structures," she says. "When I was young, a teacher referred to my weak arches as a horrible defect! I never want a student to experience that. When it comes to anatomical variations, this is who you are, so let's figure out how to work with it."

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Technique Videos
Sprague and her student Katelyn Barber at the Carolina Volleyball Center in South Carolina. Photo by Brennan Booker

It's nearing 5 pm on a Sunday in February, and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" reverberates through University of South Carolina's volleyball gym, where the Carolina Girls dance team is rehearsing a Nationals routine. What's most striking isn't the dancers' radiating energy or the team's precise unanimity. Instead, it's the complexity of the choreography—the weaving formations, transitions, level changes, directional shifts and moments of partnering—that seems out of place on center court. It's a scene that would make more sense in front of a mirror (not bleachers) and on marley (not wood). Yet the 28 collegiate dancers, clad in well-worn jazz shoes and official Under Armour team apparel, look right at home, happily working out the kinks in each phrase and troubleshooting lifts.

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Technique Videos
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.

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Technique Videos
Photo by Kyle Froman

When Martine van Hamel burst onto the New York dance scene in the 1970s as a ballerina with American Ballet Theatre, she was a bit of an anomaly. At 5' 7", she was taller than most ballerinas at the time, but what really made her shine—in a company already filled with stars like Gelsey Kirkland and Natalia Makarova—was her immaculate technique, poignant interpretations of dramatic roles and extreme stylistic range. She could embody the fragile Odette in Swan Lake as convincingly as the sultry female lead of Twyla Tharp's Push Comes to Shove, a role created specifically for her. Her ascendance was astronomical: After just one year in the corps, she was promoted to soloist. Two years later, after a particularly brilliant performance of Swan Lake, she was promoted to principal.

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Technique Videos
Many breaking moves require the upper body to bear weight. Photo by Kyle Froman

Pavan Thimmaiah casually hovers in a freeze, his weight between his head and hands on the floor, legs extending out on an upward diagonal. From this topsy-turvy position, he encourages his students to try this breaking staple. “Take a picture and make it your Facebook profile," he jokes.

Self-taught Thimmaiah founded PMT Dance Studio in New York City in 2001 to teach breaking in a classroom setting to students of all different backgrounds, levels and ages. By focusing on safe technique and catering to his students' diverse skill levels, he's built a loyal following of teen and adult b-boys and girls in his Breakin' 101 for Beginners class. “I think a lot of times in breaking classes, teachers want to fly around and show what they can do," he says. “I want to show the students what they can do."

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Technique Videos
Photo by Kyle Froman

With serpentine fluidity, Nijawwon Matthews gives his intermediate contemporary jazz class at New York City's Broadway Dance Center a rundown of his warm-up sequence. His spinal undulations, spider-like finger articulations and seemingly infinite wingspan transform a relatively standard array of pliés, roll-downs, head rolls and stretches into something soulful. "Warming up is like being in a meditative state of mind," he says. "You're working from an internal place out to the external."

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