For Hip Hop Teacher Chaz Bodily, Creativity for Choreography Can Strike Unexpectedly

Bodily with his Center Stage Performing Arts Studio dancers at Nationals (here) and (at right) with his Creative Arts Academy students at a competition. Photo by Tisha Dayton, courtesy of Bodily

Chaz Bodily consistently creates hip-hop numbers that take top awards at some of the most prestigious conventions in the country. His work is equal parts innovative, entertaining and tasteful. The Utah-based choreographer splits his time between three highly competitive dance studios: Dance Impressions, Creative Arts Academy and Center Stage Performing Arts Studio.

It all begins with a concept, says Bodily, who trained in hip hop, ballroom, contemporary and ballet at Center Stage Performing Arts Studio. "Coming up with the story is the hardest part," he says. "I run seven or eight miles every day, and the entire time I'm just generating ideas." Once an idea comes to mind, he writes it down, then runs it by a trusted group of friends and fellow artists to gauge interest. "I can tell pretty quickly if something's going to work or not," he says.

Creativity can also strike at unexpected times. For example, the concept for a recent piece he created for Center Stage came to him while he was at home watching "The Dating Game" on television. "This guy came onto the show who was super-funny and cocky, and he immediately reminded me of one of my dancers," he says. "It was just too perfect. It gave me the vision for the whole thing." The piece that resulted is a humorous take on the show. "Hip hop doesn't have to be serious," he says. "It's one genre where you can be funny and make people laugh."

"I find my music by digging 40 layers deep into iTunes," he says. "I'll buy a song, and then Apple will recommend something else that I might like. It's like song Inception. By the time I'm 40 layers deep, I will find the perfect track that nobody has ever heard of before." With theme and song solidified, Bodily is ready to delve into the choreography. "I try not to make the movement too intricate," he says. "The dancers freak out over that kind of thing, but the audience (including the judges) just wants to have a good time and see the big moves they recognize from music videos."

One final word about age-appropriate concerns that come with the hip-hop territory: "You have to know the line because you are dealing with kids," he says. "I want my kids to feel confident, but they don't ever need to be inappropriate."

CLASSROOM RULES: "Don't have a bad attitude, and don't eat oranges in my classroom. They make me gag."

FAVORITE TEACHING TOOL: "I film my combos with a gimbal (basically a selfie stick) to make my students feel like they are being filmed professionally, and get used to dancing in front of a camera."

GO-TO BREAKFAST: "I have the same breakfast every day: a strawberry-banana smoothie, egg whites and a protein bar."

MUST-WATCH DANCE VIDEOS: "I highly recommend anything that Keone and Mari Madrid put on YouTube."

HIP-HOP WARM-UP: "I have a set warm-up that mainly focuses on getting the blood flowing—jumping jacks, push-ups and up-downs."

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