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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."

The Conversation
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Photo by Quinn Wharton, courtesy of Forance

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Sponsored by Dance Teacher Web
Courtesy Dance Teacher Web

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At Dance Teacher Web's Conference and Expo, attendees will spend July 29–August 1 in Las Vegas, Nevada learning everything from new teaching methods to studio management software. And as if the dance and business seminars weren't enough, participants can also choose from three certifications to earn during the conference to help expand their expertise, generate new revenue and set their studios apart:

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Dance Teacher 2014 K–12 public-school education award recipient, Joan Sheary, is starring in a new documentary, Toe the Line: Arts Education for Life. The film, which is currently wrapping 10 years of filming, follows a group of high school students as they participate in a public arts magnet middle school program in Worcester, Massachusetts, under the direction of dance teacher and former Rockette, Sheary.

Through the eyes of the students, the audience has the opportunity to see the value of arts education in action. The film shows students as they navigate daily practice, grueling workouts, competition, bullying, peer pressure and complex home dynamics, all culminating in the school's year-end performances.

"We have filmed for a total of 450 hours over a 10-year period," director Barbara Copithorne says. "The result is Toe the Line: Arts Education for Life—a 76-minute documentary about Joan Sheary, the origin and breadth of the program she created, the students' lives she's touched and a city that supports the arts."

As the film creeps toward festival submissions, the creators are reaching out to the dance community to raise funds for its release. You can contribute here.

Sheary's success as a teacher was celebrated at our yearly Dance Teacher Award presentation in 2014. To participate in this year's DT Awards, join us at The Dance Teacher Summit in Long Beach, California. Follow the link to get more information on registration, class schedules and events.

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Photo by Julianna D. Photography, courtesy of Abreu

Although Rudy Abreu is currently JLo's backup dancer and an award-winning choreographer—his piece "Pray" tied for second runner-up at the 2018 Capezio A.C.E. Awards, and a variation of the piece made it to the finals on NBC's "World of Dance"—he still finds time to teach. Especially about how he hears music.

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Q: Our dancers' parents want to observe class, but students won't focus if I let them in the room. I've tried having them observe the last 10 minutes of class, but even that can be disruptive and bring the dancers' progress to a halt. Do you have any advice on how to handle this?

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James Payne, director of The School of Pennsylvania Ballet, starts class each day by asking students how they feel. "If they're collectively hurting, and I know that the day before they were working hard on something new, I might lessen the intensity of the class," he says. "I won't slow it down, though. Sometimes it's better to move through the aches and get to the other side."

A productive class depends, in part, on how well it is paced. If you move too slow, you risk losing students' interest and creating unwanted heaviness. Move too fast and dancers might not fully benefit from combinations or get sufficiently warm, increasing their risk of injury. But even these guidelines may differ depending on the students' age and level. Good pacing is a delicate balance that can facilitate mental and physical growth, but it requires good planning, close observation and the ability to adapt mid-class.

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Studio Owners
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Running your own studio often comes with a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality. After all, you're the one who teaches class, creates choreography, collects tuition, plans a recital, calls parents, answers e-mails, orders costumes—plus a host of other tasks, some of which you probably don't even think about. But what if you had someone to help you, someone who could take certain routine or clerical tasks off your hands, freeing you up to focus on what you love?

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Derek and Julianne Hough via @juleshough on Instagram

Here at Dance Teacher, we LOVE a talented dance family. Something about parents and siblings passing their passion for dance down to those who come after them just warms our hearts.

While there are many sets of talented siblings across all genres of dance, ballroom seems to be particularly booming with them.

Don't believe us? Check out these four sets of ballrooms siblings we can't take our eyes off of. Their parents have raised them right!

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This weekend, Roxey Ballet presented a sensory-friendly production of Cinderella at the Kendell Main Stage Theater in Ewing, New Jersey, with sound adjustments, a relaxed house environment and volunteers present to assist audience members with special needs. The production came on the heels of three educational residencies held at New Jersey–based elementary schools in honor of Autism Awareness Month in April.

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