Teaching Tips

Use These 3 Musical Tricks to Combat Dancers Holding Tension

Ailey School co-director Tracy Inman with students from the Professional Division. Photo by Eduardo Patino, courtesy of The Ailey School

Are you students stressed in class? Mixing up your music choices might help.

1. Alternate the kind of music you use in class. "I have a percussionist one day and a pianist the next," says Tracy Inman, co-director of The Ailey School in New York City. "The way students interpret what they're hearing makes a difference in terms of how they carry tension in their body."

2. Have students envision each phrase of music as a breath. "Where you breathe, and how much air you can take in at a particular time, will show you that the music is not a flat line," says Inman. "Dancing should be nuanced like the music."

3. Play with rhythms. "Prioritize getting rhythm in students' feet first, and then you'll see similar play in the arms, ribs, head and neck," says Erinn Liebhard, a teaching artist in the Minneapolis area. "The rhythm should communicate itself in a way that's relaxed, tension-free and musical."

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