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Dance Teachers

The holidays are quickly approaching and it’s the perfect time to take pause with young dancers and give thanks for all that we are afforded. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how truly lucky we are when life gets busy, so… taking a moment to reflect and remember is important. What better way than to instill a tradition with students and spread kindness throughout your studio. Not only will it evoke the feeling of gratitude and joy, but it also serves as team building exercises, camaraderie and studio spirit.

Below are some of my favorite ideas we have done over the years as a festive way to kick off the holiday season.

#1 Choreography Focus: “Giving Thanks”:  Create an informal choreography night for your studio families with works developed by your young choreographers. Give them the theme of “Giving Thanks,” “Thankful,” etc, and let them run with their creativity with solo works, duets and group numbers. Have the performance right before Thanksgiving or Holiday break and it’s a wonderful way to kick off the season with the innovations and interpretations of your students.

#2 The “Thankful Wall”: Create a large bulletin board at your studio. Give dancers different color post-it notes in class and ask them to write something they are thankful for. Post the notes on the lead up to Thanksgiving and the Holiday season and parents and peers can stop and read all the wonderful things each dancer is giving thanks for.

#3 Choose a charity: Have a studio vote on a different charity each holiday season. Work together on fundraising ideas and options to make collections and donations up until the New Year. This can be in the form of collecting money, sending cards and letters to our service men and women, collecting can goods and nonperishables, toiletry items, well preserved dance costumes, winter coats, hats and gloves drive, book drive, baby and new mother essentials, etc.

Photo below is one of our "Thankful Wall" boards

Have a Happy & Healthy Thanksgiving & Holiday Season!


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Jessica Rizzo Stafford

Jessica Rizzo Stafford

Jessica Rizzo Stafford is a native New Yorker and graduate of NYU Steinhardt's Dance Education Master’s Program; with a PK-12 New York State Teaching Certification. Her double-concentration Master’s Degree includes PK-12 pedagogy and dance education within the higher-education discipline. She also holds a BFA in dance performance from the UMASS Amherst 5 College Dance Program where she was a Chancellor's Talent Award recipient. Jess now works extensively with children, adolescents and professionals as choreographer and teacher and conducts national and international master-classes specializing in the genres of modern, contemporary, musical theatre and choreography-composition. Jess’ national and international performance career includes works such as: The National Tour of Guys & Dolls, The European Tour of Grease, West Side Story, Cabaret, Sweet Charity, Salute to Dudley Moore at Carnegie Hall, guest-dancer with the World Famous Pontani Sisters and IMPULSE Modern Dance Company. Jess has been a faculty member for the Perichild Program & Peridance Youth Ensemble & taught contemporary and jazz at the historic New Dance Group and 92nd Street Y in NYC. She was Company Director at the historic Steffi Nossen School of Dance/Dance in Education Fund and in 2008 traveled to Uganda where she taught creative-movement to misplaced children. The experience culminated with Jess being selected as a featured instructor at the Queen's Kampala Ballet & Modern Dance School. She has conducted workshops for the cast of LA REVE at the Wynn, Las Vegas and recently taught at the 2011 IDS International Dance Teacher Conference at The Royal Ballet in London, UK. She is also on faculty for the annual Dance Teacher Web Conferences in Las Vegas, NV. Currently, Jess is a faculty member at the D'Valda & Sirico Dance & Music Centre and master teacher & adjudicator for various national and international dance competitions. Recently, she has finished her NYU Master’s thesis research on the choreographic process of technically advanced adolescent dancers and is the creator of “PROJECT C;” a choreography-composition curriculum for the private studio sector. Jess is also faculty member, contributing writer and presenter in the choreography and “how to” teaching segments on the celebrated For more info, visit her website at

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