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Dance Teachers

As teachers and choreographers, our students look to us as the beacon of creativity. Our dancers eagerly await the delivery of new pieces, concepts, movement and music. It is a very exciting time of the year for them when they anticipate where they will stand in formation, whether they will have a featured part, how the choreography will look and feel on their body, whether they will be chosen to partner and how the overall vision will take shape.

What happens though when this role model of inspiration is uninspired?

What do we do when the ideas are not flowing, the choreography is stuck and there is no end in sight? This kind of “writer’s block” for choreographers can be frustrating and the vicious cycle stemmed from trying to force something only makes it worse. The addition of multiple numbers, deadlines and set rehearsal schedules can also exacerbate the issue. So what can we do? The first thing is to remember you are not a machine. While we all experience the pressure of wanting to produce beautiful and entertaining numbers, you are not a choreography factory.

Remember YOU are a dancer and artist first. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in being the teacher we forget who we are; and that must take precedence otherwise there’s nowhere to go from there.

Also remember, the more you try to force something, the more resistant it’s going to be. So, while the anxiety might be mounting in terms of getting to it, sometimes it’s best to walk away for a bit and let it manifest on its own. Leaving things for a couple of days is not going to make or break you so, let things permeate for a bit and watch how things come to you when you least expect it.

Try things that are relaxing and stimulating to you that might cause an unexpected inspiration.

These are some of my favorites:

Take a walk in the park. Read a favorite book.   Catch a classic movie at the theater. Go see a dance performance. Take class.  Write in a journal. Listen to a new genre of music you wouldn’t normally listen to. Paint or draw. Visit a museum. Read the newspaper. People watch at a café. Look at wonderful works of architecture. Disconnect from technology and meditate. Dialogue with fellow artists. Improv in the studio.

The point of all the above is to go back to basics. Remember the things you love to do, simply because you love to do them and let inspiration come to you. It never works the other way around! Also, don’t be afraid to look to the dancers whom you currently have. Sometimes the best inspiration comes from watching them, identifying what their strengths are individually and as a group and what their performance abilities are. Sometimes the most incredible inspirations and ideas are literally right under our nose!

Good luck!

See you in the dance studio,


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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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