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There’s a difference between, “knowing” something and “mastering” it. A lot of times young dance students are not aware of this distinction. Dance teachers aim to challenge their dancers to develop and the more practice and effort put in, the closer to mastery we get. Whether we truly master anything is subjective, but the more we do- the more we grow.
So, what is the difference? Well, a dancer can say for example they, ‘know how to do a pirouette.’ But, can they master the turn? To know a skill, to a certain extent, is more generalized. Maybe they can execute it with some consistency, but mastering a skill is a deeper level of understanding. Mastering a skill takes consistent effort and desire to understand the how’s and why’s. It’s wanting to take the time to repeat that step over and over again until it’s not only muscle memory but is executed as close to perfect as one can get. It’s understanding all that the skill entails-the preparation, the transition, the timing, the landing, the somatic nuances, body placement, alignment, weigh distribution, the dynamics, the cause and effect, etc., etc. This takes time, practice and patience. It also takes a really attuned dance teacher to train and educate dancers in this way. The result? A long lasting comprehension of technique, study of movement and skill that dancers can apply and carry with them forever. This will coincide with a strong foundation with which to continue building upon as a dancer develops, grows and matures.

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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