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With spring in full bloom, there is no better time to change things up a bit and introduce the magic of site-specific dance to your students. The genre, made popular by modern based choreographic pioneers including Trisha Brown, Anna Halprin, Mark Dendy, Joanna Haigood, etc., has escalated in popularity with many contemporary companies and choreographers working primarily in the site-specific arena.

While works are often stimulated for choreographers by a specific site, its internal connection to the environment, architecture, historical, artistic, political messages, etc., usually has an underlying message and meaning as well. Not often of common practice in the private studio sector, site specific work is often viewed as unconventional by the mainstream and probably not practical for day to day use. However, introducing your students on occasion to this genre of dance can break the monotony of things a bit and get your dancers in touch with a freedom and artistic release that can spark creativity and new range of movement.

To adapt this to your own studio and dance class, think about sites in your town that would be a great starting off point. Also remember that site specific work is a fantastic way to involve the community and share the love of dance for free by any and all. It will also add another element of that something different to shake up the usual weekly dance class.

Most easily adapted into the modern genre, I like to use improvisation scores with dancers in a site specific location, so they are creating free, organic movement. Also, you can give choreography assignments where dancers can become inspired by the site and their surroundings. How about rehearsing a piece you’ve already been working on and see how it translates in a space other than a studio or stage? Or, how about doing your floor or center warm-up outside? This is just a jumping off point to inspire some thought of where you could go with it, but with a little creativity and a break from the norm you’d be surprised how the beauty of a new environment can take you and your dancers into another realm of artistry. Expecting the unexpected can create wonders with just a little change of scenery!

Some possible site-specific location in your community to consider! (* note some may require permission of admittance to be approved beforehand)

·         The Park

·         The Playground

·         The Beach

·         Outside a school

·         Art Gallery

·         Amusement Park

·         Outside a theater

·         Parking Lot

·         Library

·         Local Business

·         Nursing Home

·         Shopping Mall

·         Near an art sculpture, fountain, etc.

For some further reading on site-specific dance try these great resources too!

Site Dance: Choreographers and the Lure of Alternative Spaces. Edited by Melanie Kloetzel & Carolyn Pavlik

Site-Specific Performance by Mike Pearson

Anna Halprin: Experience as Dance by Janice Ross


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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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