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One of the most wonderful things about our job is the ability to create and be inventive with movement. When we see our dancers bring our vision to life, it is like art being played out right in front of us and it can be some of the most exciting times in the studio. However, at other times we are under the pressure to create multiple works in a short amount of time and it is possible that at some point our works may all start to blend to together and start to look alike. It can be frustrating when the “well has run dry,” and we are reaching for new ideas. Sometimes simply going back to the basic choreographic tools we’ve learned in composition class can change the entire scope of a piece and turn it into something completely reinvented and rejuvenated. When you actually think about all the devices we have in regards to manipulating movement, you will quickly find that there is an entire arsenal of ideas yet to be discovered with basic phrases, good technique and performance nuances.

Here are a few of my favorite which can help get you started and flip your thinking to spark some new ideas. They can be used as a jumping off point for your own creativity and will serve as a great companion when you’re under the wire to create multiple masterpieces!

Good luck and happy creating!

See you in the dance studio,


BASIC FORM: When looking at basic form, keep it simple for beginner students and add more complicated variables for more advanced dancers to include ideas like:

Incorporate a clear beginning-middle-end





Changing Sequence

Multiple Transitions


BASIC CHOREOGRAPHIC STRUCTURE: Along with form, comes the structure of the piece. Once you have gotten to the point of linking phrases and developing them into a full length work, think about the structure in which those phrases will have.

·         AB Form: (i.e. a theme & a contrasting theme)

ABA Form (i.e. a theme, a contrasting theme, return to original theme)

Rondo: ABACADA (basic theme A’ keeps returning)

Theme & Variation (internal sequence remains constant)



BASIC CHOREOGRAPHIC DEVICES & PHRASE MANIPULATION: Choreographic devices are perhaps the most powerful tools a choreographer can use to create the dimension, texture, levels and look of a piece. Since the possibilities are endless in terms of how movement can be manipulated, play with each of the following to give dimension and varied dynamics to your choreography.




Size: Condense/Expand



Effort Qualities

Body Part Initiation (“Instrumentation”)





Changing Planes/Levels


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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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