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You’ve asked and we’re here to help! I’m sharing a sampling of my beginner modern lesson plan for those of you that are interested in adding modern technique to your curriculum. Remember, this is a template to get your started where you can add progressions, make edits and infuse the lesson plan with your own ideas and creative inspirations.

Center Warmup:

C-Curve Roll Downs: Standing in parallel first, body in alignment. Leading with the top of the head. Roll down for 8 counts. Slowly plie at base of the spine and roll up. Repeat three times. Walk out to plank on last one. Hold 15-30 seconds. Push back to downward dog. Hold stretch 30 seconds-one minute. Come to seated neutral position with legs folded in front of you.

Seated C-Curve Roll Downs and Seated Contractions: Repeat same roll-down stretch extending into a flat back stretch for 8 counts. Reverse. Repeat three times. Once in lengthened neutral transition into 4, two count contractions using just pelvis and center. Arms are neutral. Make sure to incorporate the breath and exhale with each contraction. Repeat four times.

Seated Spirals: Transition your contractions into four spirals going right and left. Ensuring that dancer “lifts before the twist,” with palms extended. Take four counts in each direction. Repeat each side four times.

Floor Stretch: Finish the last spiral and take it to a roll down to lay on the floor in a “lateral T” position. Stretch the left leg over the right and twist gently to stretch out the back. Hold one minute. Repeat other side.

Plies: Beginning in parallel. Add a center swing with a demi plie and lift/suspend. Repeat four times. Change position to turned out first, second, fifth or third. Continue with gentle plie- relevés in parallel and balance with arms in 5th.

Tendus: Begin with pedals of the feet to stretch out. Two slow counts of eight. Repeat double time. Started in parallel with arms extended in 2nd, palms facing audience. Slow tendus in front, side, back and side. Plie in between sides. Repeat on the left. Repeat same exercise with degagés. Incorporate another swing series or stretch and hold balance in parallel passé or extended leg to front arabesque. Alternate pointed and flexed feet in the extension.


Across the Floor:

Prances: Begin across the floor, keeping the prances small and underneath one self. Thinking of accenting the “down beat” or the plie.  Progress to making them a little bigger until they are Taylor runs in plie. For a challenge: Go backwards or change in quarter turns every four.

Triplets: Basic triplet across the floor from “high to low,” brushing the floor, using breath in the rise and fall. For progression: perform two forward traveling and then change direction traveling backwards.

Chasse Swings: Arms circle over the head in the direction you are going with a deep plie chasse in second position. For progression: Add a low leg extending off the floor, turned out and stretched. Repeat left side.

Sparkle Jumps: Pushing off the floor in a sauté with leg extended to back, arms stretch while hands and fingers burst open or “sparkle,” as the dancer jumps sending the weight forward in a travel.

Rolls to the floor: Have dancer try stepping into the roll to the floor to come to standing to understand direction they are going across the floor. Once they are familiar with that add a chainé to lead into the roll to floor, thereby introducing level changes.

Tuck/Contracted jumps: Have dancer perform a pedestrian run or a chasse into a contracted tuck jump with either bottom leg bent or extended. Repeat by switching sides across the floor.


Center Combo: Combine elements from the lesson and build into a center combo…

i.e. triplet right, triplet left, chainé, roll to standing.  Triplet right, trip left, chasse swing.


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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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