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Dance Teachers are always trying to get dancers to understand the importance of the core, spine and pelvis. Without proper fundamental association of anatomy, dancers at some point will become limited in terms of their progression and visceral body connection and awareness. The earlier we can engage dancers in recognizing the importance of anatomy in relation to how their bodies move, the better equipped they will be in terms of being kinesthetically and internally aware.

Below are some wonderful introductory exercises you can incorporate within your warm-ups to get your dancers on the path to discovering core strength and spine-pelvis alignment.

Good luck!

See you in the dance studio!


STANDING DEEP BREATHS: Deep breaths connecting the diaphragm to the back of the spine. Concentrate on the inhale/ exhale, rise and fall.  Activate the deep abdominal muscles moving on the exhale.


½ Roll-down & Roll- up of cervical spine- Standing. Dancers will activate the cervical spine and connect abdomen and breath. Cervical spine activates while rolling down ½ way for 4 counts and up for (4 counts of 8). Activates head-shoulders-upper spine.

Double time ½ Roll-ups-(2 counts of 8)

Full (floor) Roll-Up- Laying on back. Arms up over head. Roll up through the spine, engaging in the contraction and initiating from the abdomen and core. Shoulders down. Come up to sitting. Contract pelvis and roll back down to floor to repeat. Up for 4 counts, down for 4. (2 counts of 8) 

HEEL ROCKS: Laying on back with legs extended. Heels are grounded. Ankles engaged in flexion. Reiterate difference of point and flex and where the initiation is supposed to come from. Vary tempo. Dancers should feel sacrum-heel connection. (4 counts of 8)


 ½ Tilt- Tailbone up for 4 counts down for 4 counts. Keep lumbar region on the floor. Emphasize breathing and exhale on the release.  Slight contraction of the core and pelvis. (4 counts of 8.) Increase to double time (2 counts of 8)

Full Pelvic Tilt- Increase range of motion and fill out counts to lift lumbar and sacrum off the floor. Roll back down to neutral traveling through each vertebra until tailbone is last on the floor. Up for 4 counts of 8, down for 4. (2 counts of 8) Make sure breath is engaged. Release on the exhale.

SPINAL TWIST- Begin by sitting, feeling both sits-bones connected evenly to the ground. Place left leg over right. Inhale- raise right arm overhead. Have dancers feel the lift and space they are creating in between each vertebra, particularly from the sacrum all the way up. Exhale- slowly take your twist, right arm wrapping left leg. Have dancers continue to feel the lengthening and space vs. “crunching” of the spine, particularly in the lumbar region. Follow through with neck, head and focus to the back of the room, if feasible.

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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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