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Progress is an evolution. Like evolution, it takes time to develop, morph, transition, transform and grow. It might be a harder concept to parlay for students these days with instant gratification being so readily accessible at one’s finger tips. But, true progress and development doesn’t happen overnight. Not even over two or three nights. It not only takes work, it takes patience, commitment, sometimes thick-skin and a realization that what we consider “failures” are really part of the necessary stepping stones to move on to the next level.

This is not an easy concept to grasp, even for adults. If we have a dancer who is super ambitious and just wants to keep climbing, it can take time to understand that progress is not a straight vertical climb. With it, comes repeated plateaus, peaks and valleys. And truthfully, it can be frustrating the older we get and the more we know. It can be discouraging when we have to keep reminding ourselves to stay positive and keep looking forward when we desperately want to advance. But, this, is so essential a lesson. When dancers are younger, progress can sometimes occur quicker as they learn the basics.

When they are older, more advanced and understand more, the progress can sometimes slow down for a brief period. They know more of the basics, so now learning the nuances, the stylistic details and the complex intricacies of dance become lessons which, take longer. It’s not only about positions and steps, it’s about body awareness, spatial awareness, self-correction, thought provoking choreographic concepts and movement, understanding how the mechanics of their own bodies work best, how to navigate dancing alongside others and one of the biggest ones- knowing to stay in your lane and not get sidetracked or discouraged about other people’s progress or speed of it.

An even deeper understanding recognizes that even those plateaus that feel static, aren’t. There is still progress within that felt “stillness” and how a dancer moves through it to the next peak is where true accomplishment is felt.

So, remind your dancers that time and patience do wonders. Anything worth having is worth working for and waiting for. They may not fully realize it now. But they will look back and get it.  The truth is, the journey and progress never end. That’s how we continue to grow and learn as artists. Take your time. Enjoy the process of progress. It’s not always about the end result and the biggest lessons occur on the way up.

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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