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The basics aren’t so basic anymore. Somewhere along the line, many young dancers have been showcasing a lack of knowledge for the fundamentals to which many other building blocks are added upon. The importance of this is a dwindling concept and though generalized for the purpose of this blog, I’m sure it carries across to all genres of dance, Western rooted and otherwise.

So where have the basics gone? Why is it young dancers don’t know how to do a pas de boureè or know how many steps it involves? Why aren’t dancers prepping properly for pirouettes or know the difference between an en dehors or en dedans turn or a turned out preparation vs a parallel jazz turn? Why don’t dancers know how to chassé? Why can’t they pivot? Why don’t they know where a contraction comes from? Why don’t they understand port de bras placement? Why don’t they plié out of a leap and toe-ball-heel through the foot?

My guess is we need to be prioritizing and teaching a bit more sequentially. To layer and build our lessons. Many dancers right now want the tricks, the flash, to turn fifty times and do tilts, to leap and I get that- I do. But if we as teachers don’t teach the basics, what we wind up with is poor technique, recurring injuries and uninformed dancers. I say this because the basics don’t or shouldn’t just pertain to the physical steps. Are we teaching our dancers the why’s, where’s and how’s? Are we discussing where the style and step comes from- its lineage, its purpose, the mechanics, it’s historical significance…. These are all things that lend itself to fully understanding not only “simple” steps or concepts but the context to which they are executing. It creates a connection between the body and mind.

So while breezing by the notion that, sissonè goes from two-one foot, we are short changing our students the deserved education from doing things with detail and thoughtfulness. The basics are the basics for a reason. They set the foundation. And we all know what happens in any capacity when a foundation isn’t solid! So, take your time with it. It may feel tedious at the time for your dancers, but it’s important and crucial to their dance training. They’ll appreciate it later on when they can not only execute those multiple turns but can do them properly and efficiently.
Food for thought!!
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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