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Rehearsal time is precious for every choreographer. Nothing is worse than walking out of a weekend rehearsal only to feel like you’ve accomplished nothing and wasted everyone’s time. If your process is to choreograph in-studio and the day doesn’t go the way you’d hoped or inspiration just wasn't flowing - no stress. It happens to the best of us, but going into the studio with a strategy will help you feel more accomplished and motivate your students to be alert and ready to work. 

Have an outline. Again, if you are a choreographer who likes to set movement in the moment on your dancers, fantastic! But have an outline ready to go of what you’d like to set. This can include things like- number of phrases in a particular section, parings or groupings of dancers, a specific time stamp of music, the beginning, middle or end, an improvisation exercise, etc. While you may not walk away with it completed, if enough of a shell is in place, you’ll feel the rehearsal was effective.

Discuss your intention: Before rehearsals begin, it’s always nice to have a little group session to chat with your dancers and let them know what you’re thinking for the day’s events. If you’re at the start of the process, explaining your vision of the piece, what it’s about, your inspiration, music, etc. are always things that get dancers excited to jump in. If you’re further along in the process, giving them an idea of your expectations will get everyone on the same page right from the start of the day.

Think outside of the box: Try things you’ve never attempted and see what surfaces. Rehearsals are like big, creative lab experiments, so allow some time to “play” and see what evolves. Whether that be with actual movement or transitions, formations, etc., having your dancers in front of you is a wonderful time to explore and seeing what you come up with together. 

What’s your Plan B? Don’t allow yourself to get stuck on a section if it’s just not coming to you that day. It’s hard to do when we have a goal in mind to finish, but sometimes changing gears and working on another section gives you enough breathing room to come back to it with fresh eyes. When you outline, always have more than you need for the day in case you do need to swing a hard left.

Clean with detail: Think about what your cleaning process is. Do you like to clean as you go or do you like to choreograph all in one go and then go back and clean? Or is it a little bit of both? If your rehearsal is solely a cleaning rehearsal, take your notes and think about each section. Sometimes looking at things little by little is less overwhelming that trying to look at the whole, big picture. Some choreographers even like to clean out of order, so play around with what your cleaning style is and what works best for your dancers to retain. 

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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