Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly.







I am the first person to barrel through pain, injury, etc. For good or bad, it’s in my nature, it’s how I was trained as a young dancer. It’s what I have always done throughout my career and was just common practice during my generation. And, there is merit in teaching young dancers to know what injuries and situations they can work through safely, what modifications they can make and how to keep going. But, it is a fine line as to what is healthy and unhealthy practice and we need to help our dancers understand the difference.

When my dancers are sick, injured or just feeling, “off,” I always ask them to be honest with themselves and me about what they can safely work through and what they really feel they can’t. We dialogue about it. At this stage of my teaching career (and perhaps becoming a Mom has also altered my perception) it has me begging the question, “When is pushing though a good thing and when is it a detriment?” When does it give our young dancers the wrong message that we have to endure pain, illness, mental health issues, anxiety, etc. in order to not miss class or performance? How do we temper the idea of, “rallying ourselves” when necessary with being mindful enough to honor one’s body and mental state and not feel bad to back off and just say, ”No?”

The more this issue presents itself, the more important it is as educators to be aware of how unhealthy “barreling through” can potentially be. Especially, when the idea is tethered to a child’s own ideas of disappointment. Disappointing us as teachers, parents, themselves, their fellow dancers, etc. “Pushing through” can often and understandingly be confused with strength and weakness and we need to be very careful of the narrative on this. Are they doing it for themselves or is this about you? How do we make sure dancers understand the difference of when pushing through is good and when it’s not?
Well, for one, it should always be accompanied with honest, open discussions involving students, studio owner, faculty and parents and reminding dancers they are not disappointing anyone if something is going on and they can’t perform. Is it really worth a competition trophy to have a young dancer barrel through with the flu or a sprained ankle, or mental health issue? I can’t answer this for you, but I do know our individual responsibility is to put our students’ well-being first. It is also our responsibility to be mindful and aware enough to make sure we do not convey disappointment to impressionable young dancers; thereby placing unnecessary pressure on them to succeed when they’re not 100%. Remember, there is always a way to, “make it work” and while it may cause some stress, it’s just as easy to re-stage a piece for a missing dancer as it is for them to take the stage with injury.

Sometimes we do need to make the final, unfavorable call to take a dancer out when we know it’s best for them because they won’t do it for themselves. And that’s our job. Just as much as teaching the steps and also pushing them beyond their comfort zone when we recognize there is more to give. It is a very delicate area for sure, with a lot of gray areas, but whatever your take is on this topic, there’s one thing we can all agree on- stop and ask yourself, “What is in the best interest of your dancer?” Physically, mentally, spiritually, etc. You wouldn’t send your severely sick or injured child to school, so why should dance be any different? Let’s, “push” our dancers in the most positive, uplifting way and commit to honor them as individuals who should more so be taught how to make important decisions about themselves which are healthy, honest and right for them. That is going to nurture strong, confident dancers that know their bodies and minds inside and out. Isn’t that all we want for them anyway?

Good luck,

See you in the dance studio,


Join our Community of Dance Educators By CLICKING HERE

Get instant access to 1000+ videos including full length master classes, "How To" teacher training tips, Choreography with break downs and 100's of lesson plans and teacher enhancement articles

We offer dance studio owners the ultimate toolkit with business building articles, videos and downloadable forms. Topics include help with marketing, increasing revenue and improving communication.

Our Studio Owners VIP consulting services offer one-on-one coaching for a more hands on approach to your business development. Inspiration is only a click away!





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

1580 Post Road Fairfield, CT © Copyright 2022 by