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Dance Teachers

We all love when our students excel and have a stellar performance year. A year where we see the student blossom and have that “A-HA” moment when everything starts to click for them in class. It’s wonderful to see their hard work pay off as well as our own and is the moment every teacher waits for. However, what happens when those students come back to class and are getting, shall we say, a little “overly confident?”

You might have noticed this behavior as well, you know, where the ego is a little too inflated, the dancer starts to think they are a little better than they actually are because they’ve received some accolades and praise and they even get so bold as to interrupt and start correcting you in class or questioning your methods or choreographic choices? Or you may have experienced it where they possibly even blurt out unsolicited suggestions or corrections in class? Yep…I’m sure you all have seen it once or twice, and let’s be honest…it can be infuriating and extremely disrespectful.

While some dancers with the large ego seem to test the waters every once and again, it’s important for teachers to remember there is a fine line and balance we have to maintain. We have to keep our cool, not let it phase us or take it personally. While we don’t want to stifle their achievement, we also want to remind them they can’t ride on their glory…they must continue to work hard and fly right. As we already know as professionals, you’re only as good as your last gig! But, we are dealing with tender ages here, so there is a delicate approach that needs to be taken. However, when this behavior starts to get out of line, we must authoritatively make it known that this behavior is unacceptable. Whether this be with a private chat after class or meeting with student and parent, nipping it in the bud and giving the student a chance to become aware of their actions first is important. Remind dancers that humility and grace are necessary qualities for any great professional. In order for people to want to work with them, they require a good reputation, are open to learning and be someone people actually enjoy working with.

These lessons can and should start in the home-studio where it’s a safe environment to endure these growing pains, make some mistakes and learn from them before heading out into the big world. All taught with love and in their very best interest as a dancer and a human being.


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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