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Dancers are often known for their strong, flexible, powerful legs. They are one of our most vital instruments. And while flexibility is often given great attention to, we must help our dance students balance that with strengthening exercises as well. Below is one of my favorite floor sequences which I use with my intermediate- advanced students. Try modifying for beginner students by shortening the sequence and isolating one exercise at a time to achieve proper form and alignment.
All exercises below occur laying on your back. Begin with 10 repetitions.

Have dancers lay on their back, legs extended, arms out in a T position.
Check for proper alignment before beginning. Core engages, lower back into the floor.

Pilates double knee tugs - begin with right leg. Lift head off the floor. Bring right knee into chest and extend left out in front of you (off the floor.) Tug twice and change sides.
Pilates scissors- straighten and extend leg, holding behind the hamstring or calf, bringing leg toward the body and switch or “scissor” to other side.
Pilates leg circles- still remaining on your back- small circles with the right leg clockwise and then counter clockwise (progression -repeat with bigger circles)

4 Count Battements off the floor. “Lift, 2,3,4. Lower, 2,3,4....”)
Repeat in turned out attitude position.
(Note-  descending leg never touches the floor and hovers 1 to 2 inches above it.)
Double pulses- flex the right foot and pulse the leg as it hovers a couple inches above the floor.

Rondejambe- clockwise and counterclockwise
(Note- Make sure the dancers are able to maintain proper back and hip alignment of the ‘standing’ leg, supporting with the core. To modify, shorten the range of motion on the ronde jambe to maintain proper alignment

Cut right leg across to left side of the body and swing outward into second position.

Supine stretch- right over left
Repeat left side.


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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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