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The Award Winning Formula


Teacher article



 Throughout the years we have developed the reputation of creating unique and interesting choreography that has been recognized with various awards and overall high scores. After having talked to many teachers at seminars, workshops and training schools, many of them have wanted to know what our formula for success is. The funny thing is, we really are not a so called "competition school" that does a lot of pieces or competitions throughout the year. We do two or three competitions at the most a year and we usually do not enter any more than twenty five numbers. Not that there is anything wrong with being a studio that does a lot of competition, if that is your focus. We have seen many great schools that have had a lot of terrific, entertaining and different numbers and who are doing ten or more competitions a year.

 One thing that we have noticed over the years is that many competition numbers are repetitious and so we have always coached other teachers to try to be out of the ordinary. There is always a trend in dance and many will follow that trend. Some will have success with it and some will not. We have always tried to find what it is that we like and what we want to create. We have stayed, for the most part, away from what everyone else is doing even if what they are doing is great.

One thing I would like to stress is that all teachers have it in them to create a unique piece that has their own style and flavor to it. I know some times we all feel a bit stuck in a rut and when that happens I find that the best place to start is to listen to as much new music as possible. Try the world music section, blues or whatever else turns you on. It may be that you are surprised by a selection of music that you may have never thought you would have been inspired by.

Once you have the music in place, you can start to build the concept, choreography and costuming. But that is not the only way to start. You may see the most ordinary everyday thing that in some way inspires you and you may not even know why. I recommend that you keep with you at all times a little note book so you can write down these moments of inspiration or you may forget them! Angela and I once created a number called "Weight of the World" that was a senior duet. It all started with seeing a statue of Atlas in New York near Radio City Music Hall. We were inspired to do a piece that featured a lot of partner work, which is one of our specialties, because we were an adagio team. In this instance the concept, costuming, choreography came first. Later on we found the music to fit the idea. The guy was Atlas and the girl was costumed as the world. The piece opened with her in a ball between his shoulders and him staggering onto the stage, carrying her. It was very well received and they scored high marks in the competitions we entered.

As a judge for over twenty years I have seen just about everything! One piece of information I can give you is that from what I have heard from many judges they don't want to see the same thing done over and over again, even if it is great. This is where I believe many studios have a bit of a dilemma. One thing the competitions don't want you to know is that the more numbers you do of like content and style the less chance you have of being successful. When judges see something for the first time it is new and entertaining and it has that "wow" factor. By the third and fourth time it loses its impact. This is a tricky situation if you do a lot of numbers and they are all in the same style. If the technique and "tricks" are the same then you are in a jam because the judges start to really pick it apart. I know it gets tough if you need to come up with a many different concepts, ideas and technique because you are doing a lot of pieces but not every number has to have leaps, fouettes, switch leaps or any other perceived necessary elements. I know for a fact that there are judges who when they see fouette turns in a number will, almost always, immediately take points off because they are so rarely executed correctly. I have seen numbers that have had basic technique in them with no more than a double pirouette, no leaps or other tricks and they have won everything because they were fun, interesting and entertaining. After all, isn't that what it is all about? Below is a list of things that we have found have helped us and we think have contributed to our success formula.

1. Create a unique concept that inspires you! Let your imagination run wild. If you have excitement and passion for what you are creating then your students will buy into it hook, line and sinker. The most ordinary thing may ignite your creativity. When you find it, run with it! The more on the edge you are the more your dancers will GROW!

2. Music, Concept, Choreography and Costuming. How you arrange them is up to you but each one is important to the overall impact of the piece. If you have a piece of music you like then build from that.

3. It's all in the details they really do count! Even the little ones. Look at everything from the shoes, to the hair, the color lipstick and eye makeup, earrings and every thing else in between. Try to get someone else who has a good eye for these things to check the overall look as well, just in case you missed something.

4. Change it up. In Style, technique and concepts. Even if what you are doing is great, if you keep doing it over and over again it will lose its effectiveness. If you do one number bare foot, then do the next one in heels, ballet slippers or jazz shoes. The more variations you show the more impressive it is!

5. Use the Kiss principle. We have all heard of the keep it simple strategy. Let's face it, you know your students strengths and weaknesses best and it makes no sense to give a student any technique that they will struggle with on stage. Showcase what they do well, even if it's easy it will be a winner.


Steve Sirico

Steve Sirico

Originally from Norwalk, Ct, Steve excelled in track and football. He attended the University of Tennessee at Martin on a sports scholarship. Deciding to switch and make his career in the world of dance, he studied initially with Mikki Williams and then in New York with Charles Kelley and Frank Hatchett. He appeared in a number of theatre productions such as Damn Yankees, Guys and Dolls and Mame in New York and around the country and in industrials and television shows. He was contracted to appear as the lead dancer in the Valerie Peters Special a television show filmed in Tampa, Florida. After meeting Angela DValda during the filming they formed the Adagio act of DValda & Sirico appearing in theatres, clubs and on television shows such as David Letterman, Star Search and the Jerry Lewis Telethon. In 1982 they were contracted to Europe and appeared in a variety of shows in Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and Italy before going to London, England where they appeared as Guest Artists for Wayne Sleep (formerly of the Royal Ballet) in his show Dash at the Dominium Theatre. Steve and Angela have owned and directed their dance studio in Fairfield, CT for the past twenty two years and in 2005 added music and vocal classes to their curriculum. Author of his Jazz Dance syllabus and co-author of a Partner syllabus both of which are used for teacher training by Dance Educators of America, Steve continues to adjudicate and teach for major dance organizations. Recently taught at the Interdanz conference in San Jose, Costa Rica, He choreographs for theatres, television and conventions and DValda & Sirico are currently in production choreographing the opening to the National Speakers Association convention on Broadway at the Marriott Marquis for August of 2008. Steve is co-owner and director with his wife, Angela, of the website Dance Teacher Web designed as an online resource for teachers worldwide.

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