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Getting Stuck


Teacher article



It happens to us all, we teach so many classes and set so much choreography, that our material starts to become stale. As a master class teacher traveling around the country, this is the number one complaint I hear from the dance teachers and studio owners. What really surprises me, and has become the main impetus for this article, is that most think they are alone with this problem, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I have become so accustom to these setbacks that I am constantly coming up with solutions to motivate and inspire, step one is 'borrowing'. Borrowing is not stealing. Being a tap dancer, I am very aware of the practice that might be called "stealing steps". This is basically an historical form of "borrowing" that helped pass the art form along. During tap challenges it is common practice to take someone's steps and rearrange them to make a whole new musical phrase. Is this really stealing? Of course not. This is a way of exchanging ideas, of using competition to promote innovation, and most importantly sparking our own creativity to take us to new places. The same can be said for all other forms of dance, choreography, music and theme choices. Now that we have license

Where can we look to "borrow"? The Internet If you are reading this, it is obvious that you have embraced the Internet as a tool to help your studio grow...great instinct! This site is one of the best and most comprehensive I've seen for information and technique, make sure you explore every section. In looking for more ideas is also a great site. Simply type the word "dance" (or if you like, something more specific) into youtube's search engine and you'll begin a wild ride of Fred Astaire routines and montages, amateur choreography, and current music videos. Looking further, if you follow the "related video" links, you will be busy for hours finding things you never knew existed. There is nothing like seeing what's out there to get your creative juices flowing. You can also apply the same technique to, using their "Listeners also bought" links to find interesting music choices, old and new.

Take classes This is usually my first suggestion when I hear someone has "dancer's block". The best part here is that it's an on your feet experience, giving you a real time chance to explore new ideas. Living in NYC I am fortunate enough to be in the center of the dance world with the best teachers on the planet. If you are not so lucky, and you are having a problem finding good teachers in your area, I would recommend the following solutions;

Travel- this is a great way to see other cities and experience new things, as well as great teachers and classes.

Import - find master class teachers and bring them to your studio. Hands down, all the best studios I've seen, consistently bring in teachers from around the world for choreography and teaching.

Compete - make sure you find a competition that has a convention as well. These conventions do a lot of the work for you, they are bringing the great teachers to your city and give you and your kids a chance to see what the studios in your area are doing. I would recommend New York City Dance Alliance (, or Tap City ( in my opinion, these programs provide the best experience for the dancer and teacher.

See shows This is what it's all about. Seeing all the aspects of production come together with the energy and passion of the performers and the anticipation and reaction of a live audience, we realize that a live performance is greater than the sum of its parts. While you are watching the show, try to just sit back and enjoy, becoming a spectator. Remember what first inspired you to dance, try then to put yourself in the creators shoes, ask yourself; what made them make that staging, costume or music choice? In doing this it will free up your mind to make its own choices, and believe me, they will be there. As I've realized with the first commercial production of my show "Revolution" ( this past fall in NYC, it is live performance that never fails to inspire.

Hopefully the above can help create new ideas for your classes and choreography. The key thing is to look at getting stuck as an opportunity, not a setback. I know there are a lot of suggestions here, my advice is to start slow and use one idea and then try another. The most important thing is to practice by yourself. This is your time to use everything you've gathered and try things to see what works and what doesn't. Make sure that you do this consistently, and you'll find you and your students more interested and having more fun.

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