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Teacher article


Dance Teachers

Let's be honest. We all have our favorite type of dancer we love to teach. The ones that really inspire us. For some of us it's the older, advanced levels, for some it's the little ones and for some it's the recreational. So what happens when you enter the studio and you're faced with a class that's not necessarily your, "cup of tea?" What happens when all of your training and creative excitement over the hopes and plans you had for this year begin to take the wind out of your sails?

You figure it out and you make it work.

You are a teacher and you are there to impart the knowledge you have to every student wanting, willing and eager to learn dance. That's not to say you can't have your favorites, but a good teacher is one who can teach and motivate every type of student with the same energy, passion and inclusion, despite age or ability. You find ways to be inspired, so that every dancer receives the exact same experience and 100% commitment from you.

Where we may have to navigate and make some adjustments to our curriculum, that's what dance teachers do. They think on their feet, they improvise and they adapt so that the content is grasped by all. Every young dancer deserves a full experience to love what they're doing and they're looking at you at the front of the room to provide it. You are there to help them excel and have a good time. To learn. To progress. To move. To create.

How we present ourselves and the level of enthusiasm we bring into the room and impart is exactly what we will receive back, so always be aware of the energy you are bringing into the studio. Young dancers pick up on when you're, "not really into it," or going through the motions, class after class. Body language says a lot. We feel it when our students do it to us. But, when it's the teacher, it's not fair to the dancers and it's not fair to the studio owner. You are hired to do a job and if you accept those classes, then you are responsible for their growth and dance experience. Otherwise, think twice about accepting classes to teach which you know are not as we said earlier, your, "cup of tea." While it's easy to say yes because of a paycheck, always think beyond that and what you have in you and want to give to these dancers! Is it a good fit for you? Be honest with yourself. Remember, you are a role model to these dancers and all good teachers have one thing in common, plain and simple- they teach.

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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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