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Why Consistent Technique Warm-Up is So Important


Teacher article



Dancers today are faced with a whole generation of fellow versatile, talented technicians. These peers will be their competition, their colleagues and future artists they’ll collaborate with and cross paths with as their dance career flourishes. As teachers who are in charge of their development at the most crucial time in their training, how you design your class is pivotal.

Occasionally, there seems to be a mindset of breezing over what is really the most crucial element of dance class…..warm-up. While dancers are always wanting to get to the choreography for a piece or center combo, as teacher, you are running the ship and the first stop should always be technique concentration. Now, while this seems obvious on the surface, to avoid injury, get the dancers ready to move, etc., believe it or not that’s not always the case.

Designing a thorough curriculum where the dancers receive the appropriate training they require is detrimental to their progress. While the length of class may be difficult for time management, skipping the technique portion of class is not the way to go and not the precedent you want to establish. Walking into class and saying, “Just stretch for five minutes and we’ll get going,” is not teaching- plain and simple. Now, will there be the odd day here and there when you are nearing the end of the year and need to finish numbers or rehearse? Yes. But what we are talking about here is regular habit and that’s just not the makings of a good teacher or technical dancer.

Remembering that good, solid technique is still the basis of a well-rounded dancer is essential and it starts in your class. You are setting the example. Keep in mind that you are not only training your future performers, but your future dance teachers as well. You are their first inspiration and teaching model. They will emulate you, so how are you going to pass down the knowledge necessary for them to do the same?

What does this teaching model then look like? And, how does a complete one hour class break down? Below is an example to get you started on designing a technique class that works for you. This break down can apply to many genres, so edit as it works best for you and your students. Be consistent but be flexible. Not every class is going to go like clock-work. Prepare for those days of unexpected interruption or great discussion and lessons within the lesson that arise. Those are some of the best teaching and learning days.


·         Start class on time.

·         Take attendance as dancers perform center exercises to not waste class time.

·         It’s OK to have a class without a center combo one week if you feel the need to focus on across the floor or vice versa. Omit sections that week if necessary in order of priority to your students’ needs. Don’t rush through areas of study you feel are important that class just to squeeze everything in. Remember, technical study is a work in progress. Prepare your dancers for the marathon, not the sprint.

A)    Center Warm-Up: 20 minutes (including: plies, tendus, rond de jambes, developpes, battements, etc.)

B)    Cardio/abs and floor stretch- 10 minutes

C)    Across the Floor & Progressions- 10-15 minutes

D)    Center Combo- 15-20 minutes

E)     Cool Down (Time permitting)


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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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