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Deciding on Guest Teachers & Choreographers


Teacher article



Bringing in master classes, workshops or guest choreographers for your students can be a wonderful experience for a number of reasons. While the in-house faculty you hand select should be a group of teachers who consistently challenge your students, raise the bar and have high artistic merit while evolving year after year, sometimes new blood in the studio is a way to shake things up and expose your dancers to a whole new experience. Giving your dancers an opportunity to learn from different teachers with many different styles and aesthetics is an invaluable opportunity that will only enhance their vernacular and artistic palette.

There are many things to consider when trying to find the right fit for your studio. Remember, you want this to be a positive learning experience for your dancers, so doing some research will go a long way. Where one master-class teacher or guest choreographer may have been right for one studio or one group of students may not necessarily be the best for the students who are currently enrolled in your studio. Here are some things to think about:

1.      When would you like to have these classes? Is this something you’d like to do over a summer intensive? Every month on a Sunday? Bring in a full week of guest teachers once a season? One every few months, etc.? This is where you need to start. Look at your calendar and decide which time of the year this will work best for your schedule wise and bring in the biggest draw from students.

2.      Required or Optional? Who is taking these classes? Are you making them required just for company dancers or for the whole studio?  Is it invitation only or are you opening it up to all studios in the community? Remember that the more students you open this up to, the more income it will generate. Be mindful however, that this should be a chance for your dancers to have an intimate class experience in a closer setting vs. a convention or nationals master-class.

3.      Who are you going to bring in? This is probably the most important factor to consider. Who do you think the dancers will benefit most from? Who will they enjoy? Who is different enough from who you have on faculty to provide a different style or way of moving? Who have you heard wonderful things about from fellow studio owners/teachers? Who is going to get your dancers out of their comfort zone? Whose teaching philosophy is aligned with yours?  Who is doing innovative and cutting edge things in the dance world currently? Do you want to bring in someone mainstream and “hot” at the moment in the dance scene or prefer someone who’s a staple in the business for a number of years? The options are endless and there are an infinite array of teachers to choose from. Be picky and choose who you think is going to provide a wonderful, inspiring and fun time for your dancers.

4.      Considering guest choreography? This is a bit of a different animal to consider because it’s more than a one day or weekend set of technique classes. You need to consider that artist’s style a bit more in depth and whether or not they will be a good fit to set something on your dancers. This is always a great idea to bring in guest choreographers, because you will be amazed at seeing your dancers approach someone else’s style and vision in a completely different way from the way you are used to seeing them move. Having a work set from an outside source can really liven things up and give some dimension to your studio’s repertoire for the season. It will inevitably demonstrate their versatility, their performance skills and their range. Just be knowledgeable about the choreographer’s bulk of work. Review their reel, attend their shows if possible and get a good sense of who they are and what their work is about.

5.      Budget? This is a big one to consider. What is your budget for bringing in a guest teacher or choreographer? As expected, a lot of the top teachers in the industry are not cheap, so if you do have your heart set on bringing in one of them, think about how you will make that happen. Will you charge your students an extra class fee for the master-classes or is this something you want to provide for them at no extra expense. If you have an idea to bring in multiple teachers or choreographers how can you start budgeting for that prior to the date they are due to come in?

Remember, as studio owners, it’s an amazing and essential experience for a dancer’s growth to expose them to as much as you can. Seeing and learning new things from new artists will propel them to all kinds of levels and catapult their progress both artistically and technically. Definitely give the idea of consistent master-classes and guest artist visits real consideration and watch how their bodies and minds soar to new heights! Good luck!


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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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