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Teacher article



The dance season ahead may look a little different for everyone this year. Setting numbers may take some creativity, yes, but it doesn’t mean it has to be boring or can’t be done. Time to turn it into a positive! Below are some quick tips and ideas to help you jump start into choreography season. With a little thinking out of the box, we’re sure to get these students dancing in pieces that are amazing and like no other!

Groupings/Formations/Transitions: The key is small group numbers this year. If you’re able to, wonderful, but if you do set a large group number, think of how you can group them. Use smaller groupings within a large group piece that are constantly transitioning. Use formations that move, are socially distant and take advantage of strategic entrances and exits.

Create concepts based on space: Spacing is the key factor this year so why not flip it on its head and use it to your advantage. Make, “space,” the focus. Examples can include but are not limited to:

a)      Plane of Motion: Manipulate stationary or transitory space through the various sagittal, transverse and coronal planes.

b)      Incorporate themes like:  “being trapped,” growth, isolation, vastness, far & away, pedestrian movement, floor patterns, etc.

Focus on the details and emotion of choreography- Examples: on chairs, props, all hand choreography, body part isolation, dynamics, breath-work, etc.

Partnering & Lifts: While we definitely have to reimagine this one, we can still use partnering albeit a little different. Try using…Around? Under? Pass a person? Through? Over? Back to back? Opposing levels, etc….

Pick themes and music that are light, fun and joyful. Not every piece has to be dark and pensive. Try hope, joy, support, gratitude as spring points for ideas that bring some light, laughter and fun back to your studio and dancers.

Can’t wait to hear about your amazing works!

Good luck!

See you in the dance studio,


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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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