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To the dance student who, “shows up,” week after week in this extremely difficult climate, your Dance Teacher thanks you. When I say, “show up,” I don’t mean just physically. I mean physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. All of the above. Especially in this time of Zoom classes and social distancing, thank you for being the student whose energy transcends the computer screen. Thank you for acknowledging my questions without an eye roll or yawn & for consistently participating with full out-effort, evident dedication & thoughtful questions of your own.

To the dancer who shows up, thank you for always being prepared. Thank you for taking the lead and being a role model for others. Thank you for inspiring your peers and me. Thank you for being the reason I can keep going when I have days I question if this is at all meaningful too. Thank you for keeping your focus on me. Thank you for being mindful, thank you for digging my choreography and thank you for always having a smile on your face even when it’s challenging. And more than challenging right now.

To the dancer who shows up, remember this. Even if you aren’t the most talented or technically abled one in the room, I would choose you to work with, hire and teach over anyone because of your passion and wherewithal to develop and grow. You are a teacher’s dream and the reason we do what we do. Thank you for making me want to continue showing up, for you. Thank you being my inspiration to be creative and thank you for being open to trying anything and everything. Thank you for your camaraderie and collaboration.

To the dancer who shows up, thank you for being accountable and responsible for your actions. Thank you for being a hard worker and disciplined, but the first one in the room to let loose and have know, to dance with joy. Thank you for your positivity, especially during a time like this when it’s easy to drift and lose sight of why you’re doing this. Thank you for being the lift everyone needs. Thank you for knowing when to rally the troops and get them all motivated. Thank you for being self-motivated. Thank you for motivating me. Thank you for remembering choreography week to week and dancing full out in class and rehearsals and demonstrating why you dance with every fiber of your being. Thank you for performing even when the studio is your stage.

To the dancer that shows up, thank you for being teachable and reachable. Thank you for loving feedback and critique and always take it as the gift it was meant to be. Thank you for always understanding my intentions to help make you better and lead with love and honesty. And thank you for being the person in the room that reminds me why I became a dance teacher. These are not easy circumstances and there are days you navigate it with more grace than I do. Thank you for bailing me out and sensing when I too need support. You are why I will always show up for you, because you always show up for yourself. I hope you are as proud of yourself as I am of you.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
With love,
Your devoted Dance Teacher

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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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