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I have a new rule in class- you are not allowed to bring in your phones to video a rehearsal while learning choreography. This hasn’t always been the case, in fact videoing is in fact quite helpful (for myself included) but this trend stops now.
Why, you ask? Well, what I’ve been finding is that particularly the younger dancers were coming back into class the following week having not remembered a single thing. Their first notion, “If I look at my phone I’ll remember that part.” Yeah, no, no, no, Here is where I had an A-HA moment and found an opportunity to dialogue with my dancers about my decision that was made in that instance. I wanted them to understand why. This became a valuable teaching moment.

 I explained, there are two things going on which need to be addressed. The first, is that you are reliant on your phone to be your memory and that is not a habit I will support. You are in class to activate ALL your muscles, including your brain. Muscle memory is crucial for dancers as is a sharp mind and the ability to pick up quickly, but so is the ability to retain material. These are lessons you will take with you in all your studies throughout life. It’s valuable and it’s important. It’s a skill set that’s sought after by employers and choreographers. Bottom line- your phone is not the one taking the stage, you are- so it does not serve as a substitute for memorization and the ins and outs of really “knowing” your choreography.

The second issue is the fact that you are so reliant on your phones that you left class last week and never even so much as thought about your choreography or reviewed it because you knew you had the phone to fall back on. Bluntly, you didn’t do your homework and you’re not doing the work necessary and expected of you. Your IPhone is.

I then explained to the dancers that going forward there is no videoing of choreography until it’s evident they know it inside and out for themselves. Videoing is wonderful for cleaning purposes and to fine tune which we can add back later on in the rehearsal process, but during the learning process your brains and your bodies are your most essential tools. As for the plea to video for the dancers who are absent that week… Well, they are just gonna have to learn it, ask questions and catch up when they come back the same way we did years ago. If a teacher starts their pieces early enough this shouldn’t really be an issue.

Some might call this drastic but I call it helping a generation of dancers to activate and honor their minds. To equip themselves with the tools necessary to nurture strong memories, yes, but also be intelligent dancers who know their movement inside and out on a higher level of critical thinking. I know they are much better than regurgitating the movement they watch off their phones and I expect more from them. Technology is a wonderful, helper detail and addition to the learning process, but it’s all about balance and nurturing mind and effort first!
Food for thought!
See you in 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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