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Remember when you were little and would twirl and spin just because it was fun? Remember those first pair of ballet slippers and the excitement of being in dance class following your teacher in the front of the room? Remember how you couldn't wait to get to the studio and hear the music playing while you learned new choreography for recital? All these experiences were the very foundation to create a love an appreciation of dance.

As we get older, and see our students get older, that innocent joy somehow gets lost sometimes. Whether it be the demands of simply getting older, more challenging training, school, friends, emotions, distractions, physical changes, complicated relationships, etc., dance class sometimes seems to become more of an obligation and less of a joy.

Why is that? And how do we get back to reminding our students that above all, dance is fun. Dance should put a smile on your face. Dance is freeing. Dance moves the soul and is an outlet and a way to express oneself. Dance is also a privilege. It isn't something that everyone gets to do. It should be embraced and honored and at the very root of it all, should be enjoyed by the dancer itself. Otherwise, what's the point? Reminding students that dance isn't a required math course needed in order to graduate but something they should look forward to everyday is key.

So, when you're teaching and see the rolling of the eyes, the lack of enthusiasm, the minimal effort put forth in class, stop and ask your students this one question. "Why do you dance?"  After they've really thought about it for a while and answers start rolling in, remind them that their bodies, effort and attitude should reflect that. Whether it's because they want to dance professionally, dance makes them feel good, forget about the stresses of their day, helps them connect to their body, or is just fun to dance with their friends, let's not lose that innocence and create an environment that encapsulates those positive feelings. We, as teachers are the motivators and helping our dancers maintain an excitement of learning is just as pivotal as teaching technique. Help them hold onto that love of the art and echo that joy in your own attitude, think about why you love to teach dance.

Remember, positive energy is contagious and even when something is challenging and pushes us out of our comfort zone, it can still be a joyful experience which we feel good about at the end of the day. Hard work and discipline are amazing rewards as well. Keep that joy of dance alive in yourselves and your students. Keep creating magic and remind one another how very lucky we are to be able to celebrate through movement every day!

Keep smiling and dancing!

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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