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Teachers! If you’re excited at the thought of introducing improvisation to your dancers, here are three popular exercises to get you started with beginners at any age! Each can be adapted to age/level and will get dancers exploring the space and finding their own way of moving! Watch and be amazed at the innovative things they come up! Have fun!


1.      “Statues”: Statues is a great introductory improvisation exercise where dancers pair up. One dancer is the sculptor and one is the clay. As the music goes the sculptor molds the dancer into shapes until they are satisfied with one they like best (or a music pause cues them to stop). Dancers are then given the cue when to switch roles. Molding shapes is a wonderful way to explore levels, size, dimension, etc. With a group, an alternative to this exercise is to have everyone take a shape as the statue and one or two dancers are to travel and improv with a locomotor movement. Once they find a statue whose shape they would like to take, those “statues” then become the dancers and begin to travel through the space; repeating the same thing.

2.      “Negative-Positive”: With this improv score, dancers learn the concept of negative and positive space. Begin with duets. One dancer takes a shape and the other dancer moves through their negative or “empty” space to replace their shape with their own new shape. Repeat. For a progression use trios, then quartets. Build to the whole class moving at once (in slow motion) for a beautiful spontaneous moving picture.

3.       “Mirror Mirror”: Start in duets. Moving very, very slowly and beginning stationary, (on the floor for beginners) a “follow the leader” approach to improving is done here to see how in unison the dancers can move and how to precisely replicate movement. To progress, let dancers go from sitting to standing and stationary to traveling through the space. Add dancers to make larger groupings for a more advanced exercise and change tempo.



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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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