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Why Dance?


Teacher article


Self-help and Life Enhancement Tips for the Business Owner

Why do you dance?

It’s a simple enough question with an infinite amount of answers; unique to the individual being asked the question. Think about how many times you’ve been asked that question throughout your life. Go on. Give it a good think. Do you remember how you have answered? Has your answer remained the same? Has it changed over the course of your life? Has it been affected by an event or situation currently occurring in your life? Has it had more than one answer? Have you had no answer; where you couldn’t quite put it into words and encapsulate what it means to dance and to be a dancer? Has you answer been affected by where you were at a specific point in your career? Has it been affected by your age? Your experiences? The current climate? Hindsight? Physical or emotional factors? Current events? Teachers? Mentors?

We all have different reasons for why we dance. We each got to the point we are at in our career because of those reasons. Yet, with every unique answer there is a common thread which embodies a passion, “a calling,” that in many ways highlights how we didn’t necessarily choose dance, dance chose us.

Now, think about your students. Why do they dance?

Have you ever asked them? Have you ever asked them to pause for a second and reflect on why they show up to the studio multiple times a week? Year after year? Why they put their bodies through the physical act of dance? Why they may be rejected or face disappointment at times, yet keep coming back for more? Why they too answer this calling? It may seem trite to have dancers answer this question and talk about it, but in my experience as a teacher and a mentor, giving them the opportunity to be mindful about why they are doing what they are doing breathes new life into realizing how special it actually is. It also demonstrates how important a role it plays in their lives today and going forward. We all get into the mindset of “I dance and that’s just what I do,” but to stop and be able to articulate it, even if only for our own minds, connects the spiritual aspect with the kinesthetic and allows our dancers to recognize the amazing things dance actually provides them.

In a time and world where there is so much uncertainty and violence, dance can be an outlet for the soul. It has proven time and time again that the body can speak when words fail us. It is a vehicle for healing, for emoting, for story-telling, for hope, for grieving, for frustration, for release, for joy, for celebration and a whole host of other things. Sometimes, young students may not realize how very lucky they are to do what they are doing through no fault of their own. They may yet to understand what we do, that dance is bigger than ourselves. It is an art which is unlike any other and they are the ones to have the physicality of athletes and the souls of poets where being on that stage or in that studio provides endless opportunities for them to move and “be heard.”

So, the next time you’re in class, ask your students. You see what their bodies can do in every dance class. Now, get a glimpse into their minds. Get them talking about dance. Why they do it. Why they love it. How it shapes them, changes them, moves them and makes them feel. My guess, is you will be blown away by their answers and with that, together, we can create of movement that can produce art, create change, promote love and ignite endless possibilities to shape not only the artistic world, but the world and future for which we live in, one dancer at a time.

Dance….is always good for the soul.


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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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