Secrets of a Thriving Adult Dance Fitness Program

Part 6 – The Choreography

Even through an older sound system, Sia’s voice is stunning as it fills the dance studio…

Patricia and I instantly begin singing along: “…And I don’t care if I sing off key, I found myself in my melodies…” Realizing we both know the lyrics, we continue our cute game, loudly now, with exaggerated hand motions: “I sing for love, I sing for me, I shout it out like a bird set free…” This goes on for a few minutes until we laugh at our silly joy and then ease our animated bodies back down toward the studio floor.

“I LOVE Sia!” she exclaims. “So do I!” I say, and off we go talking about our mutual love for Sia… Between several additional song outbursts, I am reminded of Patricia’s natural singing abilities and say, “Patty, I remember you sang at a few coffee houses on campus with Will and Mack – remember that?”

Will was my high-school boyfriend at the arts school Patricia and I attended years ago. Such a funny, talented guy – a comedian of sorts who could entertain a roomful of students by doing spot-on impressions between songs. He was a music major, trombone, but he also sang and wrote songs. Mack, also a music major at the school, was his best friend who was (and still is!) an amazing singer and guitarist. Together they used to do these little coffee-house performances; and one time, Patricia got up on stage and sang harmony with them. “You’ve got such a beautiful singing voice, Patty! Do you still sing?” I ask.

“No, not really. Nothing professional. I just love to sing in the car,” she says with a nostalgic smile. I admit I do that as well (and in the shower… and around the house…).

“My mom always has a little tune in her head,” I say.

I’m not sure if Patricia remembers my mom, but Mom was a professional opera singer, a soprano, and was affiliated with my arts school long before I ever auditioned for acceptance. Once accepted, my mom is the one who talked my dad into letting me go there for the high school ballet program - unfortunately I didn’t seem to inherit my mom’s vocal talent, but I could dance!

To this day, no matter when or where the question strikes me, I can say, “hey Mom, what little tune do you have in your head?” and she’ll immediately start singing or tapping her fingers to a little beat. Sometimes it’s a classical piece from an opera; sometimes it’s one of the silliest nursery rhymes you’d ever want to hear! But without an instant of hesitation, she will answer you by singing and tapping.

Patricia admits she always has a tune in her head too! Funny how musicians seem to have music circulating through their blood stream at all times.

When I hear a song, I have only one criterion: Does it inspire me to move? If so, I love it. If not, I change the channel. I guess you could say choreography circulates through my system more so than music does for music’s sake. I tell Patricia this and she wants to know if I always “knew how” to choreograph.

“Oh Lord, no!” I admit. “I can remember being in college in the dance studio and wanting to teach a group of dancers something and having nothing, zero, nada in my head! I remember this being incredibly frustrating.” Obviously a dancer needs choreography to dance! I remember feeling so dependent upon others for this. Thinking back, this may have been the moment that set me on my journey to become a choreographer. Funny to think of it 30 years later, now that I have choreographed to over 300 pop songs... but that moment may have truly been the impetus for my compulsion…

“Do you have a tune in your head at all times?” Patricia asks me.

“No, but I have an 8-, 16-, or 32-count string of choreography brewing in my head at all times. And I’ll listen to the same song over and over again until I get the choreography perfect! And then I’ll try it out in the oddest places: the grocery store aisle, the bathroom or hall at work when I think no one is watching, my kitchen, etc. And then finally I take it to my studio and perfect it.”

Patricia seems curious about this and says, “How do you remember it all?” I explain that I have named all of my classes and videotaped each of them. At this point I have >25 unique, one-hour masterclasses that make up The Dancer’s Workout® portfolio of classes. There are 12 to 14 songs in each masterclass. The masterclass names help me keep it organized. She wants to know the names of the masterclasses. I start reciting them: “X25; Angel Wings; Secrets Come to Light; Hope-Up Close and Personal; Later Alligator; Crocodile; Thunder and Light; Shades of Love; Confessions; Girly Fights; Casting Spells with All That Jazz; Twinkle Twinkle, Naughty Boy; Timber Kisses; Good Girls and Dragonflies; Shady Stars and Mr Mars; Sunshine and Popcorn; Fiddlesticks; etc.” Okay, maybe I overwhelm her. But I have a lot of them.

“Remind me which one we did today?” she asks. I reply, “We did Thunder and Light.” She then says, “I noticed it included elements of ballet, jazz, contemporary, and hip-hop. Are all of your classes like that? Do you use all of these genres in each of your classes?”

“I do! After the warm-up songs, usually we do one song which is mostly ballet, another that is more contemporary, another that is more jazz, etc. The music dictates the genre of movement used. What I like to do is create a movement pattern that can be done gracefully to slow music for the ballet segment, and then modify that same general movement pattern in the next song to become either more contemporary or more jazzy. I introduce unique choreography for each additional song; and as the hour goes by, I integrate what they’ve learned in the first song with what they’ve learned in the second song and keep building the choreography that way throughout the hour without stopping. I cue loudly while dancing full-out the entire hour so they know what comes next. It is a way to push my dancers higher and higher. It gives them little bites of choreography which integrate as we go and which all come together by the final dance cardio song. It is amazing how smart dancers are and how much they can learn this way.”

“Do you sell your choreography?” she asks. “Well no, not exactly. I don’t sell it; but I provide it to the dancers who become certified to teach The Dancer’s Workout®, and I also teach them how to cue it properly. When a ballerina becomes TDW-Instructor-Certified through my online course, they receive the choreography they’ll need to begin teaching…

I just remember having this strong urge to teach and needing choreography. So I created this program for teachers of adult dancers whereby the choreography is all provided – all that work is done. As a TDW-Certified-Instructor, all you have to do is memorize the choreography for the masterclasses you want to teach. And you get access to videos of the masterclasses which help you memorize it all.”

“How much does it cost?” she asks. “The online course costs $297, and it teaches the dancer how to teach The Dancer’s Workout® and provides all the choreography for over 30 songs (three fully integrated TDW masterclasses). During the course, the ballerina will need to submit competency videos to me to become certified. Assuming she is successful, she will then receive six months of TDW Instructor Certification (no hidden fees), and her sponsoring studio will become a “TDW Authorized Studio.” Additionally, like we talked about before, the course provides leadership and social media training on how to attract and retain a community of adult dancers. So this one online, self-paced course gives the dancer and her studio six months to try everything and ensure that The Dancer’s Workout® is right for them. The studio retains all the money they generate from teaching the classes. If it’s a good fit, and they want to continue The Dancer’s Workout® beyond the first six months, there’s a simple path forward to enable them to maintain TDW Instructor Certification and receive access to our full, active library of TDW masterclasses.

Suddenly I break out in song and Patricia immediately joins in with some funky moves of her own: “This is how we do it. This is how we do it…” Looking at our reflections in the mirror, we look like two silly girls stirring up a big pot of funky chicken and having a grand old time together.

If you would like to expedite your journey of becoming the premier, go-to, adult-dance fitness studio in your area for ballet, jazz, and contemporary adult dancers, The Dancer's Workout® Online Academy offers a self-paced online course which will provide you with our comprehensive, turn-key solution. 

Simply select one of your ballet dancers to become certified to teach The Dancer’s Workout® at your studio (or perhaps YOU want to become certified).  One course fee provides you with registration credentials for two individuals, one for you (or your delegate) and one for your sponsored ballerina whom you would like to get certified to teach The Dancer's Workout®.  This one course fee of $297 provides SIX MONTHS of TDW Instructor Certification, over 30 choreographed songs in three fully choreographed TDW masterclasses, lessons designed to teach you how to teach The Dancer's Workout®, and an entire module (5 lessons) devoted to teaching you the leadership and social media skills needed to attract and retain adult dancers.

More information about the course can be found here.

"The Dancer’s Workout® are adults-only classes that use ballet, jazz, contemporary, beginner's hip-hop, and toning exercises to recondition the body and spirit! These classes are great for current and former dancers, no matter how long it’s been! Visit www.thedancersworkout.com for more information. Join the TDW Movement and Rediscover the Dancer Within You!"

Jules Szabo
Founder, The Dancer's Workout®

For more information about Jules and The Dancer’s Workout®, visit www.thedancersworkout.com

Jules Szabo is a UNC School of the Arts classical ballet graduate

Click here for her featured story on the UNCSA website!

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