contemporary class

Tips for Structuring your Contemporary Class

by / 0 Comments / 8804 View / November 4, 2014

Contemporary has grown to be one of the most popular dance genres in the past 10 years. The mixture between gorgeous lines and abstract contractions allows it to be one of the most versatile and stylistic types of dance.

Truly the only way to get good at contemporary is to take it and take it often. Since every choreographer moves in a different way, it can be difficult to master, but once your dancers have it, magical things can happen.

Everyone teachers their contemporary class differently. If you’re struggling with getting through an entire class or having a hard time keeping things new every week, try some of these tips:


Warm Up

If your class is immediately following a jazz or ballet class, you may not need a warm up at all. If some dancers are cold, offer a quick 5 minute warm up that focuses on lengthening lines and creating energy in your dancer’s limbs. Some warm up ideas:

  • Long stretches from side to side
  • Warming up your second grande plie with stretches and strengthening
  • Working on your dancer’s port de bras by having them follow you
  • Plie and balance combinations
  • Planks or crunches to get the blood pumping


Across the Floor

If you’re finding it difficult to fill your teaching time, start with some across the floor exercises. Focus on warming up your dancer’s backs, center and balance. One very basic idea could be:

Turn 1234 lunge 5678 roll up 1234 head/body roll 5678

Encourage your dancers to explore their movement- no progression should look the same. They can speed it up, slow it down, face different directions, etc.


If you’re putting specific technique in your combination, here’s a great way to practice it isolated. When that part of the combination comes up, they’ve already experimented with it and you can push on with the steps.



Combinations are absolutely vital in developing your dancers in the art of contemporary. Challenge yourself as a teacher to try different styles, emotions and music variety each week.

If you like to choreograph beforehand, try to come up with at least 30 seconds of choreography and teach it fast! If choreography is taught too slow, dancer’s attentions will fade and it will be harder to pick up. Plus, teaching quick is good practice for them.

More tips for teaching contemporary combinations:

Do it full out for them periodically.

Since contemporary rarely follows a steady pace, seeing the movement on their teacher will help them get the timing more quickly.


Showcase Dancers who excel

If a particular dancer is really shining at your choreography, highlight them. This boosts confidence of the dancer and helps others tackle the movement.


Think About Transitions

If your dancers are new to contemporary, give them easier transitions. If you’re teaching at the advanced level, give them faster and more difficult transitions. Since transitions between movement are so important (and difficult) pushing them in this area is very beneficial to them.


Balance Technique

Every teacher has a different philosophy on this, so don’t necessarily follow what I say- develop your school of thought on technique in contemporary class.

Some teachers devote their entire class to movement- no tricks or technique. This can be a great way to get your less-confident dancers to feel stronger and more on-level with your technicians. There is nothing wrong with focusing on movement- it can teach your dancers great things.

Other teachers love to include technique in their contemporary classes. It challenges the dancer to freely move, but then immediately find their center. It also preps them for auditions or conventions that will undoubtedly have both advanced movement and technique.

My advice would be to switch it up often. If one week your choreography is loaded with crazy tricks and turns, the following week try to incorporate pure movement, etc, etc.


Other Ideas:

Explore Tempos

Teach a short combination (6 Counts of 8) and have your dancers try it at different tempos. Its a fun and unique way to let the dancers be creative and can transform the choreography into something completely different. Let your dancers go for it- challenge them to dance so that no one is ever doing the same movement at the same time. Everyone should end at different times.


Same Combination to Different Music

Similar to the concept before, have your dancers dance the combination, then switch the music on them. If the original music was lighthearted and happy, choose music that is dark or saddening. This forces the dancer to portray their emotions through their movement and reach into themselves.

Do you have tips for teaching contemporary class? Please share them in the comment section below so we can all benefit.

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