Chanel DaSilva has two pillars of focus for every class she teaches: performance quality and musicality. The former Trey McIntyre Project dancer asks her students to really listen and be the music, emphasizing the importance of being expressive artists. She wants students to find that euphoric place dancers feel when they’re under the lights with an audience watching. “I want that in class,” she says. “Don’t wait for the stage.”
Now on faculty at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and the Performing Arts in New York City (her alma mater), DaSilva teaches Graham technique to freshmen and sophomores with either a live drummer or pianist. She challenges the dancers to sing the music with their bodies and listen to what’s happening between the steps. Mixing up the phrasing, she finds, helps to build musicality. “I don’t just teach ‘5, 6, 7, 8,'” she says. “I use phrases of 6s, 9s and 13s.”
For her contemporary class that she teaches to juniors and seniors, she calls on her Juilliard training in Horton, Limón and Cunningham techniques. Her grounded, earthy style paired with jazz music or strong Afrobeats allows dancers to move freely in their bodies and to not worry about being perfect, she says.