How Kristin Sudeikis Lets Music Lead the Way
May 2, 2022

For Kristin Sudeikis, connecting to music through dance is like grabbing your favorite surfboard to ride the perfect wave. “Music to me is like water, in the sense that it’s in us, and all around us,” she explains. “Our bodies are made up of around 70% water, as is the planet. But for dancers, music is in us in a very specific and pronounced way. Our bodies innately respond to music is what initiates of ‘being moved’ by music. Music is our heartbeat, our story, our truth. We should always aim to follow where it leads.”

Growing up in a house filled equally with Broadway show tunes, classic rock and soul music, it’s unsurprising that Sudeikis felt drawn to music, and subsequently music in motion, from the get-go. “I carried my Fisher Price record player everywhere I went,” she shares. At age 13, Sudeikis caught the eye of Mia Michaels on the convention circuit, leading her from her hometown of Kansas City to New York City, where she trained on scholarship at Broadway Dance Center. Decades later, Sudeikis is now a highly sought-after teacher, choreographer and artistic director of Kristin Sudeikis Dance Company. She is also the founder of FORWARD_Space, an innovative hub of wellness, music, dance and fitness that has become a safe haven for dancers and nondancers alike, both virtually and in person at its New York City studio.

Whether Sudeikis is choreographing new work for her company or leading dancers and movement enthusiasts alike at FORWARD_Space, she fully ascribes to the notion that musicality is an element to be tapped into, and not just taught. “You can easily tell someone to hit an accent on a certain count, but, ultimately, musicality has to be unlocked from within,” she explains. “And just like we all have different gifts, musicality lives more inside some than others.”

Photo by Lee Gumbs, courtesy Sudeikis

One way Sudeikis taps into her students’ musicality is to have them lie down, close their eyes, and visualize their choreography, without any perceived restraint and through a lens of full possibility. “I prompt them to see themselves moving through the choreography as transcendently as possible—for instance, thinking past the idea that their leg can only reach a certain height—and to imagine seeing the other dancers as they’re moving through the piece,” she explains. “Oftentimes, they’ll realize things they didn’t notice, like how a shoulder roll is connected to this tiny tick in the music. It’s a very practical and transformative tactic.”

Sudeikis’ experiences with her dance company constantly reminds her of the magic that occurs when music and movement are perfectly intertwined. “I directed a piece for Brooklyn Dance Festival, produced by Tamia Santana. On the last day of rehearsals, I decided to try having the dancers perform the six-minute piece without any music,” she shares. “There were no choreographed breaths or anything in the piece, so watching them perform it silently, it was incredible how synced-up they were, like the music was inside them and completely took over the space.” For Sudeikis, witnessing this kind of synergy meant her dancers had fully tapped into their musical capacity—or in keeping with the analogy, that they had become experts at riding that particular musical wave.

An avid playlist maker, Sudeikis is constantly on high alert for new music. “I love songs that have a depth to them, like a deep bass, and also something light that juxtaposes it,” she says. “I live in Brooklyn, and FORWARD_Space is in SoHo, so there’s all sorts of cool spots where I’ll go to grab a bite or a drink and end up Shazaming new songs. I’m always listening.”

Sudeikis put together a playlist of songs that spark her imagination and inspire her to move. She invites you to close your eyes, listen deep, and let the waves take you somewhere brand-new.

“Time,” by Tale Of Us and Pete Tong feat. Jules Buckley 
“This track definitely has a meditative quality to it. I have found it helpful to either open or close a class or rehearsal session with this song.”

“Heaven is Here,” by Florence + the Machine
“Heaven is Here feels anthemic with its epic drums, cadence and powerful lyrics.”

“Came Here for Love,” by Ella Eyre and Sigala
“The song surrounds the room (or your headphones) with an empowering and chill-giving mantra.”

“Energy,” by Disclosure
“The song is phenomenal to just move and vibe to and with. I am particularly drawn to their line ‘where your focus goes…your energy flows.’”

“We Are,” by Jon Batiste
“I have created and choreographed to this track a number of times—it speaks directly to my soul. Allowing movement to erupt, unfold and reveal itself from that song has felt cathartic, joyous and expansive. 

“When it’s available to us in our creative processes to allow space, time and moments of stillness until we feel authentically moved again, it is potent and palpable in the result of what unfolds after. Sometimes the most powerful choice we can make is to consciously remain still until truly moved again. Imagine floating in water, and play with that idea with a song. Allow yourself to almost float, surrender into and be moved by it. Then, begin.”

Editor’s note: To take a virtual contemporary Class master class with Kristin Sudeikis via Dance Media Live! on Monday, May 2 at 7 pm ET/4 pm PT, click here.

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