Kristin Sudeikis: How I Teach Contemporary
To the casual observer, Kristin Sudeikis might appear to be reprimanding her packed class of intermediate contemporary students at Broadway Dance Center in New York City. She’s just stopped the music, mid-improvisation, to sternly remind the dancers that less is more. “Don’t overthink your choices—trust them, and move from that space,” she says, asking that this time, they interact with another dancer at some point during their improv. But it’s really more of an impromptu pep talk, and it has its desired effect: The dancers now delve into the negative space between each other, occasionally sharing weight—arms rippling, rib cages circling. The softly lit studio (she turned off all the lights and let the skylight work its magic) explodes with movement and connections.
Sudeikis, whose classes are routinely packed, motivates her students to make their own discoveries. To get them moving in a bigger and more intentional way, she demands that her dancers make choices throughout her class: simple ones, like which way to face during her fluid, floor-based warm-up, but more complex ones, too, like how to end the closing combination in three eights of improvisation.
It’s as if she’s a life coach and dance teacher rolled into one, always knowing just what to say, as she deftly stokes her students’ passion and sense of possibility. The room is practically pulsing with inspiration, as Sudeikis peppers her class with off-the-cuff motivational speeches (like her earlier “less is more” one) and makes old-school moves seem new again in her grounded, wonderfully organic choreography. “I need you to live that pas de bourrée,” she says.
Sudeikis’ unabashed enthusiasm stems from her fairytale-like introduction to dance (beyond her Overland Park, Kansas, studio upbringing at Miller Marley School of Dance and Voice). She met Mia Michaels at her first dance convention, at 13, when Michaels awarded her a scholarship to study at BDC that summer. “I can still remember the song I danced to—Annie Lennox, ‘Sweet Dreams,'” she laughs. “I was dancing for my life!” She officially moved to NYC in 2000, snapping up every teaching and subbing opportunity that came her way and traveling each summer to do choreography and master classes. In 2008, she founded her own company, Kristin Sudeikis Dance.
In everything she does, Sudeikis is committed to authenticity and curiosity. “Audiences can feel when we’re overthinking—we have to drop into ourselves a little deeper,” she says. “I tell my students, ‘No one else can bring what you can, but you have to learn how to speak your own voice first.'”