Music for Class: Kiesha Lalama
January 2, 2013

Music to help dancers develop their personal movement voices

The first year of college can be a struggle for dancers because their beliefs on technique and movement are often flipped upside down. “College is really about deprogramming them,” says Kiesha Lalama, associate jazz professor at Point Park University in Pittsburgh. “A lot of freshmen come in with an extensive competition background, which lends itself to a very particular style.” To introduce an alternative to acting out song lyrics, Lalama uses live percussive accompaniment throughout most of the students’ first year. Recorded music with lyrics makes its way into the classroom late second semester.

The Luigi- and Giordano-trained Lalama says she’s ultimately trying to help her students become individuals. “If you try to ‘fit the mold,’ you’re never going to understand what makes you unique,” she says. “Discovering your own voice is important in understanding how to market yourself.” DT

Music Without Words

Artist: So Percussion

Album: Amid the Noise




Artist: Head Full of Drums

Album: Drum Circle Around the World




“Out of 22 freshmen this year, only two have danced to a live accompanist. Percussion allows students to find their sense of movement—it eliminates personal style and makes them learn how to dance from their soul and not allow lyrics to impose ideas. Music with lyrics can act as a safety net.”


Acoustic Tracks

Artist: Kat Edmonson

Album: Way Down Low




Artist: Greg Laswell

Song: “Take Everything”




“Acoustic songs are great for warm-up. You can really enjoy the tempo. It relaxes your body and allows you to be, I don’t want to say healthier, but less forced with your movement. And it sets a feel-good tone for class.”


Up-tempo Tunes

Artist: Mumford & Sons

Song: “I Will Wait”




Artist: James Brown

Song: “Get Up Offa That Thing”




“Motown and soul seem to be my go-to. I love that they allow you to really celebrate music and dance. And I can’t get enough of Mumford & Sons. Their new album is brilliant. It’s full of raw passion and the music is so driving.”



Photo by Robert McKee, courtesy of Kiesha Lalama

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