Seven All-Star Choreographers on the College Teaching Circuit

Doug Varone leads a class held at Lehman College in the Bronx, NY. (Alex Springer, courtesy Varone)

Top dance programs attract top faculty—people who direct companies, tour the world and, most importantly, hire dancers. That's why we've rounded up a list of all-star choreographers who are particularly committed to teaching and mentoring undergrads. You're just as likely to encounter them in the classroom as you are to audition for them after you graduate. Get to know them, and then look for their names under your course listings this fall.


Doug Varone, director of Doug Varone and Dancers

Doug Varone and Dancers celebrates its 30th anniversary during the 2016/2017 season, making him a venerable presence in the American modern dance scene. While Varone continues to create for his own company, his choreography has also been performed by Batsheva Dance Company, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, the Martha Graham Dance Company and others.

Find him at: Purchase College, State University of New York

Past college credentials: Varone has taught at dozens of colleges and universities—everywhere from the University of Akron to Skidmore College.

Why He loves working with college students: “They're learning new ways to accomplish tasks they thought they understood, and it's exciting to open creative doors for them.

The connection between the liberal and performing arts is vital to dancers' growth—that's key for me in a college community."

Sidra Bell and dancers in her class (photo by Gabrielle Garruppo, courtesy Bell)

Sidra Bell, director of Sidra Bell Dance New York

Sidra Bell Dance New York has performed Bell's introspective, precise choreography worldwide. She's been commissioned to set work on L.A.-based company BODYTRAFFIC, Visceral Dance Chicago and many other companies.

Find her at: Ball State University and University of the Arts

Past college credentials: The Juilliard School, Cornish College of the Arts, California State University, Long Beach, Harvard University

Why She loves working with college students: “College dancers create an electric environment. They're learning to stand on their technique while becoming better collaborators in the studio. It's truly gratifying to act as a mentor and guide as they tackle questions."

Jennifer Archibald (Alastair Christopher, courtesy Archibald)

Jennifer Archibald, director of Arch Dance Company

Arch Dance Company has toured everywhere from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, displaying Archibald's signature blend of hip hop and contemporary.

Find her at: Yale University and Barnard College

Past college credentials: Bates College, Columbia College Chicago, the University of South Florida

Why she loves working with college students: “At the college level, students who choose dance really want to be there. That enthusiasm allows room for growth."

Driscoll working with students in class (Mark Oxier, courtesy Driscoll)

Faye Driscoll, independent choreographer

When she's not winning Bessie Awards or earning Guggenheim Fellowships, Driscoll tours her work internationally. She's currently developing Thank You For Coming: Play, part two of a three-part dance-theater piece that showcases her humorous approach to heavy issues. (Think alienation versus community.)

Find her at: Driscoll most recently held a fellowship at Wesleyan University.

Past college credentials: Ohio State University; Connecticut College; University of Colorado, Boulder

Why she loves working with college students: “College-level dancers use the academic environment to boldly cross disciplines. They're expanding the form."

Shannon Gillen (David Flores, courtesy Gillen)

Shannon Gillen, director of VIM VIGOR

Shannon Gillen is known in Europe and NYC for her athletic and fearless dance-theater choreography. Though VIM VIGOR is a relatively young company (it was founded in 2014), Gillen has been teaching for years and has choreographed over 22 works since 2010.

Find her at: Purchase College, State University of New York

Past college credentials: New York University, Ailey/Fordham BFA Program, Alonzo King LINES Ballet at Dominican University of California

Why she loves working with college students: “College is an intense threshold of transformation, challenged by a natural impatience. I try to help students see the value of working toward future goals. I love how wild and flexible the mind of a dancer is at this age!"

Patrick Corbin (in blue) coaching students at USC (Rose Eichenbaum, courtesy USC)

Patrick Corbin, Paul Taylor répétiteur and director of CorbinDances

After a nearly 40-year career, first as a ballet dancer and then as a member of Paul Taylor Dance Company, Corbin has plenty of experience to draw from as a director and stager of Taylor's work.

Find him at: University of Southern California

Past college credentials: University of California, Irvine; University of Michigan

Why he loves working with college students: “Incoming freshmen are poised to make great strides. I have the prospect of not only training dancers but shaping the kind of citizen they might become."

Yerushalmy's PICTOGRAMS (a 2014 ADF commission), performed here by Rutgers University students (Christopher Duggan, courtesy Yerushalmy)

Netta Yerushalmy, independent choreographer

Yerushalmy's experimental, imaginative work has been presented at famous downtown dance venues in NYC: La MaMa, Danspace Project, Movement Research and more. She's also collaborated, performed and taught internationally.

Find her at: Yerushalmy has an ongoing choreographic relationship with University of the Arts.

Past college credentials: University of Utah; Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; The College at Brockport, State University of New York

Why she loves working with college students: “College students exude potential—they're thrilling to interact with. They don't hold back or get territorial, and they're intellectually hungry."

Dancer to Dancer
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)

Congratulations to Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers by clicking on their names here:

Read Darriel's profile here

Read Diego's profile here

Read Emma's profile here

And then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.

We also want you to get social! We'll be factoring social media likes and shares into our final tallies. Be sure to show your favorite finalist some love on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, sharing their profile pages and using the hashtag #DanceSpiritCMS.

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Liz Imperio teaching at Hollywood Vibe, Courtesy of Hollywood Vibe

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