Courtesy NYCDA

The Whole Dancer: NYCDA's Suzi Taylor on Why Dancers Should Be Kinder to Themselves

New York City Dance Alliance wouldn't be the same without the warmth and positivity of master teacher and choreographer Suzi Taylor, who has been with the organization since its inception in 1994, and is a beloved staple at Steps on Broadway, Pace University, and companies around the world.

Taylor prioritizes physical and mental health in all her classes, leading students through challenging exercises focused on strength and alignment and emphasizing the importance of self-care. She's known for celebrating the little things in the studio, and for encouraging her students to support one another. So naturally, she's the perfect candidate for our second "Whole Dancer" feature, where we hear from NYCDA dancers, choreographers and teachers about wellness and more:


On her journey with NYCDA:

"I have formed lifelong friendships and been given the opportunity to travel the country and work with many beautiful aspiring dancers. Many of our present teachers were NYCDA kids. Being able to watch their growth and then continue the relationship with them as teachers has been such a gift. The NYCDA community is very special. It really is my second family."

On how she helps dancers through injury:

"I am a firm believer in proper technical training, especially when it comes to alignment. So many injuries occur because a dancer is working incorrectly. Lack of strength and alignment leads to compensation and wear and tear on the joints and muscles. Many dancers have come back to me over the years to regain strength and recover from injuries. I am a very maternal person and I try to always look out for my students. Whether they're suffering from an injury or just having an emotional day, I want my class to be a place they feel safe and cared for."

On the importance of taking a break:

"I hope that my dancers find people that truly support them, that they forgive themselves after a less than successful day in class or auditions and that they find the time to take care of their often overworked bodies. It's also important that they take at least a day every week to enjoy life out of the dance world. I had a hard time with that one when I was young. It is only now that I see how important it is to take a break now and then."

On the bigger picture:

"NYCDA cares about training, building the proper foundation and teaching dancers how to work correctly. But along with the technical knowledge, we hope to communicate that this is only one piece of the journey. We want dancers to take this experience, grow from it and know there will be so many opportunities ahead. We want them to make good friends and nurture those relationships because those are the people who will carry them through the harder times."

On her self-care routine:

"I try to stay in the best physical shape I can, to give myself a barre, go to the gym, take a hot bath every night and eat healthfully. But even more so, I make sure to appreciate every moment I have with my family and friends. I travel so much that home time is precious. It gives me the peace that the sometimes-frenetic world of dance can challenge."

On her best advice for students:

"I would tell my dancers to be kind to themselves, appreciate the small gains and be patient. Work consistently and correctly so that your body is cooperative, feed it well and sleep! Surround yourself with a support system, one that knows the daily challenges of this business. Stay strong and confident in your own self-worth. It is not an easy path, but for many of us, it's the only one."

On her greatest inspiration:

"From my teachers to fellow dancers to ballet superstars that I was obsessed with as a child, I have had many incredible role models. But what continues to inspire and motivate me today are my students. They are the ones who show me that the information I have shared is valuable. They are the ones whose beauty and talent bring my choreography to life. They are the ones whose progress makes my heart happy."

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Hi, dance friends. It is a strange time to be a person in the world, and an especially strange time to be a dancer. As the dance community faces the coronavirus crisis, a lot of you are coping with closed studios, canceled performances and competitions, and a general sense of anxiety about how your world will look going forward.

Yes, dancers are super resilient, and there's been a lot of inspiring community-building happening. #LivingRoomDances and Instagram dance parties and virtual ballet classes with the pros are wonderful. Dance can, and should, be a bright spot in the darkness. But that weird, empty feeling you have? It might be grief. The loss of the certainty of daily class, the loss of the promise of that big end-of-year performance—that's real. The dance studio has always been a safe place; it's especially hard not to have that outlet now, when you need it most.

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We want to hear from you. Talk to us. Or dance to us. Or both. We won't stop moving, and you shouldn't, either.

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