Pre-eminent American choreographer Keith Clifton was in Masterton this week setting a national dance syllabus for young dancers throughout New Zealand.

In the mid-1990s Mr Clifton restructured the jazz and tap syllabus for the New Zealand Association of Modern Dance (NZAMD).

He had set nine grades each of jazz and tap for the female syllabus, he said, and also had set a syllabus comprising a dozen male combinations of dance.

Over the past three days in Masterton he has been leading rehearsals with a pair of young Wellington dancers that will comprise amendments to the syllabus for low-to-high intermediate grade female dancers.


He said that during his 10-day visit to New Zealand from his California home in Huntington Beach, where he and his wife Linda run the Clifton Dance Project, he will choreograph about 20 short combinations of dance and teach the set pieces to eight young Kiwi dancers.

Videos will be shot of the dancers over the coming few days in the capital, he said, and would constitute elements in the NZAMD syllabus.

Mr Clifton would judge prospective NZAMD scholarship recipients in the capital during his visit, he said.

"Jazz and tap dance in New Zealand is definitely getting a lot better.

"The girls are stronger and less reserved.

"It is great to see."

NZAMD examiner and artistic director Nicola Madden, who also runs the Masterton dance studio, said it was a privilege to be working alongside a choreographer of Mr Clifton's calibre.

She said his availability for a working visit helped "nurture and elevate up-and-coming young dancers" throughout the country.

Mr Clifton has been in business as a dancer, teacher, and choreographer for the last 2 decades.

He has performed in five Dr Pepper commercials, three for Wendy's as well as commercials for Dodge, McDonald's, Levis and many more.

He also has performed on stage in musicals including 42nd Street, George M, Oliver, My Fair Lady, A Chorus Line, and Anything Goes, for which he won the Dramalogue's Critics Choice Award for Best Choreography.

His television credits include appearances in The Academy Awards Show, the Tim Conway Show, The Carpenters, Wolfman Jack, and David Copperfield.

Keith has also travelled as a guest artist to perform with regional ballet companies in lead roles such as The Nutcracker, Copepelia, Swan Lake, and Firebird.

Mr Clifton also has taught dance throughout the United States as well as in Australia, Canada, Japan, San Salvador, and Guatemala.