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The teach-learn connection.

National Dance Institute teacher training in Santa Fe

National Dance Institute Teacher Training in Santa Fe When former New York City Ballet principal dancer Jacques d'Amboise founded the National Dance Institute (NDI) in 1976, he planted a seed that has taken root in communities nationwide. Designed as an arts-education outreach program for New York City's public schools, NDI brings the arts to children who might not otherwise be exposed to dance, theater, and music.

Born and raised in a working-class neighborhood in New York, d'Amboise's life changed the moment he stepped into dance class. Now, through NDI, the 1999 Dance Magazine Award-winner's mission is to expose children similar to those from his own neighborhood to the excitement, beauty, and life-changing potential of the spirit of dance.

Catherine Oppenheimer, a former, dancer with the New York City Ballet and Twyla Tharp Dance Company, co-founded the New Mexico chapter of NDI with d'Amboise in 1994, following a series of work, shops in Santa Fe led by d'Amboise and his New York faculty. Since then, NDI-NM has taught classes to more than 10,400 children in thirty-nine schools across eighteen New Mexico communities.

NDI's approach is to teach a simple, athletic style of jazz dance-influenced movement. Rather than teaching the more traditional forms of ballet, modern, or technical jazz dance, NDI uses a rhythmic, pedestrian technique that is based on the way children move in their everyday life. Says Oppenheimer, "It engages an enormous percentage of the [children] we teach, especially the boys, because it's so physical and energetic. It's an ideal marriage of athletics and art."

OPPENHEIMER TRAINS PROFESSIONAL dancers in the NDI method during an annual two-week teacher training in Santa Fe titled "Teaching Excellence." Each September for the past three years, dancers have traveled from dance companies, YMCAs, studios, and schools around the nation to attend this hands-on intensive program. They leave Santa Fe with the tools necessary to begin to implement the philosophy and practices of NDI in their own communities. There are now NDI chapters in New Mexico, New Hampshire, New York, Texas, and Virginia.

Participants of the workshop learn specific NDI organizational and teaching techniques, including how to structure and run a continuous warm-up, how to set choreography on young dancers, and various movement games.

"It's an incredibly alluring and engaging technique that is filled with games and stories and competitions and taught very theatrically," Oppenheimer says. "The teacher is instructed to use her voice in all different kinds of ways, [with] accents and different registers, lots of body language, and tons of energy and a very open heart."

In the mornings, following an orientation, teacher trainees are divided into groups of three to work inside classrooms of two public schools in Santa Fe under the direction of Oppenheimer and other members of the NDI-NM staff, which includes Associate Artistic Director Allegra Lillard and teacher and NDI-North Artistic Director Robyn Avalon. Musical Director Bert Dalton and Associate Musical Director Mark Parker provide the musical accompaniment and work with the trainees on how to apply music to the NDI teaching methods.

In the afternoons, following an hour and a half of discussion, trainees work with an advanced group of young dancers at the NDI-NM center. To reinforce the day's lessons, they repeat the games and exercises from the morning, then work on setting choreography, devising new games, and staging a performance. The program culminates in a performance by all the participating children.

AT THE END OF THE workshop, trainees receive a certificate along with a manual written by Oppenheimer to further instill the skills learned over the preceding two weeks. The manual is also a guide to establishing an elementary-school dance program based on the work of NDI.

NDI's goal is to use dance to help children achieve excellence in every aspect of their education. A 1997 unpublished doctoral dissertation by Jenny Seham of Adelphi University, "The Effects on At-Risk Children of an In-School Dance Program," showed that children who had gone through NDI instruction improved significantly in reading, language arts, spelling, math, social studies, and general conduct.

In Oppenheimer's words, NDI "uses dance and music as these very seductive catalysts inspiring children to discover excellence within themselves.

"Self-esteem is won by trial and error," she says. "Children don't just simply feel good about themselves. They feel good when they get a sense of themselves through working toward something and succeeding at it."

--Madeleine Rogin

Eastern Connecticut Ballet Expands Class Offerings

James Robey joins the faculty of The School of Eastern Connecticut Ballet to teach the school's first classes in modern and jazz dance. Robey is the director of the Bare Bones Dance Project in New York and teaches at Manhattan Motion Dance Studios. He was a finalist in the 2000 Leo's Choreography Competition at the Jazz Dance World Congress in Buffalo, New York.

January Is Summer in Australia TasDance Summer School in Launceston. Tasmania, Australia, is in session from January 7-25. In its first summer program, the TasDance School of Performing Arts offers intermediate-level classes for ages 16 through adult in contemporary dance and choreography, street, jam, and funk. Application deadline is January 4. For more information, call + 61 3 6331 6644 or email

The Australian Ballet School has created a position with the mission to develop a Personal Potential Program for students. Filling the new job of artistic educator and specialist teacher in rehabilitation, Janet Karin assists students following an injury or illness and encourages students in developing the non-dance skills they possess.

Dance Companies Go Back to School ODC/San Francisco has been working with twenty students of Everett Middle School since September to create a performance piece, Rites of Passage, which will be presented in May. ODC Co-Artistic Director KT Nelson and the company's ten dancers join EMS teachers, counselors, and artists from the local neighborhood to guide the students through explorations of language arts, music, and performance. Support for the yearlong project is from the Louis R. Lurie Foundation.

Boston Ballet and Roxbury Community College have teamed up to offer "Taking Steps," a free after-school program for teenage girls from economically disadvantaged communities in the Boston area. The girls, ages 11 to 14, attend classes three times a week for twelve weeks and study ballet, hip-hop, and Latin dance, as well as other art forms.

January 13: Dance Expo in New Jersey

The Elite Dance Forum sponsors its second annual Dance Expo on January 13 at Freehold Gardens Hotel Conference Center in Freehold, New Jersey, from 2:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M. Dance Expo gives teachers and studio owners the opportunity to meet a variety of professionals who provide services to the industry--videographers, photographers, accountants, and music editors--as well as to browse the wares of dancewear stores and costume companies. For more information, call 732/380-1444.

Dancer to Manage Scholarship Program

Jeri Gaile joins the Music Center in Los Angeles as administrator of the Spotlight Awards program, a showcase for Southern California high school performers. Gaile will manage the application, audition, master class, and mentoring components of the program, which awards a total of $45,000 in scholarships to twelve finalists in dance, instrumental music, and voice each year. Contact Corisa Moreno at 213/202-2251 or visit to apply.

--Karen Hildebrand

Western Kentucky University Does Edgar Allen Poe

Stephen K. Stone and Lees Ginger Harris of Western Kentucky University conceived and staged a ballet based on Edgar Allen Poe's short story "The Masque of the Red Death," featuring pianist and composer Sylvia Kersenbaum. The work premiered in October 2001 at the Capitol Arts Center in Bowling Green, Kentucky, with the Bowling Green Western Symphony Orchestra and the Western Kentucky University Dance Company. For information about Western Kentucky University's department of theater and dance, contact 270/745-5845,

National Dance Institute-New Mexico's next teacher-training workshop is scheduled for September 2-13, 2002.

For more information, contact Catherine Oppenheimer at 505/983-7646, or visit

For Teacher Training Intensive workshops in other cities, contact the NDI: Aileen Barry, 212/226-0083, or visit:
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Author:Hildebrand, Karen
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2002
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