Must Visit: The National Dance Institute

“The arts open your heart and mind to possibilities that are limitless. They are pathways that touch upon our brains and emotions and bring sustenance to imagination. Human beings’ greatest form of communication, they walk in tandem with science and play, and best describe what it is to be human.”-Jacques d’Amboise

From the moment the children walk into the previously abandoned elementary school, they are surrounded by art. Whether it’s on the walls by internationally renowned artists, the sounds of the live music coming from every studio, or just from the rehearsing of dance routines - every child is integrating art into learning at the National Dance Institute Center for Learning & the Arts. Founded in 1976 by classical dancer, Jacques d’Amboise, NDI today serves 5,200 children in grades K-12 each week, and is currently in 35 partner schools in the NYC metro area.

The home of the National Dance Institute is located on 147th st. between Adam Clayton Powell and Frederick Douglas boulevards. From the previously abandoned elementary school - that is now comprised of four studios and two galleries - the sharing of the arts is reaching across the globe. Just a few months ago, dancers at NDI used Cisco TelePresence to choreograph a dance in real-time, video collaboration with some of their peers thousands of miles away - in Shanghai, China.

We were given the opportunity to watch some of the kids in action in their after school classes. Each year NDI teachers come up with a curricular theme in which they integrate into the dance lessons. Past themes have included the works of musical legend Stevie Wonder, and Science - as seen in music and art. This year the theme is the music, art, and culture of New Orleans. In one class we saw kids practicing a routine called “The Jambalaya”, in which they incorporate “chopping” and “sautéing” motions into the choreography, to the tunes of “When the Saints Go Marching In” played live on the piano.

The staff and teachers at NDI are committed to education through art, music, and culture for all of the children that walk through their doors every day. Within each class there are 2 teachers and 1 live musician to ensure engagement in a lively, positive atmosphere to help instill the fact that excellence does indeed reside within each and every child. Programs at the National Dance Institute core programs are free for every child, and since establishing a permanent residence in Harlem just over a year ago, they have launched partnerships with 3 new public schools in the area. The ultimate goal is to keep growing and enriching the lives of children through art education. NDI is well on track to becoming a viable resource and destination for the community of Harlem, as well as continuing to reach children across the globe.

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