OUR TEAM


Jacques d'Amboise (Founder) is recognized as one of the finest classical dancers of our time. Jacques d'Amboise now leads the field of arts education with a model program that exposes thousands of school children to the magic and discipline of dance. In 1976, while still a principal at the New York City Ballet, Mr. d'Amboise founded the not-for-profit National Dance Institute in the belief that the arts have a unique power to engage and motivate individuals towards excellence.

 

His contributions in arts education have earned him numerous awards and honors including: The Mayor's Award for Arts & Culture (2004); People First Honoree People Magazine (2002); The Arison Award (2002); The Heinz Award (2001); Dance Magazine Award (1999); NCEA St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award (1996); The Kennedy Center Honors (1995); The National Caring Award The Caring Institute (1995); The Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1993); a 1990 MacArthur Fellowship: The Capezio Award (1990); The First Annual Producers Circle Award for public service (1989); the distinguished Paul Robeson Award for excellence in the field of the humanities (1988); The Nancy Hank Fellowship - Duke University; and the Sterling Merrill Fellowship, Salt Lake City, Utah.


"He Makes Me Feel Like Dancing", a 1984 PBS documentary film about his work with NDI won an Academy Award, six Emmy Awards, the Peabody Award, the Golden Cine Award, and the National Education Association Award for the advancement of learning through broadcasting. Mr. d'Amboise has been the recipient of many honorary doctorates including Honorary Doctorate of the Fine Arts Award at the Juilliard School (2000). He has served as a full professor and dean of dance for two years at SUNY Purchase and eleven years as visiting professor at the College of Creative Studies, University of California at Santa Barbara.

 


 

Ellen Weinstein (Artistic Director) began teaching and choreographing for National Dance Institute in 1985 and was named Artistic Director in 1995. She is responsible for the direction of NDI’s In-School Program, which currently serves approximately 6,000 children in New York City public schools. Her work has been performed at venues as varied as Carnegie Hall, the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and with the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center. Her choreography, “Wade in the Water,” was featured at the White House at a state dinner hosted by President and Mrs. Clinton. As an artistic consultant to NDI’s national outreach programs, Ms. Weinstein has set works and directed residencies in major cities across the country. She traveled to Moscow as a consultant for NDI’s artistic exchange with the Soviet Union and has taught in Madras, India; Paris and Israel. In 2010, she led an NDI delegation to Shanghai to collaborate with renowned choreographer Dou Dou Huang and The Shanghai Children’s Palace. Prior to joining NDI, she danced professionally with the Savannah Ballet, the Garden State Ballet and several contemporary dance companies. Ms. Weinstein served as adjunct professor in process pedagogy at the State University of New York at New Paltz. She received a BFA in Dance from SUNY Purchase.

 


 

Traci Lester (Executive Director) Traci Lester joined NDI as Executive Director in September 2016. Previously, Ms. Lester served as the Chief Executive Officer of LSA Family Health Service, a human services agency, where she was recruited to spearhead the reorganization and growth of the East Harlem-based nonprofit. Prior to that, she was the Executive Director of Reach Out and Read of Greater New York, an early literacy, school readiness program, where she developed the organization’s expansion plan and overarching fundraising strategy, and served for over a decade making waves in the field of early literacy development. During her ten-year tenure, she doubled the number of ROR programs serving 250,000 children annually and raised close to $9 million from public and private sector sources. She has also spent time working with children as an Elementary School Teacher in Brooklyn.

 

Ms. Lester is the recipient of the American Association of University Women’s Selected Professions Fellowship, the National Association of Health Service Executive’s Community Service Award, and was named to the Grio’s 100 List for 2012 as an African-American history maker and industry leader in the field of education. She has served as a Fellow in The San Francisco Foundation’s Urban Affairs Program and is a member of the Greater New York Association of Fundraising Professionals, American Society for Public Administrators and the Pi Alpha Alpha Honor Society.

 

She earned a BS degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, an MBA from Rutgers University, and an MPA from California State University. She also holds a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Columbia University’s Institute for Nonprofit Management.

 

Ms. Lester also serves in a volunteer capacity on other boards and volunteers her time to organizations dedicated to improving the lives of children, such as Spence-Chapin Adoption Agency in New York City.

 


 

Jerry Korman (Music Director) has more than a 20-year history with Jacques d’Amboise and National Dance Institute that has taken him to China, Senegal and Israel as well as the Kennedy Center, the White House and Lincoln Center. As the Music Director for NDI, Mr. Korman’s responsibilities include the Event of the Year, NDI Celebration Team projects, Teaching Artist Training programs, and overseeing the music aspect of the In-School Program and NDI Center activities. In addition, Mr. Korman is the music director of Tony Yazbeck's 2016 release The Floor Above Me, and recently composed the theme for The Joe D Show. Thank you, NDI.

 


 

Tracy Straus (Artistic Associate) has been a member of National Dance Institute's artistic staff since 1993. In her role as Master Teacher/Choreographer, she has directed residencies for children across America. In 2000, she founded Celebrate The Beat, a Colorado-based associate program of NDI which she continues to direct. She is also Co-Founder of California Dance Institute, another NDI associate. Her experience as an arts educator includes joining The After School Corporation, started by international philanthropist George Soros to bring high quality after-school programs into the public school system. As an arts consultant, Ms. Straus has worked to develop multicultural arts programs for schools in the five boroughs of New York City and has trained dance instructors. Ms. Straus began her performing career at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. An actress as well as a dancer, she trained at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London and performed in various off-Broadway venues. Her recent work has included choreographing for the television show "America's Next Top Model" for CBS. She holds a Master's Degree from Bank Street College of Education in early childhood education, and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Michigan in dance and literature. She has taught as an adjunct dance professor at New York University and the State University of New York at New Paltz.