History of NDI

Having grown up in a low-income family in Washington Heights, New York City Ballet principal dancer Jacques d'Amboise well understood the transformative power of the medium of dance. In the late 1960s, d'Amboise began teaching ballet to boys in a studio at The School of American Ballet. Fueled by the idea that the arts are a vital part of every child's education, he brought his program to schools. In 1976, NDI was formally established and soon, school after school signed up for d'Amboise's dance classes. In an effort to expand the impact of the NDI program, d'Amboise then began to train fellow dancers and choreographers - including Ellen Weinstein, now NDI's Artistic Director, current NDI Associate Artistic Director Tracy Straus, and many others - in his teaching methodology.

Today, NDI's In-School Program reaches thousands of children each week. Significant changes have strengthened and deepened the NDI program over the years. The pedagogy has been codified and NDI has evolved from a pull-out program in which children auditioned to participate, to an in-depth sustained program throughout the school year for an entire grade, culminating in Mid-Year Assemblies and End-of-Year Performances for the entire school community.

NDI's Teacher Training Program, established in 1998, ensures the continued high quality of our teaching staff as well as our ability to meet the demand for our program in New York City and across the country. Interest of educators and community leaders in the NDI program has led to a national residency program as well. Today, programs patterned after the NDI In-School Program involve thousands of children in California, Colorado, New Mexico, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina.

While NDI has undergone considerable growth and change over the years, our mission remains the same. We believe that every child - regardless of socioeconomic status, language, cultural background, or physical ability - should have the opportunity to experience the joy and power of the arts. Our goal is to engage and inspire youth to achieve their highest potential, using dance as a catalyst. The NDI pedagogy develops and inspires excellence, and our dancers are able to achieve more than they every dreamed possible.

"There seems to be a human need to dance - to dance for joy, for sadness, to petition the gods and then to thank them. Children feel this need to dance acutely; often its just the opportunity, the invitation, they lack. It is, I'm sure, this human need that triggers the extraordinary changes I see in them. At National Dance Institute we expose thousands of children a year to the mystery of dance - some who are deaf, some who don't know left from right, and some who never thought they could (or would even want to) dance - and all of them are changed by the experience, some in small ways, others profoundly."
- Jacques d'Amboise
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NDI History Timeline

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