What National Dance Institute’s Customized Teacher Trainings Can Do for Your Arts Organization
Sponsored by National Dance Institute
April 3, 2024

Since New York City Ballet principal dancer Jacques d’Amboise founded National Dance Institute in 1976, the nonprofit arts education organization has championed a simple yet profound truth: Early exposure to the arts can transform a child’s life. Grounded in its renowned teaching pedagogy, NDI has impacted millions of school children—in New York City and across the world—through its rigorous, joyful, and inclusive arts programming. With NDI, students develop self-confidence, a lifelong passion for learning, and an understanding that with dedication and hard work, they can achieve their goals. 

NDI’s not-so-secret secret to success is not only the content of its arts programs but the delivery itself. Since 2019, the NDI Collaborative for Teaching & Learning has equipped arts educators around the world with its codified NDI Method, designed to engage students of all ages, backgrounds, and ability levels. Always in partnership with live musical accompaniment, the NDI Method incorporates strategies like immediate, honest feedback, flipping the orientation of the classroom, call-and-response, and setting a joyful atmosphere. “What’s so great about the NDI Method is that you can adapt it to teach whatever discipline you want, from ballet to West African to hip hop,” says Senior NDI Teaching Artist Jessi Colón, whose experience with NDI as a young student led her to a professional career in dance, and ultimately back to NDI as an educator. 

Experience the NDI Difference

In-person workshops at NDI’s New York City headquarters and live virtual trainings immerse dance and music educators in NDI’s pedagogy, sending them home with instructional tools that can maximize their impact in their own classrooms. “We’re never just talking about concepts on a piece of paper,” Colón explains. Workshop attendees actively participate as students, teachers, and observers to witness the NDI Method in action and gain practical experience implementing it themselves. According to NDI Collaborative Director and Teaching Artist Emily Meisner, “Our primary focus is on the craft and art of teaching, helping teachers become the most effective, dynamic versions of themselves. At its core, all of our teaching practices are based on Jacques’ magical combination of joy and rigor. In our practice, we combine artistry, live music, choreography that highlight’s children’s abilities and strengths, and social-emotional learning.” 

Teacher Training Tailored to Your Program’s Needs

NDI Trainers Yakir Ben-Hur, Emily Meisner, and Calia Marshall outside The Ailey School in New York City after leading a customized training workshop for teachers at The Ailey School. Photo courtesy NDI.

For schools, dance companies, and arts organizations looking to enrich their programming, NDI’s customized teacher trainings address the unique challenges and collective goals of many kinds of dance programs, anywhere across the globe. “We start by clarifying exactly what an organization is looking to accomplish,” says Meisner. “Whether it’s how to strengthen the choreography that your teachers are using, work with large groups of children, or incorporate live music into your classes, we have decades of teaching experience and knowledge to draw from. 

Once goals are identified, NDI gets to work on a comprehensive training plan that accommodates the organization’s schedule, size, and environment. “What’s unique about our customized offerings is that we’re able to design flexible programming that meets the specific needs and goals of just about any dance education organization,” says Meisner. “We’ve held one-day workshops, multiday events, and have several long-term partnerships that combine in-person training with ongoing support throughout the school year.” For example, CityStep, a New York City–based arts organization, holds an annual two-hour customized training with NDI. “We help all of their new and returning teachers get on the same page and feel confident in their teaching,” says Colón. 

Let NDI Come to You

NDI Trainers Yakir Ben-Hur, and Jessi Colón with the teachers from the Community Engagement program at Miami City Ballet in Miami, Florida. Photo courtesy NDI.

When Miami City Ballet first partnered with NDI to bolster school outreach through its Community Engagement Program, NDI traveled to Florida to lead a three-day workshop on-site. “We went straight to their curriculum and looked at what they were required to teach, and then workshopped how we could apply NDI Method techniques to accomplish those objectives,” Colón says. “By the end, the teachers had tangible takeaways that they could immediately implement in their classes, such as a tendu series that both matches their class objectives and incorporates the NDI Method in its delivery.” 

After the initial workshop, Miami City Ballet’s Community Engagement Program continued to benefit from NDI’s expertise via individual teacher and group check-ins, as well as sending class videos for feedback. “Through our ongoing work with them both in-person and virtually, they were able to transition from an after-school program to an in-school program, as well as integrate live music into all of their classes,” Colón shares. “It’s been such a transformational change for them, and now into our third year of partnership, we’re excited to continue to support their growth.”

Social-Emotional Learning in the Classroom 

Emily Meisner and Lauren Anderson with the teachers from the Houston Ballet Education & Community Engagement program during the NDI customized training in Houston, Texas. Photo courtesy NDI.

Houston Ballet’s Education & Community Engagement Program is another prime example of the synergy that happens when an organization combines its specific goals with the NDI Method. For years, the program has frequently sent its dance teachers and musicians to virtual and in-person NDI workshops in New York City, but in 2022, it held a customized training session in Houston. “I got in touch with NDI and explained how many days we had, how many teachers were expected to attend, and that we wanted to do part of the workshop in a school setting,” says Lauren Anderson, associate director of Education & Community Engagement at Houston Ballet. “I wanted a training that could refresh our veteran teachers in the NDI Method without leaving the newer ones behind, and the folks at NDI were able to accommodate everyone in the allotted time we had available.” 

Through its specially tailored training, the NDI Collaborative helped Houston Ballet’s Education & Community Engagement Program combine social-emotional learning—a hallmark of the NDI Method—with state curriculum objectives, making the content more appealing to school administrators across Texas. “NDI helped us design lesson plans incorporating Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) concepts for third, fourth, and fifth grade, such as the water cycle, historical events, and layers of the Earth, into our dance programs,” says Anderson. “What principal wouldn’t want that in their school?”

Currently, Houston Ballet has programming in six schools around Houston, with plans to expand. “Of the students we serve, 75 percent of them are economically disadvantaged, and most have never had access to dance training,” Anderson says. “It’s so satisfying how, with the NDI Method, we can take kids who don’t feel included or good enough and completely transform their confidence and ownership of the material. It’s why I love what we do.” 

Spanning Cultures and Abilities 

NDI Trainers Jerry Korman, Jessi Colón, and Mack Lawrence with Lucia Marthas Institute for Performing Arts (Amsterdam, Netherlands) students during a customized training in New York City. Photo courtesy NDI.

NDI’s expertise extends beyond borders and limitations, as the NDI Method can be adapted to suit a wide range of cultures and abilities. “We have an ongoing relationship with Lucia Marthas Institute for Performing Arts in the Netherlands that includes an annual three-hour live workshop,” says Meisner. “At our last workshop, we were able to support and guide them even as they were practicing their classroom skills in Dutch, because it’s more about how a teacher is driving the room and engaging dancers than what language they happen to speak. Dance is a universal language, and we find that most techniques in the NDI Method can be adapted to different cultures and languages.” 

NDI also supports Dance by CLES, an educational arts program of the Lebanese Center for Special Education in Beirut, and has helped train over 40 of its teaching artists and musicians in the NDI Method.

The NDI DREAM Project, an innovative and inclusive dance program that brings children with a wide range of disabilities together with age-matched, nondisabled peers, is another often-requested area of customized training. “More and more organizations have been reaching out to us for support based on our own DREAM model,” Meisner explains. “Our DREAM Project staff are able to tailor customized training that caters to the unique learning needs of students in any organization.”

The NDI Collaborative for Teaching & Learning is dedicated to amplifying the unique strengths of teachers, so they can bring dance to more children. “Our trainings add an infusion of joy, a shared teaching language, and a sense of community among participants—all of which are extremely impactful on an organization,” Colón explains. For Meisner, “My favorite are those light-bulb moments, when a teacher realizes what they’re learning isn’t just theoretical. They’re actually able to implement what they’re doing right away in their classrooms and see the profound impact on their students.” 

Want to explore an NDI customized training for your organization? Get started here.

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