Our Impact

Our Impact 2019-01-16T18:30:55+00:00

“NDI is also where I learned to listen to others. It was a space where everyone had the opportunity to be heard and succeed. We were valued, and our humanity and the humanity of connecting to each other came first and foremost. Our differences and socioeconomic class lines disappeared. We were peers. We were equal.

National Dance Institute was unequivocally the most impactful element of my childhood.

At NDI, we were held to the highest standards of excellence as individuals, and as a team. As a young woman of color, when I could have been dismissed for the very body in which I lived, I found my voice through valuing that body as my primary mode of communication. NDI was the first place I felt truly seen.

NDI is also where I learned to listen to others. It was a space where everyone had the opportunity to be heard and succeed. We were valued, and our humanity and the humanity of connecting to each other came first and foremost. Our differences and socioeconomic class lines disappeared. We were peers. We were equal.

As I reflect back upon my journey as a dancer – graduating from NDI, going through more vocational dance training, and starting my career as a dancer – it’s all so clear that NDI is where I realized that I could achieve something amazing in life.

Things have come full circle for me. I have the great honor of now being an NDI Teaching Artist. Today, I work with children using the very same teaching methods from which I learned two decades ago. Every day, I strive to ensure that every student in my class is seen, can express themselves, can be excellent, and knows that they matter!

And because NDI shaped the very fabric of my being, I know that I matter. Still. I know that if I can make a fraction of the impact that was made upon me, I will change a child’s life forever.

You can change a child’s life too, and I hope you will join me in doing so. While no child pays to participate in NDI’s arts education programs, they are not free to operate. NDI relies on the generosity of friends like you to support its vital work. I am here to tell you that every penny of your gift will create a future filled with promise for the children of NDI. Like it did for me.

With unending gratitude, and forever a child of NDI,
Jessi Colón
NDI Alumna

“Now, not only am I an NDI alumnus, I am also an NDI teaching artist, choreographer, and Board member. What’s more, I have had the privilege of returning to where my NDI story began and teach NDI classes at Mott Hall. Every time I step into the building it sparks nostalgia. I get to motivate the next generation of young minds the same way I was first motivated 30 years ago.

I am a child of NDI.
In 1988, I was in the 6th grade at IS 223/Mott Hall in Harlem. Ellen Weinstein, now NDI’s Artistic Director, was my NDI teacher. I was only 11 years old, but I knew I wanted to be a teacher just like Ellen one day. Even at that yung age, I had great ambition and dream to follow in her footsteps and work for NDI.
And so I did.
After focusing on math and science in high school, and then earning my degree in Computer Science, I returned to NDI. Now, not only am I an NDI alumnus, I am also an NDI teaching artist, choreographer, and Board member. What’s more, I have had the privilege of returning to where my NDI story began and teach NDI classes at Mott Hall  Every time I step into the building it sparks nostalgia. I get to motivate the next generation of young minds the same way I was first motivated 30 years ago.
NDI made my dream come true.
Gratefully, forever a child of NDI,
Dufftin Garcia
NDI Alumnus

“I feel so lucky to have been a part of this amazing program. NDI shaped my character, developed my confidence, and helped me find and nurture my passions in life…I am also the mother of a four-year-old, and look forward to sharing the magic of NDI with my son one day.”

My journey with National Dance Institute started in 1993 as a chubby 4th grader from Harlem. I was shy, and not the best nor most confident dancer. You would often find me in the back of the class, working hard and having a great time, but trying my best to hide in the very last row. I quickly learned that despite the number of children in each class, NDI’s instructors see and teach to each dancer.

I remember the first time I was selected to demonstrate a step I had mastered. The excitement, the nervousness, and the pride I felt as the entire class sat patiently to watch me “perform” is a feeling I will never forget. I was seen.

NDI showed me the arts’ ability to bring together people of different cultures, ethnicities, and socio-economics. My NDI friends reflected the diversity of New York City. We lived in underserved communities, million dollar high rises, and everything in between. Although we came from different backgrounds, we were all dancers in the studio.

I feel so lucky to have been a part of this amazing program. NDI shaped my character, developed my confidence, and helped me find and nurture my passions in life. Today, I am the Director of Ticket Sales and Marketing at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and have had the honor of holding positions at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and New York City Center. I am also the mother of a four-year-old, and look forward to sharing the magic of NDI with my son one day.

I never paid a penny to participate in the NDI program; no child does. I am forever grateful for those who made my NDI experience possible for me through their generosity. What an incredible gift to give a child.

Forever a child of NDI, and with greatest appreciation,

India Haggins
NDI Alumna

“When I started NDI, I was a small, shy little girl who could barely tell you her name. I’ve changed so much since then. I’m now a senior in high school, and a full scholarship student at the Dance Theatre of Harlem School, not too far from the NDI Center where that shy little girl first found her voice.

I remember the day vividly…

I was in the 4th grade at PS 105 in the Bronx, and our class was brought down to the school auditorium. I had no idea what was in store for us, or how my life was about to change.

There, waiting for us, was National Dance Institute. That was the day NDI and I found each other.

And through the years, I found so much more.

At NDI, I found a sanctuary.
At NDI, I found a loving family of teachers, staff, and fellow dancers.
At NDI, I found discipline and confidence.

At NDI, I found peace and comfort.

When I started NDI, I was a small, shy little girl who could barely tell you her name. I’ve changed so much since then. I’m now a senior in high school, and a full scholarship student at the Dance Theatre of Harlem School, not too far from the NDI Center where that shy little girl first found her voice.

I can’t imagine my life without NDI, nor would I ever want to. I wish every child could experience what I did. Maybe together we can try to make that possible…one child at a time? I stand here today as proof that your generosity will change a life. It changed mine, and I am grateful for it every day.

Forever a child of NDI,
Flor Massey
NDI Alumna

“NDI is where I learned the value of persistence, dedication, and discipline, and I found a freedom of expression that gave me access to becoming my full self. I know the effect NDI had on me, and I’ve seen that same impact repeated in countless children the world over, all who have experienced the wonder of NDI.

In 1993 I was in the 4th grade at PS 183. My teacher announced that National Dance Institute was coming to our school that afternoon. I swore I wouldn’t dance. I was made fun of enough already.

But, my teacher made all of us go. I stood on the side of the room, refusing to join in. I was the skinniest kid in my class. At some point though, I looked over and noticed everyone in my class was dancing — every size and shape. I figured, if they could all dance, then I could dance. And I could. I was hooked.

By age 10, I made it on to NDI’s SWAT Team, and was introduced to ballet, jazz, tap, hip-hop, ballroom, and African dance. Tap became my thing. I tap danced at NDI, I tap danced in my bedroom every day after school, I tap danced on the sidewalk and in the subways… everywhere.

At age 13, Ellen Weinstein and Jacques d’Amboise asked me to choreograph a tap piece for the Event of the Year – “City, City.” They took me under their wings and helped me to find my way in the art of dance-making. The constant encouragement I received from Ellen, Jacques, and the rest of my incredible NDI teachers and mentors was a huge part of what fed my self-confidence and belief in my own ability to make a difference in the world.

Today, I run my own film production company based in New York. We travel all over the globe making socially-conscious documentaries, PSAs, commercials, and short films. My team and I get to do work that I know makes a difference in the world.

Whenever I can, I come back home to NDI, to visit, to collaborate, to make films, and to dance. NDI is where I learned the value of persistence, dedication, and discipline, and I found a freedom of expression that gave me access to becoming my full self. I know the effect NDI had on me, and I’ve seen that same impact repeated in countless children the world over, all who have experienced the wonder of NDI.

I remember the child I was before that very first dance class, and my life was transformed because of NDI. There are so many children just like me – waiting to break out of their shells and realize the potential that lives within them.

Forever a child of NDI,

Ben Nathan
NDI Alumnus

“My NDI teachers believed in me before I believed in myself. NDI was tough, it was nurturing, and it was inclusive. When you are a public school kid from a low-income community like I was, there are not many opportunities like this. I was lucky.

I joined the National Dance Institute family when I was a fourth grader at PS 1, a public elementary school in Chinatown. That was 28 years ago.

I still remember that first NDI class distinctly. There was no place to hide…it was the hardest class I had ever taken. A few minutes in, the teacher challenged me to learn a step. I didn’t believe in myself or my ability to get it right. After a few attempts, buoyed by NDI’s signature guiding spirit and encouragement, it finally clicked. I was overjoyed. Looking back, I realize that it didn’t matter if I mastered the step in that moment. It mattered that I tried.

My NDI teachers believed in me before I believed in myself. NDI was tough, it was nurturing, and it was inclusive. When you are a public school kid from a low-income community like I was, there are not many opportunities like this. I was lucky.

It has never been lost on me that my own success was a result of NDI. Today, I’m a managing director for a global private markets firm. There are very few people in my field who look like me and come from where I did. It was not easy to get here. But I learned from NDI that most things worth fighting for aren’t easy.

There was a generous group of supporters nearly 30 years ago who made it possible for me to have my NDI experience. It’s now my turn to help another child succeed. Together, we can let this new generation of children know that we believe in them and all they are capable of achieving… one step at a time.

Forever grateful, and forever a child of NDI,

Alex Yuan Nicholson
NDI Alumna

Through the close observation of each student, NDI’s pedagogical tools equip teaching artists to provide immediate and constructive feedback while simultaneously building a collective sense of accomplishment for the entire class. Weekly classes and rehearsals provide regular opportunities to assess our dancers’ effort and skills development and offer guidance and evaluation for each dancer as the program progresses.

Year-end surveys play a major role in helping NDI evaluate and continue to enhance our teaching practices. The surveys are distributed to principals, classroom teachers, in-school coordinators, and students to assess the impact of NDI’s program in each school. NDI continues to explore ways to measure the impact of its programs, both through our in-house team and from outside research sources.

Select findings from NDI assessments by classroom teachers:

  • 97% confirmed the students gained self-confidence and the ability to work cooperatively as a result of the NDI program.
  • 91% believed students demonstrated self-discipline, perseverance, concentration, and focus while participating in the NDI classes/performances.
  • 97% found the NDI program helped students find greater joy in learning.
  • 99% believed the final performance was a successful demonstration of students’ learning and achievement and that NDI improved their school culture.
  • 96% thought the NDI program was a well-organized and effective partner for the school.

In addition, collaborating teachers and administrators applauded NDI for providing a creative outlet and a supportive environment in which children were challenged to surpass their own perceived limitations. They also noted that NDI offered vital opportunities to shine for students who struggled academically. Teachers further recognized that the NDI experience helped students in the classroom setting by promoting listening, cooperative learning, and sequential learning skills, all of which fostered academic progress.