It’s a G Thing: Harlem’s National Dance Institute gives kids access to the arts

HARLEM- The magic is in the movement for the tappers here at the National Dance Institute. “What was the feeling like when you first started?" I asked Aubrey. "It felt really fun," he smiled. "I liked how they’re music makers on your feet." This classic technique has completely consumed the life of 10-year-old Aubrey. “Every once in awhile my parents get a little bit annoyed that I’m still tap dancing at home," he laughed. 

He and all of the kids here are part of the nonprofit’s summer program expanding on the range of styles they learned during the school year. “The national dance institute works with over 6,500 children during the school year here in NYC in 41 schools," Ellen Weinstein, artistic director, explained. "We have 12 associate programs across the country and we have a big program in Shanghai."

The majority of these young performers are from low-income communities and come far and wide for the chance to dance. “It takes me two hours or if it goes really express one hour and 30 minutes," Kemuel, one of the students said of his commute. NDI was founded in 1976 by the legendary New York City Ballet dancer, Jacques d'Amboise. He believed all kids have the right to the arts. “I just felt that a learned person should be able to sing or play a musical instrument, should know poetry and drama, and should be able to dance," d'Amboise said. 

So he surrounds students with greatness: great paintings, great teachers and great musicians to help them evolve all-around. “Dancing gives me confidence and so I can do other things," Madeleine Ford described. "NDI is also about being kind to each other and making friends and stuff and that’s just like a really good life skill." And like everything in life nothing worth doing comes easy. “I’m tired a lot and I get sore but it’s very hard work and I don’t want to stop," Ford smiled. 

 

Produced by: Kim Pestalozzi