10 Years of Nationwide Dance Institute’s DREAM Mission


Image this: a dance studio full of youngsters transferring and creating. You might not have anticipated it, however a few of them are utilizing wheelchairs and different assistive gadgets. Led by a talented instructing artist, all of those kids work collectively – no matter capacity or incapacity. Such a scene is barely the norm inside Nationwide Dance Institute (NDI)’s DREAM Mission: “Dancers Understand Excellence By way of Arts and Motion.” 

This system pairs disabled and non-disabled college students as a way to construct friendships, promote artistry, foster the talent of collaboration, spark empathy and rather more. Such work expands NDI’s mission of inclusive, far-reaching dance training, shining the sunshine of its Founder Jacques d’Amboise via subsequent generations of artists. 

Dr. Agnes McConlogue Ferro and Kay Gayner. Photo by Jackie Mihaley.
Dr. Agnes McConlogue Ferro and Kay Gayner. Picture by Jackie Mihaley.

Co-founded by NDI Creative Director Kay Gayner and Pediatric Bodily Therapist Dr. Agnes McConlogue Ferro, this system is now in its 10th yr. Together with Aileen Barry, NDI’s Senior Director of Schooling and Outreach, DREAM has additionally developed a coaching program to arm dance and music educators, in addition to bodily therapists, with instruments to broaden accessibility and inclusivity in their very own communities. This system therein has the potential to kindle change far past NDI’s NYC house base. 

The group celebrated all of those achievements in an Alumni Homecoming on February 23rd. The occasion included performances from each present program members and alumni, people who bloomed from a four-day workshop (February 20-23). 

We’ll hear extra from each Gayner and Dr. McConlogue Ferro, in addition to briefly from Sarafina Belafonte – granddaughter of acclaimed recording artist and advocate Harry Belafonte. With out additional ado, right here they’re! 

The NDI DREAM Mission stands for ‘Dancers Understand Excellence By way of Arts and Motion’ – stunning! This system additionally operates by NDI’s ethos that when you’ve got a physique, you may dance, irrespective of incapacity, race, class. How does this system concurrently push college students towards excellence whereas additionally holding area for his or her individuality and particular person wants? 


“We work towards that aim via a number of completely different approaches, which embrace: uncovering, creating, strengthening and celebrating the distinctive actions of each little one (motion qualities, dynamics, specifics of the way in which they’ll transfer or may very well be taught to maneuver); creating versatile time inside the choreography – in order that completely different partnerships can catch up, fill or draw out the dance phrase inside, for instance, 16 counts of music; creating dance phrases that spotlight and construct on actions {that a} particular dancer can carry out superbly, then translating that motion to others. 

Every partnership of youngsters additionally requires differentiating instructing and translations of choreography. It’s additionally key to facilitate collaboration amongst the bodily therapist, instructing artist/choreographer, little one, caregivers/household, and peer companions. We discover out what actions are attainable, what’s secure, and the place every dancer’s ‘rising edge’ is.”

Dr. McConlogue Ferro

“I got here up with the acronym for DREAM as if it have been an epiphany! It’s the unwavering perception that ‘excellence’ is realized by kids who’re supported to take part via strengths-based inclusion…one thing that may solely be achieved via embracing the person in all of their stunning expressions of self. Supporting particular person wants and selling participation occurs very naturally via a devoted and ‘across-team’ collaboration. 

NDI Dream Project. Photo courtesy of David Belafonte.
NDI Dream Mission. Picture courtesy of David Belafonte.

I really like the phrasing of ‘holding area for his or her individuality.’ That’s precisely the intent of NDI’s DREAM Mission: to acknowledge, and never solely permit however to embrace and spotlight the person and the person partnerships. Efficient collaboration that helps kids on a journey of excellence is a dance in and of itself. In that dance, the choreography is sourced by honoring all enter and adapting accordingly within the second.”

Additionally with respect to program design, able-bodied and disabled college students study and create collectively. Such an built-in construction comes with each challenges and treasures. How is this system designed and run to nurture each able-bodied and disabled college students, and what advantages bloom from that built-in mannequin? 


“It may be powerful to maintain everybody engaged in a room that features dancers with a variety of diagnoses. There’s by no means ‘one’ reply when dancers have various talents (which ends up in many translations of every dance phrase). It can be a problem to create an surroundings the place kids with and with out disabilities really feel secure (emotional and bodily security are important).

So as to tackle these challenges, we deal with, spotlight and construct on what they can do. We additionally empower dancers to adapt steps/choreography for his or her partnership. We make everybody really feel secure by inviting them into conversations about how one can deal with tough conditions, and encourage one another to take part to their fullest capacity. We discover methods for every partnership to reveal mastery and abilities. Creating rituals for every class – for instance, warm-up, query of the day, goodbye dance – additionally helps. 

Consequently, friendships bloom, creativity is unleashed, and members see one another and join in new and generally surprising methods. Performances are designed to assist audiences see, perceive, and ‘study’ every dancer within the room.”

Dr. McConlogue Ferro

“We offer alternatives that permit for youngsters to ‘study’ one another. We acknowledge the significance of each little one’s must relate, to find out about one another with out judgment. That’s inherent to true inclusion. The NDI DREAM Mission is structured as a scaffolded course of the place we empower kids inside their partnerships to have a voice and to be inventive. It’s, indubitably, the place the magic of this program actually takes place.”

Ten years of this system – congratulations! What are a few of your favourite experiences, anecdotes and pupil success tales which have come out of this system? 


National Dance Institute Dream Project. Photo courtesy of NDI.
Nationwide Dance Institute Dream Mission. Picture courtesy of NDI.

“I really like the choreography that comes out of those workshops. However much more, I really like the way in which the youngsters fall in love with one another, and the way the friendships endure and deepen over time. Listed below are a number of examples, in their very own phrases”

  • Alexa: ‘In the present day, I need to take a second to thank a particular one who has made my NDI DREAM journey over time an actual dream…it has been an honor to work and dance aspect by aspect, forehead by forehead, wheel by wheel, knee by knee and coronary heart by coronary heart with my pal.’
  • Morgan: ‘DREAM makes it attainable for everybody to do what they’ll, and make it occur in a enjoyable and entertaining method.’
  • Daniel: ‘Isaac’s vitality will need to have transformed my nervous vitality into sheer pleasure, and all of a sudden I used to be on the verge of leaping up and down! The present went nice, and since then, my confidence has grown exponentially. Anytime me and Isaac accomplice up, we’re in close to excellent sync.’

Dr. McConlogue Ferro

“There are so many! Paradoxically, few of my favourite moments are about dancing, per-se; all of them appear to be extra about particular person discovery, empowerment, relating to one another and the enjoyment that comes from all of that. I assume as a result of we simply completed our most up-to-date DREAM Mission (kicking off the celebration of our 10th 12 months Anniversary), I’ve to say that the spotlight and the phrase that retains operating via my head is: ‘SHE DID THE WHOLE SHOW!’ I’m considering of a younger woman who began a year-and-a-half in the past. This was her third NDI DREAM Mission. 

Throughout our preliminary assembly, her household didn’t anticipate her to have the ability to take part all through the category, and definitely not all through the entire efficiency. At first, she didn’t. She did, nonetheless, do a small part of the primary efficiency, a little bit extra within the second….and the entire present within the third! I [get] choked up. Hers will not be the one story of ‘past expectations,’ and I don’t consider it will likely be the final. But, proper now I’m taking the time to rejoice with – and for — her!”

We’re approaching the third anniversary of Jacques d’Amboise‘s passing. How do you see the DREAM Mission carrying on in his imaginative and prescient and legacy, and the mission of the group he based? How do you see this program rising into the longer term to proceed doing so, and doing so maybe much more considerably and meaningfully? 


“The DREAM Mission is a pure extension of Jacques and NDI’s core perception that each little one can dance. We hope to broaden our programming by providing extra workshops right here in New York, in addition to proceed to coach instructing artists in inclusion ‘achieved proper.’ That’s all within the hope that the DREAM mannequin can encourage arts educators everywhere in the globe to start out applications of their very own.”

Dr. McConlogue Ferro

“I miss him! I miss how he would come and sit and smile at each little one. He would by no means hesitate in interacting with anybody, nor in elevating the bar ever so barely past what we’d have thought attainable. He had a novel capacity to see artistry and to really revere it – and he noticed that in each little one. That is his legacy. What an unimaginable honor it’s to hold it ahead.  

I consider that we are going to proceed to broaden the NDI DREAM Mission, past filling the studio for every DREAM, by rising consciousness of the clearly recognized want for (and the constructive influence of) inclusive dance on all who take part and observe, and that data is the muse of inclusion. That basis is data of the kid, of finest follow and of the artwork of collaboration. This program is constructed upon embracing individualized inclusion for all kids. It’s our dream to broaden that basis to communities far and vast.”

Please share the rest that you just’d like our readers to know.

Dr. McConlogue Ferro

“I might love for readers to acknowledge that community-based inclusive dance impacts everybody. That influence goes past the partitions of dance studios. We’ve seen the way it transforms kids and households to be empowered agents-of-change. Dance is highly effective. Dance is community-building. Dance is a bridge that fosters connections to others. We really want that to be skilled and discovered at a younger age, now greater than ever.”

Sarafina Belafonte. Photo courtesy of NDI.
Sarafina Belafonte. Picture courtesy of NDI.

A closing phrase from Sarafina Belafonte

“DREAM led to one among my most beloved friendships, with my accomplice Esmé. It’s introduced fantastic dinners, FaceTime calls and a bracelet I cherish with the phrases ‘Dance Group Esmé’ engraved in her handwriting. I additionally discovered an unimaginable friendship together with her mother, Hillary, whose power, resilience and openness are awe-inspiring. She let me ask questions on Esmé’s situations, and helped information me in dancing together with her. Most significantly, she trusted me with being her daughter’s dance accomplice and pal – one thing for which I’m eternally grateful. 

DREAM is a part of the rationale I needed to review neuroscience. DREAM is centered across the concept of translations; Kay and Aggie would give us choreography to study, and every individual would adapt a translation that match their our bodies. Motion and communication look completely different for every of us – and DREAM has the unimaginable functionality of constructing everybody really feel at house, understood and celebrated. Finding out neuroscience could be very related; our brains use the identical cells (neurons) and communication strategies (electrochemical alerts), however in varied translations that make us who we uniquely are. I’ll cherish each second I’ve had with DREAM, and I stay up for one other 10 years!”

For extra data on NDI Dream Mission, go to nationaldance.org/occasions/dream-project-2023.

By Kathryn Boland of Dance Informa.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *