A Closer Look At the Howard Gilman Foundation's $1.5 Million Give to The National Dance Institute

New York City school children who love dance have no better friend than the National Dance Institute (NDI). Discuss.

While you're discussing, I'd like to take this opportunity to mention that the NDI recently received a $1.5 million grant from the Howard Gilman Foundation. Are these two things related? Most likely.

That's because the institute, which was founded by the legendary New York City Ballet principal dancer Jacque d'Amboise, has some of the most innovative educational programs in the country. Currently in 35 partner schools in the New York metropolitan area, the NDI works with approximately 6,000 students per week. Each class is lead by a Master Teacher/Choreographer, a Musician/Accompanist, and an Assistant Teacher.

But at a deeper level, the NDI is more about dance. Instead, the programs use dance as an instrument to create an experience that is joyful, athletic, and perhaps most importantly, educational, equipping students with critical thinking and collaborative social skills. In an era of standardized testing psychosis, where some schools even cut physical education classes, this is no small feat.

NDI's partnership with schools is an immersive one. The institute offers full-year programs, 10-week residencies, and two-week intensives in which students dance every day (!) for two weeks, and after-school programs. Classroom teachers are involved as well, and many end up dancing with their kids. Coolest of all, all of the programs culminate in a final performance for the school or community.

The Howard Gilman Foundation noted the NDI's innovation in their announcement, which also included another juicy tidbit. Ever-grateful for the $1.5 million gift, the NDI will name their state-of-the-art performance space in Harlem "The Howard Gilman Performance Space."

The foundation's namesake passed away in 1988, but his legacy lives on by supporting three of his most beloved disciplines—dance, music, and theatre—in his birthplace and hometown of New York City.

In fact, the foundation is on a bit of a naming spree of sorts. Its name is associated with facilities at a host of other New York City cultural institutions, including the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Baryshnikov Arts Center, the Mark Morris Dance Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Meanwhile, if you're done discussing, do yourself a favor and head on over to our vertical devoted exclusively to philanthropic news and analysis in the Big Apple.