National Dance Institute Opens New Harlem Space

By Jeff Mays on October 12, 2011 8:19am 

Yitzhak Franco and Emma Kantor, both 16, dance at the National Dance Institute's new Harlem studios.
Yitzhak Franco and Emma Kantor, both 16, dance at the National Dance Institute's new Harlem studios.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

HARLEM—Yitzhak Franco and Emma Kantor danced effortlessly around the National Dance Institute's new studios on West 147th Street in Harlem Tuesday.

With Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed" as their soundtrack and their two teachers giving instructions, Kantor jumped into Franco's arms. Her feet hovered above the studio floor as he spun her in the air.

"There was this giant pole in the old space," said Kantor, 16. "These studios just invite you to dance."

After 35 years of moving around the city, the institute, founded in 1976 by former New York City Ballet principal dancer Jacques d'Amboise, finally has a permanent place to call home.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was on hand to cut the ribbon to the new space which includes four studios, a 175 seat performance space, gallery and offices.

As soon as the ribbon hit the ground, the institue's students christened the building by dancing in the doors of the building to "When the Saints Go Marching In." In each of the performance spaces, young students jumped, spun around and laughed.

"I am thrilled to be standing in this new space, a dream 35 years in the making," said the institute's executive director Kathy Landau.

The 18,000 square foot space is located on the ground floor and basement of P.S. 90, a mixed-income condominium. Located between Frederick Douglass Boulevard and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, the abandoned school was developed by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and L + M Development Partners.

The National Dance Institute purchased the space for $6 million and spent an equal amount to finish it. It was worth it, said the institute's founder.

"Joy is brought together by children of every size, shape, color and religion and economic background dancing. It makes no difference," said d'Amboise.

The institute teaches dance and music to 4,000 children in 30 schools around the city in addition to running after-school, weekend and summer programs. The institute will begin new programs at three Harlem schools, said Landau.

"All you have to do is watch these kids dance to see how magical this place is," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
 
"It gives young people the opportunity to learn a discipline that can take them to other places in their life."
 
For Blondel Pinnock, president of Carver Bank's Community Development Corporation and chair of the 125th Street Business Improvement District, the institute is a perfect fit for Harlem.
 
"When you think of culture and the arts, you think of Harlem," said Pinnock, whose nine-year-old son Miles recently took a class with the institute.
 
"This is going to be a part of the rich cultural heritage we already have."

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