Tracing the Steps of Dance Alumni

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In 1976, New York City Ballet principal dancer Jacques d'Amboise founded the National Dance Institute as a way of introducing dance to pupils in the public school system.

By exposing them to the hard work and determination involved in performing, d'Amboise gave his enthusiastic students a valuable life lesson.

Their collective introduction to the arts was depicted in the 1983 film "He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin,' " which chronicled the anxious tryouts and rehearsals leading up to a performance at Madison Square Garden.

"Who's Dancin' Now?" (8 p.m. KCET, KVCR), a new documentary produced by New York public TV station WNET, checks in with 12 of the NDI alumni, now in their 20s, who have gone on to diverse careers in law, finance, science and education. The 90-minute film, which sets out to discover how they were affected by a formative encounter with d'Amboise, includes a reunion at his home.

"These children all have potential," says d'Amboise, referring to a current crop of NDI students. "And when you give them this dance program that says take a chance, you can do it, that applies whether they become astronauts or forest rangers or underwater photographers. They carry their success from an early age, and that gives them a trail to follow--a guide throughout their life."

That faith is reflected in the comments of a kindergarten teacher from the Bronx who says: "I was definitely shy as a child. I had terrible anxieties. A lot of them I was able to overcome by performing with NDI and working with Jacques. He made you believe you could do anything."

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