An NDA Dance Team Instructor Talks Shop

Many college students spend their summers taking orders at restaurants or working at the mall, anticipating the day they’ll get hired to do what they love. Abby Gilbert, a senior dance major at California State University, Sacramento, is already getting paid to follow her passion. For the past five summers, she has worked as a National Dance Alliance head instructor—dancing, jet-setting around the country and standing out as a role model for hundreds of middle- and high school–aged dancers.


Abby’s job leaves plenty of time to explore other areas of dance during the off-season. She choreographs for NDA, judges regional and national competitions, attends NDA conferences and recruits future NDA instructors. This year, she also nabbed a spot on the Royal Court Dancers, the  dance team of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.

Ins and Outs
•    Skills Needed:
Strong jazz, kick, pom and hip-hop technique as well as professionalism are crucial to becoming a staff member, but Abby also advises honing your teaching skills. “In this job, you’re [often] in a huge gym with five other classes going on and a hundred kids in your class, with no microphone, so being able to communicate clearly is super important.”
•    Perks: Abby says that one big bonus is the travel. She has flown to colleges in Texas, Kansas, Indiana, Illinois and Oklahoma. This year, NDA also flew her to Miami to be on the halftime-show staff for the FedEx Orange Bowl.
•    Hours: Three- or four-day resident camps and two- or three-day private camps take place from June to August. Abby’s daily hours can be daunting, with days beginning at 8 am and ending at 9:30 pm. After breakfast at 7 am, she and the rest of the staff head to the gym to teach pom, jazz, kick and hip-hop routines, play team-building games and lead technique classes. Camp lasts until 9:30 pm, but Abby confesses that it’s rare for instructors to go to sleep that early. “That’s when we dismiss the campers, but we’re always up until midnight or 1 am getting everything ready for the next day,” she says.
    Pay Range: Varies with experience and age
•    Tools of the Trade: Uniforms, CD player, extra batteries, a copy of routine music on CD and another on tape, award ribbons, backpack, water bottle
•    Co-workers: Instructors (cheer and dance), camp managers, athletic trainers
•    For more: Visit, or e-mail Alicia Whatley at

(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)

Congratulations to Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.

We also want you to get social! We'll be factoring social media likes and shares into our final tallies. Be sure to show your favorite finalist some love on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, sharing their profile pages and using the hashtag #DanceSpiritCMS.

Cover Model Search
Photo by Erin Baiano

Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.

Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."

Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?

Keep Reading Show less
Cover Story
Corbin Bleu in rehearsal for "Kiss Me, Kate" (Jenny Anderson, courtesy Roundabout Theatre Company)

If you're a hardcore Broadway baby, today is the worst Sunday of the year. Why, you ask? The Tony Awards were last Sunday, so basically there's nothing to look forward to in life anymore—no James Corden being James Corden, no teary acceptance speeches from newly minted stars, no thrilling excerpts from the hottest new shows. Oh yeah, and there are 50 more Sundays to go before our humdrum lives are once again blessed with the next annual iteration of Broadway's biggest night.

Keep Reading Show less
Musical Theater



Get Dance Spirit in your inbox