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

Latest Posts

Because there's never been a better time to binge-watch "Bunheads" (via Freeform)

5 of the Danciest TV Shows Streaming Right Now (and Where to Stream Them)

We're about two months into #SocialDisDancing, and let's be real—while we all wish we were spending every spare minute stretching, cross-training, or taking online classes, sometimes we just need to Netflix and chill.

We figure, if you're going to be watching TV anyways, why not make it dancy TV? After all, watching pros dance on-screen is basically dance class homework...or at least we'll say it is. Here are five of the danciest TV shows for you to watch—and where to find them.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Larry Saperstein on "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" (Disney+/Fred Hayes)

Celebrate National Tap Dance Day with "HSM" Star Larry Saperstein

Happy National Tap Dance Day, friends! We're marking the occasion by catching up with one of our favorite talented young tappers: Larry Saperstein. The "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" star began taking tap classes at 12 years old, studying at the American Tap Dance Foundation, where he quickly discovered his love for the art. These days, he's putting his skills to good use as Big Red on "HSMTMTS." (Who could forget that iconic moment at the end of season one where he broke out into a tap routine that shook us all!)

We chatted with Larry about why he loves tap so much, and why the art form needs more and better representation in the dance world (and the world world).

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

2020 Dance Grads: We Want to Put You on Our Cover!

Hello, all you members of the great Dance Class of 2020. With the world on lockdown, this hasn't been the graduation season you expected. You likely weren't able to go to prom; your commencement ceremonies have probably been delayed or canceled; and you might not have been able to take your planned-for final bow onstage.

Since you're missing out on so much, we'd like to give you a virtual ovation, to recognize all you've accomplished. And what's the highest honor we can bestow? The cover of Dance Spirit!

Here's the plan:

  • If you're a high school or college senior dancer, use this form to submit your information and dance portrait.
  • Each day during the month of May, we'll create a digital Dance Spirit cover starring one of you, chosen at random—31 covers in total.
  • At the end of the month, we'll create a "commencement video" featuring even more of your submitted dance photos.
  • 100 of you, selected by lottery, will also receive free one-year subscriptions to the print magazine.

Merde, 2020 graduates, as you dance your way into the future!

High School and College Senior Dancers: Submit Your Photo Here

Editors' Picks

Enter the Cover Model Search