Backstage with Sandy Kenyon: The National Dance Institute

NEW YORK (WABC) -- At the National Dance Institute, they believe dance can enhance the lives of children in New York City.

Just ask the kids.

"It's really fun to dance with other people," student Isabella Alayo said.

"All the teachers are so much fun, all the kids," student Bebe Byrnes said. "It's kind of like they're my own family here."

"We learn how to do all these different kinds of dance," student Charlie Niang said. "Like, I never thought I could do tap."

NDI was founded in 1976 under the belief that the arts have the ability to engage and motivate all children.

"The program was started over 42 years ago by New York City Principal Ballet dancer Jacques d'Amboise," NDI Executive Director Traci Lester said. "And Jacques believed that all children, when introduced and fully immersed in the arts, will excel."

Since the program's inception, more than two million kids have participated.

"We work with children all over New York City, with roughly 6,500 children per week, in New York City public schools," Lester said. "We bring them here to the NDI center to join our dance team. We offer them scholarships, so no child pays for the program. And then they are fully immersed in the arts when they arrive."

The program has a variety of offerings to study.

"We offer them ballet, modern, jazz, tap, and we also introduce them to different forms of choreography," Lester said.

And in addition to being taught, there's room for creativity.

"As we dance, they give us ideas," student Anaiah Nelson said. "And they also give us the chance to create our own ideas."

Those who have gone through the program say it sticks with them even as they get older.

"Even when you're an alum, you want to come back, you want to continue working here," student Clara Pallordet said. "It's just such a special opportunity, and it enlightens you so much, you want to continue with it."

CLICK HERE for more on the National Dance Institute and information on the programs and classes.

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