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Who's Dancin' Now?
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Who's Dancin' Now?

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Watch Video The phone rings and George advises a client on the stock prices of his portfolio. He's a sales trader at JP Morgan with an MBA under his belt. George credits much of his ability to manage the frenetic pace at work to NDI. NDI gave him the determination to succeed that would carry him through life. "Due to the program, I feel as though my interpersonal skills were developed
"When I set my mind to do something, I'm there. You better believe that I'm going to carry it to the end. And that I learned from Jacques."
the most. It made me more of a people person and I was able to relate to many different kinds of people and situations very easily. This was one quality that has helped me tremendously in my professional sales experiences ... Jacques instilled a 'can-do' attitude in all of us." Whether it was attending business school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, traveling to South Africa, or getting married, success- with a little determination- is always in reach.

When he leaves for the weekend after a busy workweek, George unwinds by playing electric bass guitar or going mountain biking. Nostalgically, he still relishes his experience of waiting backstage to run out and kick off "The Event of the Year" at the Felt Form or performing at Lincoln Center- "even the dress rehearsals were fun!" Much indebted to his early dance exposure, George sits on the Advisory Board of NDI.

The Nigels are still playing at the Baggot Inn in New York, and Todd just finished recording a CD. He acts and recently completed a production of "As You Like It." He's been pulling himself up with the same imaginary rope Jacques gave to him when he first joined NDI.

"After about five seconds, I realized that I am the worst dancer in the world ... but Jacques helped me relax and say it's okay ... do it again ... if you fail, so what? And that's something that has helped me throughout my life."
It was a group workout with Jacques at NDI. Todd had to lie on the floor and pull himself up with an imaginary rope, like a sit up. He just couldn't do it. Gravity was winning. "Come on, Todd. Keep pulling. It's only a rope. You can do it!" implored Jacques. "But it's not real!" said Todd. Jacques smiled again and said, "if it's not a real rope, then what did you pull yourself up with?" When Todd looked around, he had done it. "Jacques' words of encouragement distracted me from concentrating on failing and to focus on the task at hand."

Now Todd lives in Brooklyn with his wife of three years in their garden apartment. As he has joined SAG and other actors' groups, he performs in plays and occasionally acts as a stand-in on television, including an appearance on "Law and Order."

Watch Video To learn more about Jennifer's experience with Jacques and NDI, click the icon at the right to watch a video clip from WHO'S DANCIN' NOW? Jennifer is still a role model for children. However, now you will not find her in a kindergarten classroom, but in her own home in New Jersey, where she cares for her two-year-old daughter.

Laurent continues to embrace the serious and comedic poles of his personality. This former research journalist at the National Institutes of Health now lives in Montreal and works for an Internet company that specializes in medical information. That's his day job. At night, Laurent indulges his more playful side by performing a stand-up comedy act. "I was a very serious child, and Jacques kind of validated, you know, you can be serious and smart ... you can also enjoy yourself."

"NDI demystifies the idea that artists and performers are different than everyone else, and removes some of that barrier that makes the arts seem remote and inaccessible."
Not only did the NDI program encourage Laurent to celebrate his sense of self, it also helped him build his self-confidence. A safe haven for all of the diverse students, "NDI is never about being better 'than' someone else; it's about trying to be the best you can be 'with' everyone else." Within a supportive and congenial environment, Jacques dares his students to take risks. "I'd say he didn't get rid of your fear. You never get rid of your fear. He helps you get rid of your fear of trying." It's an important lesson to learn, one that Laurent surely practices each time that he steps on the stage armed with a joke or two.

Watch Video "Who can forget clean and polish the table?," Lakmini recalls of her NDI experience. Jacques uses catchy phrases that resonate well with children to explain dance steps, and in the process pushes them to do their best and to enjoy the journey. Leaving New York for Copenhagen, Lakmini still hears Jacques' voice and carries that spirit with her through all her endeavors, including her previous work at a talent agency and her current role as a mother to eleven-month-old Natasha.

"You just wanted to make him proud of you. And I remember that feeling, you know, of just wanting him to acknowledge me. And the beauty of it is, he acknowledged every one of us."
NDI set Lakmini's wheels in motion for a life long course through the arts. She enjoys African music and dance classes, and so does her daughter. "I sing all the time to myself, my hubby and especially Nattie. She loves music and moves instinctively with her body!"

While no NDI program exists in Copenhagen, Lakmini plans to move to Colorado in the fall and would like to start one there. "When we returned to NDI for the filming and the reunion there was such excitement in the air. Memories flooded our heads, flashbacks galore. When we visited the present NDI youngsters during a rehearsal at the school it made me teary-eyed as they welcomed us ... I just wanted to be ten years old and do it all over again." Maybe she will, in Colorado.

The letters change color as the screen guides Jamie through the words of Frank Sinatra. "For a second, you actually get to be a star" at the Karaoke bar, one of many haunts for Jamie as he continues to sing his way across the city and remembers that working with Jacques was his "first experience being put on the spotlight where there was a possibility of making a mistake and having all your peers know that and overcoming that fear."

"When I was in Little League, if a ball went through your legs -- that would be devastating ... it could really be a horrible experience if you made a mistake ... with Jacques, it was just the opposite."
Jamie knows "there's always going to be somebody better than you, and there's always going to be somebody worse than you ... but where you can really find your niche in life is by trying." Now he has taken on the new challenge of business development for a network of online career sites that powers career centers for some of the largest IT publications in the world. Jamie continues to study classics, and even helps out in his family-run chocolate store.

Photo of Julie As the judge swears in a new crop of attorneys, fresh from the bar, he invokes Plato and evokes Jacques d'Amboise and NDI. The judge explains that Plato's REPUBLIC assigned the guardians of the city to an education in the arts, so they would familiarize themselves with failure and learn to try again, harder. Julie could have just referred them to Jacques and her experience with NDI.

Julie continues to practice the lessons that she learned when she was just a little girl in pigtails. Only now she's involved in a different sort of practice as a matrimonial lawyer for a prominent New York law firm.

Though busy with her career, she has not forgotten the arts and how they shaped her life. A National Board Member of the Screen Actors Guild, she dreams of playing Eponine in LES MISERABLES. Even if Broadway is not in her future, she is constantly reminded of one of her favorite adages while under Jacques' direction: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again ... whether it's a dance routine or the bar exam."

While he used to design landscapes, he now provides virtual landscapes and communications. Adam Wagner left San Francisco and landscape architecture for Oregon and emerging technologies at Sprint, but he still remembers Jacques and NDI. "The experience taught me that I really could do things that I may not have thought possible," and now he helps businesses communicate via the Internet.

"Jacques taught me confidence. He taught me how to do whatever it was I wanted to do, and I could be the best at it."
Adam cherishes his memory of the Tchaikovsky festival with Jacques and NDI, how he was afraid and how he stood alone in front of the audience, for the first time, and blew out the candle for the closing ceremony. "Someone screamed ... I closed my eyes, blew out the candle, and the curtains fell ... George Balanchine and Jacques came running. Jacques looked at me and told me I was perfect." Among many NDI experiences, Adam credits this one to helping him build the strength and confidence to become a natural leader.

Now he owns a house in Portland, having survived and succeeded in a career change. He surfs as much as possible, cares for his Bonsai trees and, taking advantage of his proximity to Mt. Hood, snowboards a few times a month.

Josh suits up in something unimaginable. Donning ruff and coat and cloak, he's Beethoven, he's on television, and the children will soon be asking questions. It's just another day as an actor for him as he addresses a classroom via satellite and remembers getting up early for the carpool and the frenzy of Lincoln Center and NDI. It once seemed as if "only Jacques could control us," Josh recollects as he now engages a classroom of schoolchildren on his own, walking them through history and introducing the arts.

"I still get the excited feeling like it's the night of the Main Event at Madison Square Garden every time I perform as an adult."
Jacques taught Josh that the "expression of yourself can come in a lot of different ways." Among several films and plays, he's appeared in "Men of Honor," the feature film starring Robert DeNiro, the Lifetime movie "Take My Advice," and he teaches stage combat to aspiring actors. He still attributes one of most amazing stunts he has ever seen to Jacques. "One day, after we pleaded and pleaded with Jacques, he agreed to line up twenty students in a row across the stage, and jumped over us all. I wound up being one of the twenty and remember hearing Jacques' voice as he soared from one end of the room to the other, clearing us all with plenty of room to spare and landing with confidence and a smile." Now Josh volunteers for all sorts of dangerous stunts, anything the director thinks might be risky. "I learned from NDI that I could take it ... and make it look cool."

Moving backwards from side to side, Shasheen leads children down the mountain, teaching them to ski. "I was never the smartest, the best athlete, the most popular ... Jacques taught me that it really didn't matter, as long as I
"Jacques has an amazing ability to reach right down into you and bring out your personal best."
tried." Echoing Jacques' sentiments with his own young skiers, Shasheen turns them around and says, "You just skied that!" They look back in awe as he shares in the rewards of their improvement and remembers that at NDI, "it wasn't about being better than anyone else but about testing and pushing my own personal boundaries."

Photo of Shasheen As a child, NDI and the SWAT team, one of the more intense dance programs, overwhelmed Shasheen at first. "I can remember one morning at Lincoln Center when I was feeling all the self-doubt in the world ... for a brief second, Jacques' eyes connected with mine. He just smiled, and immediately, I felt a sense of calm and confidence." This personal resolve helped fuel an entrepreneurial spirit in Shasheen, leading him to co-found an online marketing and consulting group after having worked a few years in the investment banking world.

Even with all the demands of an Internet start up, Shasheen still finds the time for the activities that bring him the most joy. He gives ski lessons, serves on the Board for NDI-New Mexico, and teaches kids on the SWAT team. Aside from his volunteer work, Shasheen also enjoys the great outdoors of Santa Fe with his two dogs.

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