For my practicum assignment, I have been placed at the Jeannette Neill Dance Studio in Boston. My main project involves video digitization for preservation, as well as preparing video clips and files for a web exhibit that will commemorate the studio’s upcoming 35th anniversary. I have lots to share about my practicum work, but first I’d like to share some background about the studio and its history.
The mission of the Jeannette Neill Dance Studio is, “To preserve the history and tradition of jazz dance while embracing the beauty in all forms of dance.” The founder, Jeannette Neill, opened the dance studio in 1979. At first she was the only teacher — teaching 17 classes a week! — but the studio grew and she was able to expand her faculty. The studio is the only one in the Boston area dedicated to jazz dance, and has collaborated with the best dance educators in New England. The studio now has three distinct programs: a non-competitive children’s program for ages 3-12, a pre-professional teen program, and an open, drop-in class system for adults.
Some interesting facts:
- The studio has hosted more than one hundred guest artists, teacher and choreographers, including Bob Fosse, Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera, Desmond Richardson, Carmen de Lavellade, Savion Glover, Wayne Cilento, Lynn Simonson, and Chet Walker.
- The JNDS has been home to more than seventy-five local dance companies and touring Broadway or pre-Broadway shows, including the workshops of Bob Fosse’s Big Deal, and rehearsals for the musicals Fosse, Pal Joey, Guys and Dolls, Mama Mia, Sweet Charity and Chicago among others.
- The studio routinely hosts auditions for major cruise lines and theme parks, as well as for the Alvin Ailey Summer Dance and Certificate Programs and the New York City Rockettes.
- In 1988, the studio produced Rhythms of Hope, a dance concert benefiting Boston’s AIDS Action Committee. The concert featured more than seventy local dancers from more than thirty dance companies. The concert, sponsored by John Hancock Financial Services, raised more than $50,000 to help fund AIDS care and research.
- In 1990, Jim Viera and Jeannette Neill founded Boston Youth Moves, a pre-professional dance training program that has touched the lives of more than four hundred young teens, and has produced dancers that are appearing on Broadway and dancing with the companies of Donald Byrd, Alvin Ailey and the Radio City Rockettes.
- In 1996, the studio moved to its current location in the North Station area of Boston. It occupies two floors of a renovated turn-of-the-century building, and features four studios, offices and a costume shop.
- To celebrate the studio’s move to its new location, studio director, J. Allen Collier, created the first annualBoston Summer Dance Festival, the only festival in the world whose mission it is to preserve the history and traditions of the uniquely American art forms of jazz, tap and musical theatre dance. The festival attracted a faculty of international renown, including Matt Mattox, Donald McKayle, Donna McKechnie, Eva von Gencsy and Lynne Taylor-Corbett.
- The studio has been named Best of Boston by Boston Magazine for three years, a 2004 A-List Award by WBZ-TV, and the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs named October 26, 1991, Jeannette Neill Day in the city of Boston to celebrate the studio’s opening of an annex location. In January of 2002, Jeannette Neill was the featured cover story in Dance Teacher magazine, an international dance publication, and was honored with a lifetime achievement award by the Big Sister Association of Boston.
This has been an incredible place to work! I couldn’t have asked for a better environment to support my education in video digitization, as well as my interests in dance, dance history, and living a healthy lifestyle. Next I’ll be sharing about the digitization project and what has been accomplished so far in my time here at JNDS. Stay tuned!