The Coalition for National Dance Week was formed in 1981 by a group of dance related organizations who began a strong "grass roots" movement across the United States to bring greater recognition to dance as an art form. Through the years, the basic premise was strongly maintained and kept alive through the combined efforts of Alfred Terlizzi of Capezio/Ballet Makers Inc.®; Bob Stern of Dance Magazine; Susan Wershing of Dance Teacher Now magazine; Tighe King of Tighe Industries/Curtain Call Costumes; and Susan Epstein, formerly of Taffy's, Capezio/Ballet Makers Inc. and Curtain Call Costumes.
In 1991, the United Dance Merchants of America made a commitment to National Dance Week as a part of the UDMA campaign to actively encourage the growth of Dance in America. In 1994, Marianne Prinkey, Executive Vice President of Star Styled Dancing Supplies and a former president of UDMA, agreed to assume the role of National Chairperson for a formalized National Dance Week Committee. Gathering together an impressive Steering Committee, Ms Prinkey took the NDW movement quickly into a new realm of recognition and has led the NDW force forward with a strong growth in nationwide recognition. In 1999, on the recommendation of Ms Prinkey, Patricia Goulding, became the NDW Business Manager and, in 2001, was named the Executive Director of NDW. She continued in this role under the Chairmanship of Michael Terlizzi from Capezio Inc. for the 2001 celebration and, for the 9 years that followed, under the leadership of National Honorary Chairperson, Nancy Stone, from Danceamerica and International Dance Challenge. Diane Despopopoulos Sheibley, who has worked in the dance industry for 30 years and has been involved in NDW since the grass roots movement started to take shape in 1981, is currently the Interim Executive Director.
The "grass roots" aspect of NDW continues to the present and is, in fact, largely the reason for the tremendous growth the annual celebration has seen over the years. A volunteer work force is made up of NDW delegates from all facets of the dance world. Events number in the thousands during the ten day annual celebration from Kickoff events in major cities to local showcases at small town malls. The vast assortment of events and activities vary largely and are limited only by the creative abilities of those who participate.
Since the NDW movement has been rekindled in the American scene, NDW Spokespersons have included: Chita Rivera (1994), Gregory Hines (1995), Paula Abdul (1996), Gus Giordano (1997), Ann Reinking (1998), Shirley MacLaine (1999), Debbie Allen as Celebrity Spokesperson and Joe Tremaine as the Education Spokesperson (2000), Sandy Duncan as Celebrity Spokesperson and Luigi as Education Spokesperson (2001) and Ben Vereen as Celebrity Spokesperson and Jo Rowan as Education Spokesperson (2002). They join the American dancers in honoring the 2002 Spokespersons, Fayard Nicholas as Celebrity and Jo Rowan as EducationSpokesperson (2003) and; Tommy Tune as Celebrity and, once again, Jo Rowan, as Educational Spokespersons for 2004. The famed Radio City Rockettes® served us in fine fashion as the Celebrity Spokespersons as did Frank Hatchett as Education Spokesperson, all for NDW 2005 and 2006. With ballet, tap and jazz having been so ably represented in our national representatives over the years, our 2007 Celebrity Spokespersons, John O'Hurley and Charlotte Jorgensen bring the American Ballroom presence into our midst while the Classical Ballet field is being fastidiously represented in our choice for the 2007 Education Spokesperson, the esteemed David Howard. Our 2008 National Representatives are continuing that same balletic presence and bring the prima ballerina to the forefront with the illustrous Cynthia Gregory as the Celebrity Spokesperson. Another who has taken her bows as a principal is the highly respected Roni Mahler who is serving as the Education Spokesperson for NDW 2008. UDMA and NDW are dedicated to honoring all dancers, choreographers, teachers, students and their art and invite all supporters to join in their efforts to celebrate their appreciation for the dance arts as they continue on the quest for raising the public consciousness to the inherent benefits of dance.
For the 2009-10 celebrations, an emphasis was being placed on Delegates choosing luminaries in their individual regions as the Regional NDW Spokespersons. By spotlighting local dance educators and performers, the development of our "Share American Dance With the World" theme can be taken to ever higher levels within the regions of America and spur all participants to continue sharing their gift of Dance.
THE MEANING OF NDW
While National Dance Week© has long been an annual observance in America, it has also been one of the dance community's best kept secrets. The American dance community is today more aware of the annual celebration but bringing it to the forefront of the public's attentions remains a challenge and major goal. With a Mission Statement to "heighten the awareness of Dance and its contributions to our culture", it is of the utmost importance that all dancers become involved and active in the programs and presentations held each year. Only through the concerted efforts of all will we ever reach our goal to bring Dance out of the background of the Arts in our nation. It will be through the dedicated work of all dancers that the American public will come to realize that dance can affect all aspects of life, that dance is a true global language and can impact all facets of living!
We, in America, are at an important juncture in our culture with the recent awakening to the inherent value of the arts and their contribution to society. Emphasis is presently being placed on and recognition given to including the arts more emphatically in our public school curriculums as well as finding additional fundings for the professional groups. With this resurgence of sensibilities comes a prospective boon for the world of dance. Long considered the "step-child of the arts", Dance is presently receiving more recognition as a highly respected art form as well as a therapeutic tool, communication vehicle and even a means of religious expression. Because of this socially renewed vision of the world of dance, National Dance Week is the perfect venue for the dancers, themselves, to educate the masses and, in turn, gain an enlightened and vastly enlarged audience for their performances. The dance therapist is being given the optimum means to express their increasingly valued status in the medical and psychiatric fields. Liturgical dancers are gaining acceptance within religious settings. Ethnic dancers are bringing a recognition to their role in all artistic dance forms. All other associated fields of dance and movement arts have the same doors open to them by a participation in National Dance Week.
When the professional dancer becomes highly visible to the general public, they give proof to the validity of their existence. When an average audience is awakened to the beauty and benefits inherent to our art form, their interest is peaked. The increased use of dance in television commercials and printed consumer advertising has given a surge to a heightened awareness and the American dancers need to capitalize on this latest trend. With the increased presence of Dance in so many venues of our culture, there comes a natural interest and desire to understand better what all is entailed in the life of the dancer. A natural outcome of such questioning is an elevated appreciation for the art. National Dance Week offers to us all the ideal opportunity to step forward and be seen! In presenting ourselves in a united and cooperative fashion, we accomplish far more than we can ever hope to achieve from within our singular arenas of action. Together, we have a strength that can be tangibly felt across the land, and as we make our presence more known, we improve and heighten our standing in our communities with far-reaching benefits for all.
The dancer, teacher, therapist, student......all must join hands if dance is to have its rightful place in the acknowledged and treasured art forms of modern day. Through participation in and interaction with the National Dance Week effort will come improved understanding, appreciation and recognition of that which we love....The Dance.