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An Engaging Day: Life at 890 Broadway

31 May

This Spring 2023, I had the pleasure of working with Amanda Tomera and Richard Toda from the Engagement Department at the American Ballet Theatre, in the education office at 890 Broadway.  

When I arrive at 890 around 2pm, I take the elevator to the 4th floor and find my way to the education office to settle in for the afternoon. Classical music floods the hallway, and students stand outside the classrooms while watching their peers rehearse for their performances at the end of the semester.  

I greet Olivia and whomever else is at their desk working when I enter. Yesseña says hello and gives me a warm smile as I pass on my way to the Engagement section of the office. Amanda and Richard are working at their desks, and welcome me when they see me come. As Amanda and I catch up and start to brief the agenda for the afternoon, I see students come and go in the office as classes start to become more frequent in the studios at this time in the afternoon. The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School holds ballet classes on the fourth floor at 890 Broadway, so the afternoon is one of the busiest times for the education office.  

To start my work for the day, I go with Amanda to the storage closet to look for small but fun items to put in the blue ABT tote bags as giveaways for the children who will be attending the upcoming ABT Girl Scout Weekend. These students will participate in a series of activities, dance classes, and games run by Richard Toda and ABT teaching artists. They will gain exposure to ballet, music, fun, and games, and will have the opportunity to see a performance of ABT’s main company at the Metropolitan Opera House. Amanda and I find sunglasses from a few seasons ago when they were used for a past Engagement workshop. We also find more pencils with the ABT logo on them, and stickers that say “I’m an ABT Kid!” We take them back to our desks, and then I start printing flyers. There are three flyers we need to print, and one needs to be half the size of a regular sheet of paper, so I have to test one copy before printing 50, to make sure everything is aligned correctly. Once printed, I cut them to the proper size and stack them on my desk, along with the other flyers and materials I will put in the ABT bags. After filling 50 to 60 ABT bags, each with three flyers, a pencil, three different stickers, and sunglasses, they are ready for Amanda to take them to the workshops over the weekend.  

Next, I work on Canva to make new Instagram posts for the Adult Division Open Ballet Classes. I enjoy working on Canva because there is so much potential for beautiful creations. I make three new templates for Amanda to post, by adding new backgrounds, colors, and photos, and I use flowers and bright colors to make them match the lovely new spring weather we are having!  

For a little while, I work on the ABTKidsDaily inventory spreadsheet I have created. Referencing the ABTKidsDaily webpage, I take stock of the resources, documenting the videos, links, worksheets, games, and whether we may be able to use them for the future. This document is helpful so staff can quickly look up materials and resources to use for young children, to go along with a certain ballet, for example, or to go along with a certain federal holiday.  

Around 4pm, I wrap up on the computer and begin to prepare for the JKO class at 4:30–5:30pm which I will help assist. Then I stand by the door, welcoming the little 6–8 year olds to class. They are so eager to move, and have so much energy. They need to be reminded to keep their backs “glued” onto the wall. I pretend to give them “magic glue” so they stay put in their spots. The hallway is especially crowded now as students of all ages transition between classes. When the teacher, Leann Underwood, arrives, she settles into the classroom, and comes to get the students when she is ready. The other assistant arrives as well, and we discuss who will take the first half and later half of the class to be one-on-one with a particular student. When the little dancers enter the studio, I guide them to put their water down by the mirror, and I start to herd them into two lines in the center of the studio, facing the mirror. I place students mindfully, thinking of what arrangement will help them to focus and learn most easily. The other assistant and I stand at the front of the studio with Miss Underwood, demonstrating steps for students. In between combinations, we help to keep the students quiet, practicing the step, and looking at Miss Underwood, rather than talking to their neighbor, spinning in circles, sitting down, and whatever else they think of doing. They are very imaginative and curious, and this often manifests itself in doing activities that are not exactly appropriate for ballet class, but would be great to do after class! 🙂  

At the end of class, we are all tired, but grateful we were able to teach dance and inspire the young students. Some students come and hug me goodbye, then they get their water. The other assistant and I make sure the little ones find their grownups, so that Miss Underwood can gather her belongings and move on to her next commitment.  

I make my way back down the crowded hallway to the education office, gather my own belongings, and prepare to leave. Feeling satisfied, I say goodbye to those still in the office, and I head down the stairs or elevator to leave 890. It is fulfilling to notice students looking up to us, admiring us at the front of the studio, watching us when we dance. Knowing I made a difference in that classroom, for my mentor, Amanda, and for ABT, I leave feeling grateful for my full, engaging day.  

Lydia Crozier

Engagement Intern (Education & Training)

Spring 2023

It Is All About People & Opportunities

31 May

In January I flew from Italy to New York to begin my internship at ABT. When I arrived in New York it was all new and my eyes were blinking at every little thing I was looking at. It was very special to enter 890 Broadway and work for one of the most prestigious dance companies in the world. I choose to work in the Education and Training department because I firmly believe in the importance of spreading the arts in a positive and meaningful way. But also, I wanted to witness with my eyes how ABT had raised and launched so many talented dancers.

I worked for the National Training Curriculum for four months. The ABT NTC program deals mostly with ABT dance teachers’ certifications, the organization of the Teacher Training sessions, ABT affiliated dance schools and students’ examinations. During my internship, I came to work in person every day, from 10 am to 5 pm, because I really wanted to get as much as I could from people working in this office. Many days at work were made of daily tasks and administrative duties. That’s when I fully understood that is enjoyable to create educational programs but the realization of them is even more important, and that goes through a lot of daily logistics, payments, shipping, collecting and storing documents. Every Tuesday I participated in the educational department meeting on Zoom, it was very useful as it helped me to understand all the operations that happened in the department. Besides office days, I attended two teacher training sessions on Zoom. In that occasion I had the chance to meet Raymond Lukens and Franco De Vita, the creators of the curriculum. It was in those sessions that I realized the importance of NTC programs: the excellence of ABT comes from its well-structured curriculum, and on the stress put on well-prepared teachers and educators for the students! I also collaborated with the ABT NYU Master’s program in Ballet Pedagogy, participated in a meet and greet with Catherine Hurlin and attended a young donors event where I met Isabella Boylston (I couldn’t go back to Italy without meeting her). I was also an assistant for the Children’s Division Performance at Frank Sinatra, and I got the opportunity to see the Pre-Professional Division and Studio Company perform.

Something I’ll remember forever is when I observed a board meeting in Studio 6, where all the decisions are taken. I will also remember all the times when I was strolling in the hallway and peeked into dance classes to see what was going on. At 890 administrative staff, JKO students and artists share in synergy the same spaces. I really love that! Everyone at ABT is always ready to help others and to accomplish the “other duties” such as to paint point shoes, sew tutus, help with the organization of the storage room or position chairs to arrange the studios. The work at ABT is done of many little things that go beyond management or administrative duties. I came here convinced to discover all the secrets that made ABT so famous all over the world, and I think that the secret hidden at ABT is very passionate and humble people. It is clear that every person working here is very committed to work for the art we all love: ballet.

I will go back to Italy enriched as a person and professionally. Happy to have met great people, above all Molly, Saya who were my tutors, but also Liz and Yesseña that shared the space in the office and cubicles.

Thank you ABT!

Anna Cami

National Training Curriculum Intern (Education & Training)

Spring 2023

ABT JKO School Internship

31 May

A bittersweet feeling rushes into my heart as I write this post. The first day that I walked into 890 Broadway, I remember holding back tears as Olivia James walked me through the building. Hearing the music pour out of the studios as the musicians play for the classes, passing the Pre-Professional students trying on costumes- it was all such a dream. I was definitely nervous, but soon after meeting the people I would work with throughout the school year, I felt at home.

On one of my first days at ABT, I started assisting in the primary classes. Somehow, I think that I was more anxious than the children to be in the class. One of the little girls started sobbing right as she entered the doorway, and for a split second, I panicked. I talked to the teacher to ask what to do, and she asked if I could take the little dancer into the corner and try to warm her up to the idea of dance. My hands were shaking as I took her over. After a few minutes of talking with her, she got the courage to join her peers in class. She loved each class after that.

Getting to share my love for dance with others has been one of the best parts of this internship. Seeing the transformation in the kids from September to May, physically and mentally, has been such a rewarding experience. I will never forget all of the laughs, hugs, or “Thank you Miss Caroline” that I received over this past school year. Each child has such a special place in my heart.

The environment of the office was also a dream. I discovered that there were others from my hometown, which heavily helped the homesickness I was feeling every single day. I was never afraid to ask questions or raise ideas, and was in fact encouraged to do so. From recording attendance to folding brochures, I was never alone when completing my tasks. ABT became a home away from home, and I am torn to say goodbye.

Caroline Riley

ABT JKO School Intern (Education & Training)

Fall 2022 – Spring 2023

You’re an Intern. Now What? 

31 May

You’re an intern. Now what? Call your mom. Do a happy dance. You have one month to find an apartment from out of state. Move in and build your furniture. Do a test run of your commute the day before so you won’t be late for your first day. Get a good night’s rest. Arrive. Say thank you to the elevator operator for taking you to the fourth floor. Learn the maze of stairwells at 890 Broadway. Sit at your desk and complete your first day tasks. You’re an intern.  

For the past 9 months, I have been one of the ABT JKO School interns, and I still remember the feeling of excitement I had with one month to move to New York City and start this new experience. I am amazed I even made it here in one piece. I thought graduating with a degree in arts management would teach me what I needed to know, but you never really understand a job until you’ve done the job. I have learned so much from observing daily life at the ABT JKO School – from communicating with parents, managing students in a classroom, and all of the behind the scenes work that must be done to keep a school of this caliber running smoothly.  

You’re an intern. You learn from the staff around you, and I sure did. I admire so many of the faculty I have gotten to know and assistant teach alongside. The way they handle each and every student’s dance journey and how things outside the studio might be personally affecting them is remarkable. They expect nothing less than students’ best efforts, and they can tailor their teaching to get results out of each individual. The education department staff are the people I learned the most from – what has to be done administratively, what needs to be prepared for future events, how decisions are made, and how to best communicate with students and staff and parents alike. From what I’ve learned these past months, I understand these jobs a lot better and feel I could succeed in a career like this in the future.  

You’re an intern. Nine months of learning. Sending emails. Keeping a room full of children focused on ballet. Taking the stairs. Marking attendance. Printing some copies. Taking some more stairs. Finishing special projects. Making a flyer. Taking even more stairs. Preparing for the spring showcase. Watching the students take their bows.

Olivia Rick

ABT JKO School Intern (Education & Training)

Fall 2022 – Spring 2023

Education at 890 Broadway

15 Feb

For a ballet nerd or a fan of ABT, the Education offices at 890 Broadway are probably your ideal work environment: there’s classical music drifting down the halls, people sewing costumes and telling stories, and seeing Stella Abrera is a daily occurrence. This fall, I interned in Engagement, which is the department responsible for outreach geared towards schoolchildren and their families. As a product of the artistically barren New York City public school system, I would have been thrilled to participate in the excellent, generous programs that ABT has to offer.

Working in Engagement is uniquely rewarding in the sense that the fruits of our labor are visible and tangible. During an outreach event held at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, hundreds of NYC elementary school children gathered to watch ABT Studio Company perform. It was incredibly moving to watch most of them experience ballet for the first time. The energy in the theater felt less like Lincoln Center, and more like the Super Bowl; the kids gasped, cheered, and shouted out in awe. I personally think that Engagement does some of the most noble and vital work in all of ABT by expanding its horizons, and reaching new and untapped generations of audience members.

During my time at ABT, no two days in the office were the same. I updated school databases, stuffed swag bags, made IDs for company members and staff (you’re welcome, Susan Jaffe!), and created programs, study guides and other educational materials. My department’s biggest and most long-term project was the Ticket Distribution program, which offers free tickets to the ABT fall and spring seasons for NYC schools. Ticket Distribution was multifaceted and required a mix of technical and people skills, and a high degree of organizational precision.

I am so proud to have been a small part of the Engagement team. If you have the opportunity to work for Amanda Tomera, do so. She was easygoing, welcoming and went above and beyond providing me with memorable experiences and peeks into the larger ABT world. I am also grateful to have worked with Dennis Walters, who gives great career advice, and Richard Toda, a ballet history buff and incredibly kindhearted person. I especially enjoyed watching them work directly with the school children. One of my favorite aspects of the internship was the professional development series, which brought in a different speaker every week. A highlight was speaking with CEO and Executive Director Janet Rollé, who generously shared her wisdom, experience, and advice from Beyoncé with us. A huge thank you to Naomi Gewanter and Julie Solomon, who supported all the interns through this series, and everything in between. Working for ABT has been both as wonderful as I expected and completely surprising. My only regret regarding my internship is that it had to end!

Isabella Spagnuolo

Engagement Intern (Education)

Fall 2022

The Best of Both Worlds

15 Feb

My experience over the past four months in the National Training Curriculum department has helped me grow as a person, professional, and dancer. An important take-away from this experience is that my passion for dance did not have to end when I left the studio. After dancing for my entire life and recently taking a step back, I didn’t think there was any way I could incorporate it into my future career. This internship experience has shown me the multitude of ways in which one can translate a love of dancing to their work and have the best of both worlds. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I came in on my first day, but I was welcomed by Saya, my supervisor and National Training Curriculum Assistant, with open arms. As Saya gave me a tour of 890 Broadway, I was in awe that I would be sharing a space with all the creative minds behind the American Ballet Theatre. Honestly, after all this time, I still keep having to pinch myself. The tour was just the beginning of my ABT journey. Once I got settled into my position, I was able to call on old skills with Microsoft office and learn new ones through organizing data and information, facilitating payments, packaging book and NTC material orders, and drafting certificates and agreements for certified teachers. 

My involvement with other department events has also given me a clearer perspective on the importance of establishing a strong foundation for and continuation of excellent training. There have been many opportunities when I was able to meet and observe true ballet idols. During the Raising the Barre workshop weekend, I met and observed mentors such as Cynthia Harvey teach students about the balletic and historical nuances behind Frederick Ashton’s, The Dream. I also had a chance to have a similar experience in our weekly intern meetings with guest speakers such as Kevin McKenzie, the Artistic Director of ABT, and Stella Abrera, the Artistic Director of the JKO School. These weekly discussions further cemented the knowledge that a love for dancing is not limited to performing.  

My time here has been truly rewarding and educational. I have had a wonderful time working with Saya and Molly and appreciate their patience and guidance along the way. Whatever the future holds for me professionally, I will look back fondly at my time as an intern with ABT.  

Ashley Silva

National Training Curriculum Intern (Education & Training)

Fall 2022

An Encounter with ABT

22 Aug

I grew up as a dancer but decided to move off-stage to be an arts administrator to help young dancers grow up. It was a valuable decision for me which is why I applied for the Education Department internship at ABT. As an international student and dancer, I’m so proud that I can make my dream come true as an intern at ABT. I was honored as the National Training Curriculum intern with the Education& Training department this summer. I cannot imagine how ten weeks passed so fast. I still remember accepting the offer and preparing for my internship start. On the first day, I entered a classic building to take a very old elevator up to the 4th floor Education Department. My colleague Saya and former spring intern Maria were waiting for me. During the first day of training, I began my journey at ABT. 

In the beginning, I had no idea how to start various projects and process book orders, but with the encouragement and cooperation of Saya and Molly, everything went smoothly. I have become a professional mailing master, processing several weekly book orders and sending them to the post office. In addition, I learned a lot about data management. Whenever I use FileMaker to track teachers’ information, it’s like conversing with them through data, so this is one of my favorite projects.  

I feel fortunate to be able to work in office almost daily. I especially like the working atmosphere of the Education Department, where each team gets along well and is friendly. Every day, I can see the young dancers in the studio, who are hardworking and lovely, which reminds me of myself growing up. Even if continuous teacher training sessions were a marathon, I can meet teachers with different backgrounds and styles. I like to help them to deal with various problems. When I got a teacher’s thank-you letter from California in the mailbox, it made me feel warm hearted and motivated.

During my internship at ABT, I broadened my network with many excellent ballet teachers and dancers and communicated with interns from other departments. This summer working at ABT will be a memory I will cherish forever. Thank you to my NTC team—Molly and Saya, and all colleagues in the Education department, for helping and teaching me a lot; it gave me a sense of belonging in the performing arts industry. I always believe you should pursue on your dreams and don’t give up. With hard work and diligence, you will succeed! 

Xuejing Cao  

National Training Curriculum Intern (Education & Training)

Summer 2022 

A Dream Come True

7 Jun

First times matter…

I was hesitating a lot about what to write in this post, when friend told me: “Don’t overthink it, describe the happiest moment you have lived during these months at ABT”

So here it goes…

When I flew from Spain to the US, both countries were immersed into Omicron wave, which did not inspire me much confidence that it would be possible to work in person at the office. I don’t know how familiar you are with the visa procedure as an international student, but let me be honest: it’s long, tedious and costs a lot of money. So, doubts and insecurities aside, we started this adventure in NY but working from my little room in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

It is not easy to control that recurring doubt: was I right to come? What difference does it make to be here or in my home country? You will think, logically, “You are in NY, go out and enjoy the city!” Yes, obviously I have done it; but let’s be honest, it’s not the same to work remotely as it is to soak in and immerse yourself in the dynamics of face-to-face work. Besides, after the pandemic, who doesn’t want to go back to the office even if it’s just for a few days a week?

As you can imagine, being an international intern who actually traveled the world for this experience, being able to come in presence to the office was a huge thing! So, when about 3 weeks after being here, in a meeting my boss told me “Send me your vaccination passport, we want you to start working from the office”, a great weight was lifted from my shoulders.

I remember that first day so vividly. I arrived too early, of course, so early that I had a walk around the neighborhood and ended up in Gramercy Park, which is a very small but cute park full of roses and tulips, surrounded by low buildings with the typical New York entrance staircase. It’s these little moments when you become aware of the reality.

Back at the front door of the ABT main office, and after finding my name under the category of “ABT Staff” (again, what?) I took this particular old elevator, in which you find a person who manually operates the lift. 4th Floor: Education Department. Doors open and my colleague Saya was there, waiting for me. My eyes must have been pretty shiny because she told me “How exciting, huh? You seem very happy”.

Then, a succession of magical moments took place: rehearsal rooms, offices of very important people, rest areas with large windows overlooking Broadway, young dancers in class, main company room, … At the risk of sounding corny, just being able to walk through these narrow corridors and meet such extraordinary people was already a dream come true.

And suddenly, just like that, you are introduced to Cynthia Harvey, which is basically like meeting your lifelong idol. I think that moment will stay with me for the rest of my life… You can understand how hard it is to put these emotions into words.

Many weeks of hard work have followed this moment, but I don’t think I ever lost that thrill every time I walked through the doors of 890. Every day in the office has been a new adventure, a reaffirmation that those nerves and doubts are always worth it. During these 4 months I have been able to work with great professionals, people who have helped me feel part of the team. Thanks to the NTC family, Molly, Sonia and Saya, for training me and for showing me the immense formative work you do.

If you are reading this and you are thinking of applying, do it. ABT is a great family, where many things happen at the same time. And it will be an experience that will stay with you forever.

María Cano Nuñez

National Training Curriculum Intern

Spring 2022

A Year with the JKO School

7 Jun

Walking down the hall of 890 Broadway on a hot September day, I did not know what to expect. As an ABT JKO School Intern, I was one of the first people to re-enter the 890 offices amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The JKO School was preparing for the return of students after a year and a half of virtual instruction. It was an honor to be a part of this successful, safe, and rewarding return. As an intern, I assisted classes, updated records, and contributed to community building activities. I interacted with students, faculty, and families daily, answering questions and helping establish a warm, inviting atmosphere. ABT’s return to in-person instruction was an all-hands-on-deck situation. I helped in areas I had felt prepared for as well as taking on new responsibilities like technology troubleshooting and COVID-19 mitigation. The ABT community came together to find creative solutions to extraordinary challenges and exhibited responsibility and resilience in returning to in-person classes.

What I did not know on that first day was that I was walking into much more than an education internship. I was entering a year of exploration within the arts administration field. The magnitude of the company allows for a wholistic internship program that reaches far beyond one area of interest. The breadth of the program pushed me to explore beyond my assigned specialty. As a recent graduate with a wide range of interests and a passion for learning, this proved to be the perfect environment. Weekly Intern meetings provided me with the opportunity to speak with the company’s most prominent leaders. From Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie to Executive Director Janet Rollé and Principal Dancer Misty Copeland, each individual spoke about their own, unique perspective on their position with ABT. These conversations were particularly pertinent as the company transitions leadership and navigates a pivotal time of change and progress. They spoke openly about their paths, revelations, and moments of growth. These individuals were very generous in taking the time to speak with us, answer questions, and offer their future connection. These discussions opened my eyes to and sparked interest in areas that I had no previous knowledge of. For that, I am grateful.

After expressing an interest in marketing and digital media, my mentor quickly invited me to attend bi-weekly digital media marketing meetings and create content for the @ABTSchool Instagram. I learned about strategies and planning for effective social media campaigns. I was given the freedom to create my own posts highlighting the Spring 2022 intern cohort and friends of ABT. It was exciting and slightly daunting to produce posts for over 64k followers. Attending departmental and other meetings helped me confidently contribute to the company and learn about the extensive work that goes on behind the scenes in a major ballet company.

I am thankful for the skills, experience, and perspective I gained over the course of my year with ABT. My experience playing a small part in a renowned, cultural institution will stay with me forever.

Kathleen Oakley

JKO School Intern

Fall 2021-Spring 2022

My Spring with ABT NTC

7 Jun

My internship experience with the National Training Curriculum team in the Education Department was remarkable and rewarding. Seventeen weeks had gone by so swiftly, and within such a short time, I have learned and grown as a professional and as a person.

I am currently pursuing a master’s degree at NYU in Teaching Dance in Professions, ABT Pedagogy. When I first began the internship, I started my second semester at NYU. Although I was extremely excited about the internship, a small part of me was nervous about the workload in addition to the NYU coursework, including the certification exam I was expected to pass at the end of the semester. Now, I can confidently say that I successfully completed all the given tasks. The challenge taught me to plan thoroughly and flexibly, and with that, I was able to make the best out of the time and experience.

While working with the NTC team, I was responsible for several different tasks. Mainly, I took part in preparing documents for ABT Student Examinations. My work involved constant communication with presenting teachers and examiners. I made sure I received the correct paperwork needed for the exams and reorganized them for the examiners to use for the examinations. I also hosted online student examinations and masterclasses. Hosting Zoom exams meant ensuring online exams run smoothly and providing an environment where students can comfortably take the exams and examiners can adjudicate students without disruptions. Hosting exams required me to be flexible with working hours because online exams occurred in different time zones. I didn’t mind this because each exam was a valuable learning experience and an opportunity to expand my understanding of the National Training Curriculum. My duty regarding the examinations extended to a post-exam task of updating the database of NTC presenting teachers.

What I appreciate the most about this internship is the team of dedicated, hardworking colleagues. Everyone in the team NTC is not only knowledgeable and capable, but they are also genuine and caring. Their mentorship and thorough guidance allowed me to quickly approach and pick up new tasks. They were always willing to support and collaborate, which is an ideal vibe you would want in a team!

If you are thinking about interning with the ABT, ‘don’t hesitate!’ You will be amazed to learn how much you can explore and grow. Furthermore, the ABT internship goes beyond working with the department you are hired for. The program includes weekly sessions where you meet with the internship coordinator and guest speakers from different departments who further broaden your understanding of non-profit organizations. I strongly encourage this internship program for those considering or interested in working for non-profits.

I feel blessed to have had this opportunity and grateful for the new skills and experiences it has given me. Thank you, ABT!

Liz Kim

National Training Curriculum Intern

Spring 2022