A Shameless Plug..

I hope readers will forgive me if I take time off from my  usual (pretty depressing) preoccupations to brag about one of my nephews. (I do usually restrain myself when it comes to my own kids–that’s a tacky step too far…)

My nephew Josh Prince is a Broadway choreographer. Among his credits: Shrek the Musical, Beautiful, Trevor.  He began as a Broadway song-and-dance man, but choreography was his love. As he embarked on that trajectory, however, he realized that aspiring choreographers faced a major hurdle to honing and realizing their creations; in order to create, a choreographer needs dancers, space, and time—three essential elements that are prohibitively expensive.

So in 2012, he undertook the fairly arduous task of creating a nonprofit and qualifying it under Section 501c3; it opened its doors in 2015.  Dance Lab New York (DLNY) is an organization–actually, the only organization–dedicated to the advancement of choreography by providing those three vital resources  to aspiring choreographers free of charge.

DLNY raises money to provide choreographers with a curated company of professional dancers, expansive studio space, and structured rehearsal time complete with a rehearsal director and staff support, allowing choreographers, as he says, “to incubate new ideas in a professionalized, supportive environment.” Since 2015, DLNY has served over 70 choreographers.

What prompted this post, however, wasn’t the growth and good work being done by DLNY; it was a recent addition to its mentorship program.

The original  mentorship program–DLNY Connect– was created in 2017; the idea was to help rising choreographers by matching them with established experts in the field. Mentors  observe the “mentees” as they create, using  dancers from area universities. They then meet privately with them to offer feedback and guidance. Although there is no pressure to complete a dance, those that are completed can be shown as part of videos, school showcases, or via open studio forums.

DLNY Connect: NextGen is an offshoot of that original program. It supports aspiring high-school choreographers, and it is intended to encourage creative thinking, collaboration, the development of leadership skills and teamwork in young, aspiring choreographers–and not so incidentally, to nurture the next generation of  those Josh calls “dancemakers.”

My sister shared a brief video from this year’s pilot program. I hope you will click through and watch it. It’s far more informative than what I share in this post.

I take three lessons from the video: the obvious one is the benefit to a teenager whose feelings of being different might have led him to an unhappy or less-rewarding adulthood.

The second is that young people like my nephew (he’s still in his mid-40s, and I consider that young!) aren’t just “bitching and moaning” about perceived problems–they are moving to solve them. During the years when I was teaching, I had a number of students who joined and/or established nonprofits aiming to fill a variety of “gaps” in the social safety net.

Third–and perhaps most important–is that the video reinforced for me the enormous importance of the arts, in this case, dance. I am hardly the only person who believes that the arts are central to being human; Saul Bellow said it well in his Nobel lecture in 1976.

Only art penetrates what pride, passion, intelligence and habit erect on all sides – the seeming realities of this world. There is another reality, the genuine one, which we lose sight of. This other reality is always sending us hints, which without art, we can’t receive. Proust calls these hints our “true impressions.” The true impressions, our persistent intuitions, will, without art, be hidden from us and we will be left with nothing but a ‘terminology for practical ends’ which we falsely call life.

 John Dewey, the noted American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer, agreed:

Art is not the possession of the few who are recognized writers, painters, musicians; it is the authentic expression of any and all individuality. Those who have the gift of creative expression in unusually large measure disclose the meaning of the individuality of others to those others. In participating in the work of art, they become artists in their activity. They learn to know and honor individuality in whatever form it appears. The fountains of creative activity are discovered and released. The free individuality which is the source of art is also the final source of creative development in time.

If you want to feel better about mankind and the younger generation, or just want a “feel-good” few minutes, click through and watch the video. I did, and  I’m going to send a few bucks to DLNY–and kvell a bit over my nephew. I hope some of you will join me!


  1. Thanks for your nice share. YAY for your nephew. And PLEASE let us know some wonderful stories about YOUR Kids 🙂

  2. The citation from Dewey puts into words what I feel when we visit the Abbey Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum in Williamsburg, VA. There you can see the creative ability of people who do not bear the title of artist. Rather, the “art” is not what we typically refer to as the product of artists, but the expression of individual creativity, whether it be in the form of weather vanes, children’s toys, signage, pottery, etc.

  3. Paul Robenson told Harry Belafonte that “artists are the gatekeepers of truth, we are civilizations radical voice”
    Kudos to your nephew, Sheila

  4. I have spent some time lately thinking about what separates humans from the other species on earth. This morning I was contemplating the fact that we are the only species that kills for no reason. Not a pleasant thought, to be sure. Your blog today took me in a completely different direction. Thanks for that. I wish the best for your nephew and the young people he works with.

  5. Thank you for sharing this; need a little light in this dark time and that fit the bill. Always share good news no matter who it involves (even your kids!)

  6. Under the Universal Law of Like Attracts Like, I believe your daily efforts attract many artistic-minded readers. Some contribute, many may not. Either way, it’s a valuable service.

    As for your nephew, bravo! There are many stories like this within our self-inflicted crumbling institutions, so I hope that we’ll get through this phase. Artists are not easily manipulated since they are fueled with inspiration.

    My daily quote to FB this morning states, “Show up, show up, show up, and after a while, the muse shows up, too.” Isabelle Allende

  7. Thanks for sharing this, Sheila. As Picasso said, “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” Enduring the past several years has left a pretty heavy coating of dust, and we all need a good cleansing. For me it is music; for others it may be painting, sculpture, poetry, theater or dance. Whatever your cleansers, find some time each day to refresh yourself in the arts.

  8. My now deceased wife was well acquainted with Dewey’s emphasis on the creative and social components of education in her doctoral studies and it must have borne fruit. She as a professor concocted a course she called “Creative Modes of Expression” and ran it by the regional accreditation team charged with approval for degree credit. They approved it and she taught it.

    I knew of Dewey as a socialist and a believer in socialization as important to the end product in education of the tabula rasas as well as mere rote dishing out of facts, and it occurs to me that he would if among us abhor education of children via remote learning though with a raging pandemic I see no alternative since something (rote learning) is better than nothing.

    I appreciate Sheila’s nephew’s efforts. The arts introduce a sense of spirituality beyond everyday living experiences and is to be fostered.

  9. Wonderful stuff! I realized on a visit to the Far East the importance of encouraging everyone in creative Participation: In Singapore everything was perfect, and perfectly sterile (Disney is the same). At a “cultural” event, I could see how they buy it, but making it? By contrast, in Hong Kong there is a famous street where people who love Chinese opera get together to play and sing – not for tourists, but for their own pleasure. The arts are for everyone to Participate in, not just consume. In healthier cultures, everyone is encouraged not just to watch, but to learn – and best of all to create in a profusion of genres. The more passive we become in consuming virtually, the more unhealthy – whether otherwise wealthy or poor! Loss of Participation in life is what alienation is about.

  10. Thank you for sharing the video of DLNY. To know that such a place exists, (I am an old, former hoofer), and that young people are succeeding in artistic endeavors like that, fills me with hope for the future.
    And hello to Sam Carmen!

  11. Clearly the human population can be divided up into creators and takers and it seems critical to me to never forget that. Once we forget that, extremism sets in. There are infinite things to create, ways to create, motivations to create, solutions to create and there has always been an army willing and able to do that.

    The taker side of human possibilities may get all of the news but they will never outshine the creators.

  12. Thank you Sheila for sharing this uplifting message today and major kudos to your nephew for sharing his talent, time and money to create a space for other choreographers to hone their creative skills. I am so glad you took this opportunity to ‘brag’ about your nephew and share his accomplishments and vision with us.

  13. The video made me cry, in a good way. Thanks for sharing, Professor Kennedy.

    p.s. We’d love to hear about the wonderful things your children are up to.

  14. As a New Yorker I am thrilled at your nephew’s success in developing his 501c3 here to encourage aspiring choreographers. Theater is the lifeblood of our city. Now the addition to his program for bringing in high schoolers is a tremendous asset at a time when arts programs are being cut from schools across our entire country. You have every right to be proud. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Thank you, Sheila! Your sister Eileen, mom ofJosh, gave hundreds of art students at Sycamore a wonderful and creative art experience while respecting and accommodating their individual interests and needs. So much so, that when Eileen retired, the faculty and parents jointly dedicated a room in her name to honor her.The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!

  16. Each of us creates a piece of art: our life.
    As an example it inspires others
    and builds society.
    Well done, Sheila.

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