An NDA Dance Team Instructor Talks Shop

June 16, 2008

Many college students spend their summers taking orders at restaurants or working at the mall, anticipating the day they’ll get hired to do what they love. Abby Gilbert, a senior dance major at California State University, Sacramento, is already getting paid to follow her passion. For the past five summers, she has worked as a National Dance Alliance head instructor—dancing, jet-setting around the country and standing out as a role model for hundreds of middle- and high school–aged dancers.


Abby’s job leaves plenty of time to explore other areas of dance during the off-season. She choreographs for NDA, judges regional and national competitions, attends NDA conferences and recruits future NDA instructors. This year, she also nabbed a spot on the Royal Court Dancers, the  dance team of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.

Ins and Outs
•    Skills Needed:
Strong jazz, kick, pom and hip-hop technique as well as professionalism are crucial to becoming a staff member, but Abby also advises honing your teaching skills. “In this job, you’re [often] in a huge gym with five other classes going on and a hundred kids in your class, with no microphone, so being able to communicate clearly is super important.”

•    Perks:
Abby says that one big bonus is the travel. She has flown to colleges in Texas, Kansas, Indiana, Illinois and Oklahoma. This year, NDA also flew her to Miami to be on the halftime-show staff for the FedEx Orange Bowl.

•    Hours:
Three- or four-day resident camps and two- or three-day private camps take place from June to August. Abby’s daily hours can be daunting, with days beginning at 8 am and ending at 9:30 pm. After breakfast at 7 am, she and the rest of the staff head to the gym to teach pom, jazz, kick and hip-hop routines, play team-building games and lead technique classes. Camp lasts until 9:30 pm, but Abby confesses that it’s rare for instructors to go to sleep that early. “That’s when we dismiss the campers, but we’re always up until midnight or 1 am getting everything ready for the next day,” she says.

    Pay Range: Varies with experience and age

•    Tools of the Trade:
Uniforms, CD player, extra batteries, a copy of routine music on CD and another on tape, award ribbons, backpack, water bottle

•    Co-workers:
Instructors (cheer and dance), camp managers, athletic trainers

•    For more:
Visit, or e-mail Alicia Whatley at [email protected].