MIAMI DANCES BLOG: Daniel Lewis, Founding Dean of Dance of New World School of the Arts
Miami Dances features insight into traditional and nontraditional dance programs, performers and choreographers that make Miami’s dance scene special. In this post we feature, Daniel Lewis, Founding Dean of the Dance School at New World School of the Arts. He speaks extensively about his history with New World and his legacy there in the interview below.
Lewis graduated from The Juilliard School, where he attended on a scholarship. Aside from his extensive work at New World from 1987 to 2011, Lewis has taught dance at several prestigious schools. They include Juilliard from 1967-1987 and The London School of Dance. He is currently an artist in residence at Dance Now! Miami and continues as Founder and Director of Miami Dance Futures, Inc. which he established in 1988 to continue with his commitment to grow dance awareness in South Florida. Among his extensive list of accolades in the dance world are The Martha Hill Lifetime Achievement Award, Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Dance Educators Organization and the gold medal for Lifelong Achievement in Dance from The National Society of Arts and Letters.
ABC: Tell us about your journey as an artist/dancer?
DL: It all started in 1949 when a doctor recommended tap dancing to straighten my club foot.Three classes later I realized that movement was my choice of language. Sixty seven years later, and many trips around the world performing, teaching and having an incredible career, movement is still my choice of language.
ABC: Who was your biggest influence in your journey to becoming Founding Dean of Dance at New World School Arts?
DL: I must say it was Martha Hill, the founding director of the Juilliard School dance department.She was a pioneer in the dance world and started the New York University dance program, then went on to create a dance program at Bennington College. This led to the American Dance Festival summer dance program. She then went on to start The Juilliard School of Music dance program.I was her assistant for ten years at Juilliard, and she trained me to be a pioneer in dance education.Moving to Miami was the perfect opportunity to build something new.
ABC: What excites you about Miami?
DL: The raw talent from so many cultures in Miami.When I first came to Miami to interview for the position as dean of dance, I was struck by the untapped artistic energy in this city, and impressed by the city wanting to expand its cultural resources. This was the year that Miami City Ballet and the New World Symphony started. Now thirty years later, Miami is a great diverse cultural center for the arts.
ABC: Tell us about NWSA and the classes you teach?
DL: When I was asked to move to Miami to establish the dance program at a yet to be open school which became The New World School of the Arts, I was a graduate of the High School of Performing Arts (The Fame School) and the Juilliard School for college. I was ready to create a new school. I jumped at the opportunity, even though I was very successful in New York.Aside from my work at The Juilliard School I had my own dance company, Daniel Lewis Dance.I was performing with the José Limón Dance Company, and was director of the Lincoln Center Student dance program out of the Juilliard School, in addition to staging Limón and Lewis ballets all over the world.I was willing to give it all up for the challenge of creating a new eight-year, high school and college, dance program in Miami. I also thought focusing on one thing might be good for me.Well that focus lasted one year.I created Miami Dance Futures Inc. to support the work I was doing at New World School of the Arts the following year.Miami Dance Futures was helping to build audiences for dance and gave support to local dance companies, which would be a benefit to the city and ultimately to my students.
Daniel Lewis recently leads a class
I took the best of the High School of Performing Arts and The Juilliard School and added multicultural dance forms and composition that would address dance in Miami.I hired a faculty of educators who were all professional dancers both local and international. The students at the high school and college level were getting the best of many techniques and ways of choreographing, they became well rounded dancers and choreographers. I am so proud of the difference they are making on dance in Miami and around the world.
ABC: What is something awesome you are currently working on?
DL: Besides being retired as the dean of dance at New World School of the Arts, I just staged Ritmo Jondo by Doris Humphrey, a classic work choreographed in 1953, on the local dance company, Dance Now Miami.The first performance was at the Colony Theater.This is a difficult ballet to stage on today’s highly technical dancers because of the rugged nature of the movement used to create the characters.At the same time, I have taught a few master classes in the public school system and company class for Dance Now Miami.
I am also organizing all my archives of letters, reviews, programs, videos, films, posters and artifacts of my 67 years as a dancer, choreographer, teacher, photographer and dance educator. The collection also contains a lot of materials of some of the master choreographers I have worked with over the years.This will be housed at the University of Florida library in Gainesville and called the Daniel Lewis Dance Research Collection. I am also working on my biography, which is being written by author Donna Krasnow, who was a dancer and has published 5 books on dance.It looks like I have been multi-tasking my whole life!
ABC: From your perspective, how can we leverage the arts to build a more connected community?
DL: This is already happening. Many of our young artists are staying in Miami. We must make sure that they have the resources to grow and produce their art.The arts bring people together: they cross cultural boundaries.In dance movement is not only my choice of language but is a universal language.
Miami Dances Blog
Miami Dances is a program of the Arts & Business Council and Miami-Dade Department of Cultural Affairs to build new audiences and outreach for our communities amazing dance community. The blog features insight into traditional and nontraditional dance programs, performers and choreographers that make Miami’s dance scene unique and shine a light on some of our dance community stars.