I don’t want to recommend Not Just Dance to you, because if I do, you will want to send your kids there, and then my kids might not be able to get into the incredible classes and shows that they have available. Seriously though, if you are reading this, then you are a high-quality, conscientious parent looking for the perfect theatre program for your child(ren). You need not look any further than Not Just Dance (NJD). NJD is a truly unique, holistic, and compelling musical theatre learning experience for all school-age children. If there was an Organic, Non-GMO, Whole Foods brand of musical theatre education – NJD would be it.  My wife and I homeschool our two girls, so we are deeply intentional about what our children learn and experience as part of their upbringing. When it comes to their education, we spare no expense to give them the highest quality education possible. We want them to be well-rounded human beings, and we also want them to have exposure to opportunities that weren’t available to us when we were growing up. We live in a weird world, and in even weirder times, so we are also deeply concerned about the health and safety of our girls. In fact, my wife humorously calls herself “Mama Bear”, a symbol of her fierce protectiveness. Our life centers around our children, we don’t want to spoil them, but we also want to give them a good life. Sound familiar? NJD has become a cornerstone of our children’s education and their life experience. Because we homeschool, we didn’t have access to a theatre program through our local school system. When we discovered NJD two years ago, our girls fell in love and have already done 6 shows in that time. The only reason they’ve only done 6 and not 12, is that there aren’t 47 hours in a day.

NJD has everything a high-quality parent like yourself would want for your child. The leadership and staff is phenomenal. They are highly skilled, seasoned professionals that are trained and educated in the broad range of musical theatre functions from acting, voice, and dancing to costumes, set design, and even marketing. Yet, they create an incredibly fun, loving, and supportive family environment where children cannot help but learn and grow. The staff at NJD can take students at any skill level and help progress them forward. They offer a variety of shows, learning experiences, and opportunities that rival or even dwarf traditional, school- based theatre programs by comparison. A typical theatre program may produce 2-3 major productions in a given school year, NJD does more than that in any a given month. There is also community of engaged, like-minded parents who have similar values as we do. They want to raise high-quality children that are not given to cliques, bullying, and gossip. NJD is a safe space where children can truly be themselves and are encouraged to do so – the best actors are.

What children gain through the NJD are lessons, memories, and experiences that last a lifetime. They not only learn and get experience in singing, dancing, and performing well, they are learning life skills, character traits, life and leadership lessons that mold and shape them to become great human beings. They learn things like risk and reward, trial and error, overcoming failure, self-forgiveness, perseverance, hard work, commitment, how to take constructive feedback, the balance of teamwork and individual contribution, and even how to overcome fear on a consistent basis. They are not only producing better performers, they are creating children who will become poised and confident adults. The best part is that the kids don’t even know they are learning all this. They are too busy having a blast.

Our girls absolutely love it, and have created so many incredible relationships with the staff and with their peers, that this is the only extracurricular activity that they actually look forward to. The highlight of my girls’ week is NJD. NJD is simply magic!

Let’s talk about COVID19. Theatre is an inherently in-person thing, and in an environment where being in-person carries significant risks these days, my wife and I had basically planned to shut down all in-person activities for the foreseeable future. When COVID19 happened, NJD was determined to make theatre work in the “new normal” and did they ever deliver. Our girls were in “The Reluctant Dragon” at the time, and they did their rehearsals almost entirely over Zoom! And with only 3 in-person rehearsals, the cast pulled off an incredible performance given the challenge of having to rehearse remotely. But not only that, the staff has put safety guidelines in place that go above and beyond the standard for staff, students, and parents such that everyone’s health and safety is the number one priority. Mama Bear and I are extremely protective when it comes to our girls, and we feel that the staff at NJD really look after our children as if they are their own with the same love, care, attention. On show nights, even the parents get a temperature check at the door. We trust the staff at NJD with our children, and we don’t give out that trust lightly. As a neurotic, overly concerned, overly committed, overly protective, “nothing-is-too-good-for- my-child” type of parent, I can say without hesitation that NJD provides the best alternative to a traditional school-based theatre experience that I have ever seen. It is one of the best educational investments we’ve made in our children.

My only regret about NJD is this — I wish I found them sooner.