In 1979, Jeannette Neill, a young and naive dancer, teacher and single mother, borrowed $50 from each of ten friends, and talked her way into a Back Bay lease. Buying some mirrors and a record player, she converted a former street-level post office on Belvidere Street into The Jeannette Neill Dance Studio. While her two small children played in a corner of the studio, Jeannette taught five classes a day, a total of seventeen classes a week! (Classes cost $4.50.) As she added to her faculty, she built the first and only studio in the area dedicated to jazz dance, and in its lifetime, the studio has benefitted from a faculty of well over a hundred of the best dance educators in New England.
The studio now has three separate and distinct programs: a non-competitive children’s program for ages 3-12, a pre-professional teen program and an open, drop-in class system for adults.
Some interesting facts:
- The studio has hosted more than one hundred guest artists, teachers and choreographers, including Bob Fosse, Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera, Desmond Richardson, Carmen de Lavellade, Savion Glover, Wayne Cilento, Lynn Simonson, and Chet Walker.
- The JNDS has been home to more than seventy-five local dance companies and touring Broadway or pre-Broadway shows, including the workshops of Bob Fosse’s Big Deal, and rehearsals for the musicals Fosse, Pal Joey, Guys and Dolls, Mama Mia, Sweet Charity and Chicago among others.
- The studio routinely hosts auditions for major cruise lines and theme parks, as well as for the Alvin Ailey Summer Dance and Certificate Programs and the New York City Rockettes.
- In 1988, the studio produced Rhythms of Hope, a dance concert benefiting Boston’s AIDS Action Committee. The concert featured more than seventy local dancers from more than thirty dance companies. The concert, sponsored by John Hancock Financial Services, raised more than $50,000 to help fund AIDS care and research.
- To celebrate the studio’s move to its new location, studio director, J. Allen Collier, created the first annual Boston Summer Dance Festival, the only festival in the world whose mission it is to preserve the history and traditions of the uniquely American art forms of jazz, tap and musical theatre dance. The festival attracted a faculty of international renown, including Matt Mattox, Donald McKayle, Donna McKechnie, Eva von Gencsy and Lynne Taylor-Corbett.
- The studio has been named Best of Boston by Boston Magazine for three years, a 2004 A-List Award by WBZ-TV, and the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs named October 26, 1991, Jeannette Neill Day in the city of Boston to celebrate the studio’s opening of an annex location.
- In January of 2002, Jeannette Neill was the featured cover story in Dance Teacher magazine, an international dance publication, and was honored with a lifetime achievement award by the Big Sister Association of Boston.