About PDI

Francisco Gella’s annual PDI program offers serious-minded and highly motivated aspiring professional dancers the opportunity to hone their skills and further prepare themselves to enter the world of dance. Over this 5-day program, an intimate group of up to 90 dancers ages 12-18, who are selected by the program faculty, will work intensively with acclaimed teaching artists Francisco Gella and Julie Friedrich, and esteemed guest artists to elevate their technique, broaden their range of stylistic diversity, and explore and refine their creative voices. The workshops, panels, and personal sessions with our experienced faculty, and other professional dancers and company directors, empower participants to understand their professional options and prepare to thrive in their careers, while also maintaining a healthy body, mind, and spirit.

PDI brings students in contact with dancers and artistic staff from the collegiate and professional dance worlds. This allows emerging dancers with professional aspirations to engage in open conversations about their career options, and the best avenues and strategies for pursuing their goals. Experts in college dance programs – with knowledge of curriculum, expectations, and the admissions process – will provide insight into proper preparation for BFA and BA programs. Dancers will be introduced to the range of professional career choices beyond performance. Esteemed professional performing artists will share their own experience as members of companies, giving you unique insights to get you ready for what’s ahead. PDI alumni have gone on to be accepted into some of the finest collegiate programs and professional companies in the United States and beyond, and have been recognized by the National Young Arts Foundation Awards.

Aspiring professionals will accomplish all of this through Francisco’s positive, nurturing, and challenging philosophy of cultivating holistic dancers who pursue excellence in mind, body, and spirit. Participants will form a community in which members feel challenged and supported. All of this in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico, one of the country’s leading tourist destinations and cultural epicenters!

A Carefully Curated Experience: Curriculum, Classes, and Activities

PDI provides training and exposure in concert dance (ballet, modern, and contemporary), show dance (Broadway and Las Vegas), commercial dance (Hollywood), and improvisational techniques, as well as pointe, men’s, and partnering. As the larger group is split into two concurrently running smaller ones, reduced class sizes allow participants the benefit of personalized attention, while a rigorous and varied training schedule lifts dancers to meet the profession’s high expectations of endurance, focus, and adaptability. All activities are designed to better prepare students for the rigors of professional dance, as well as performing arts education.

Since the focus of PDI is on preparing students who have decided to pursue a career in dance, or who are seriously exploring one, we’ve developed the curriculum and focused the teaching emphasis toward this end. Classes are modeled after the key elements of a collegiate dance program. To add time for discussion and reflection, we include workshops that are geared toward career-related topics and personal goal setting.

Classes and Workshops:


  • Barre Work I and II
  • Regular barre sequence from plie to Grande Battements interspersed with conditioning and stretching elements designed under Francisco Gella Dance
  • Work’s methodology
  • Center Barre Work I and II
  • Tendu, Adagio, Pirouette Prep Drills, Grande Battement
  • Across The Floor Work I and II
  • Waltz, Petite Jumps, Petite Allegro, Grande Allegro and Coda
  • Modern Dance – Limon Technique
  • Improvisation Techniques
  • Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Contemporary Rep
  • Pilates for Injury Prevention
  • Jazz I and II
  • Musical Theatre
  • Pointe
  • Men’s Class
  • Composition for Choreography
  • Careers in Dance Panel
  • College Dance Workshop
  • Meet the Directors: What it’s Like to Dance for a Professional Company &
  • What We Look for When We Hire
  • Mental Wellness
  • Self-Care Discussion: Tending to your body, mind and spirit
  • Career Exploration and Planning Workshop

Individual Critiques

A crucial component of the PDI learning experience is the opportunity for dancers to receive a private ten-minute session with two of our faculty mentors. Student participants prepare a ballet, contemporary, or modern solo (or a variation or improv) to PDI. Faculty will then provide constructive critique in the following areas: technique, alignment, performance, and musicality.

Parent Involvement

Parents are an important part of their young dancer’s journey and thus an important part of PDI. Parents and guardians are invited to all of Thursday evening’s activities, numerous workshops, and the closing session on Monday.  PDI also opens up selected classes throughout the weekend for parents to observe. And in what has become a highlight of the program, Artistic Director Francisco Gella will host a parent reception on late Friday afternoon.

Our Partnership with a Professional Company

A special feature of PDI is the institute’s relationship with our friends from Zeitgeist Dance Theatre. Founded in 2020, Zeitgeist Dance Theatre reflects the now, the essence and spirit of the age in which we presently live, while at the same time shaping how we experience it and where we go from here. ZDT plays an integral role in the success of the Institute. Artistic Directors Francisco Gella and Yusha-Marie Sorzano, and selected professional company members support the Institute through their own involvement as teachers and mentors to our students. Francisco and Yusha-Marie also provide an opportunity for their company members to teach repertory from prestigious choreographers. That would be enough in itself, but they take it a step further: our dancers get to see the company perform the rep they’ve learned in class during a special Saturday night showcase. During class, dancers who show a high proclivity for the choreography they have learned will be invited to join the Company in the showcase. The contributions and commitment of Zeitgeist Dance Theatre provide an unparalleled level of inspiration and aspiration, making it possible for PDI dancers to imagine themselves performing on stage someday and having a successful professional career.