THE PDI Mentor Experience

For five days every Labor Day Weekend, 75 young dancers in training from all over the world, descend on Santa Fe, a small city at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Northern New Mexico.  Known for its dynamic energy, the city has far more artists (musicians, visual artists, designers, writers, songwriters, performing artists – you name it!) than any other comparable in size. Santa Fe manifests a remarkable creative spirit unlike few other places on earth.  Our young artists accepted into the Preprofessional Dancer Institute (PDI) have the unique opportunity to be swept up by this spirit while they are challenged through hours upon hours of technical and artistic training, as well as being equipped with knowledge, tools, and resources for their future career in dance. The experience of dancing here is not something you can easily describe or name (except for the dehydration caused by an altitude of 7,300 feet above sea level).  You just know it is special because you can feel it. When the fifth and final day arrives, our dancers and our faculty understand that they have gone through something new and have been forever changed. That’s PDI – in good part because it’s also Santa Fe.  It’s been said that ‘this is a city where the wounded come for healing, and seekers come to find’. To be honest, we didn’t set out for PDI to call Santa Fe her home. But given that many graduates have indeed started a process of healing since the institute’s inception in 2017 and discovered a renewed purpose and passion in this community of artists during their stay, it seems a grand plan was in the works from somewhere far beyond the limits of our own thinking. PDI and its high-desert home have become a sanctuary. Each year when PDI ends at the beginning of September, our students and our parents consistently ask for more of the career development and mentoring focus the Institute provides so effectively. Until now, the opportunity to benefit from PDI has been strictly limited to one long five-day weekend. And although the Institute itself cannot be replicated nor will we try, we do believe that core commitments of the program can be extended within an even smaller and more intimate setting on several occasions throughout the year. With that being said, Artistic Director Francisco Gella is pleased to announce the launch of ‘The PDI Mentor Experience.’


Each mentor experience will begin at 7pm on the evening of the first day and end on the evening of the fourth day. Students will depart for home on the morning of the fifth day. No more than 15-20 dancers will be invited to attend during any one given week. Dancers may choose to attend one, two, or all three of the designated dates.  This intimate experience will afford dancers the opportunity to be mentored by PDI Artistic Director Francisco Gella and one distinguished guest teaching artist. The guest will be a company or school artistic director, a company executive director, an experienced professional dancer or successful working choreographer.  Each of the three weeks will feature a different professional who will team up with Francisco.  The four days together will include master classes, workshops and discussion groups focused on the following advanced topical areas:

  1. Refining the approach to taking class, working with diverse artists, and performance. 
  2. Focusing on appreciating and applying details of movement for each young artist.
  3. Preparing dancers for the rigors, demands and realities of professional work.
  4. Understanding the role of individual leadership and innovation in sustaining the art form’s historical roots with contemporary practice.
  5. Developing a healthy mindset and lifestyle that will sustain a long career.
  6. Exploring the range of vocational opportunities in the field based on future changes and challenges. 
  7. Fostering a deep respect and understanding for individual differences in artistic voice, body type, culture and life experiences.  
  8. Accepting our own unique gifts as our strongest asset and strategic advantage.

A core commitment we make with our participants is to cultivate an open, inclusive, and safe community; one that lends itself to honest dialogue and encourages each student to bring their own personal best in every aspect of the experience. In turn, we expect that all of our participants will be respectful and accepting toward each of their peers.  The PDI Mentor Experience is a shared experience from beginning to end. Students will be lodged in the same facility and escorted together to the studios. They will take all classes and workshops with the entire group and will share an evening meal together at the end of each day.  With the guidance of an onsite professional resident director, lasting bonds of friendship and support will be some of the greatest gifts taken away by our students at the end of their time together.

Eligibility to Participate

  • First priority will be given to those aged 13 to 18 previously accepted into the Preprofessional Dancer Institute. We will fill spots on a first come first serve basis based on age – older students close to graduation will be selected first. If spots are still open, we will extend an invitation for others to apply. 
  • For all other dancers, requirements are ages 13-18 intermediate and advanced levels. Dancers must be at least thirteen years of age by the start of the first week they are attending. 
  • A minimum three years of serious year-round training.
  • At least 5 hours of ballet and more than 15 hours combined total class work per week (including ballet).
  • A strong desire to pursue a career in the field of dance.

Dates and Location

The PDI Mentor Experience will take place three times throughout the 2019/20 season. Dates are as follows: Thursday, December 12 – Monday, December 16 Monday, February 24 – Friday, February 28, 2020 Thursday, March 19 – Monday, March 23, 2020 Students are required to commit to the entire week and must arrive onsite to begin the experience by 6pm on the first day. No one may leave earlier than the morning of the last day. 

Tuition / Room & Board / Meals / Other Costs

The cost for participating in one week of $1295 which covers tuition, lodging,  all ground transportation, all evening meals, and a Resident Director and Chaperone who is on-call with the students the entire week.  Students who participate in all three weeks may enroll at a discounted cost of $3500. A 50% deposit will be due at the time of registration. The balance will be due no later than 2 weeks prior to the first day of the week the student is attending.


Up to three full scholarships under the Francisco Gella Equity Scholarship Program will be awarded each of the three weeks. Although a student may apply for scholarship to cover all three weeks, it is likely that a student will receive funding for less than this – 1 or 2 weeks only.  The scholarship application along with all guidelines can be found at

Travel Information and Planning

All dancers will fly into either Albuquerque or Santa Fe, NM. Transportation to and from the airport will be arranged by our program staff.  Lodging for all students and our Resident Director has been secured at Villas de Santa Fe By Diamond Resorts located at 400 Griffin Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501. Parents may accompany dancers to Santa Fe, however once the program begins on Monday at 7pm and until it ends, students will stay in residence with the rest of the group and may not visit with their parents.

Questions? Please contact: .

PDI Mentor Experience Application

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