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David Howard, Legendary Ballet Master -Teacher to Many-

David Howard, Legendary Ballet Master -Teacher to Many-

Published on August 28, 2013

Students Remember

Memories of David Howard

Dancers are never alone on stage. Our teachers are always with us.

* The Dance Enthusiast will add to this tribute throughout the month of September. If you would like to share a story about your experience as a student of David Howard please email us at


Lots of Gems in this 2011 Video:

a quote from David Howard, in regard to ballet competitions, "Life is not about
winning. It is about giving. If you give, you win."


Memories- Gregory Nuber

My name is Gregory Nuber and I moved to NYC in July of 1992 after working toward my MFA in Modern Dance in Arizona. I had heard that the place I needed to study ballet was at the David Howard Dance Center and so I went and took my first class there with David himself. I was in awe of the talent in the room...Paloma Herrera, Julie Kent and even once Misha who stood next to me at the barre wearing something quite similar to me so I immediately switched my place!

It was in David's world that I was gradually fed into the amazing place of professional dance in NYC and here that I got a lot of my first pick up jobs. I became a member of Actors Equity and did three regional musicals but then returned to my true love, concert modern dance, and spent eight glorious years with the amazing Mark Morris Dance Group. I then returned to finish my MFA in Arizona and am have recently been hired to teach at a reputable University in TX starting next January.

I owe the space David created and Mr Howard himself for what I became and also for the chance to continue to share my gifts with the next generation of dance artists. Sincerely- Gregory Nuber

Memories- Ryan Stewart

My phone rang early Monday morning, waking me. It was a former ballet colleague, telling me that David Howard had died late Sunday evening. I never went back to sleep.

The news spread quickly through the performing arts community. Almost everyone over the age of 18 knew of the popular dance instructor, one of the greatest ballet teachers of the last century. So much was said/written about the dance community’s loss; and Mr. Howard’s resume, filled with the legendary performers he helped, is a testament to his profound talent. But what I remembered on that overcast Monday was not his contribution to my classical technique – it was his contribution to my life.

20 years ago, green, right off the bus at Port Authority, David took me under his wing. As one of the last scholarship students at his dance center before it closed permanently in 1996, I reverently took his classes side by side with dancers like Peter Boal, Gelsey Kirkland, Phil Neal, and sometimes Baryshnikov.

I didn’t possess the abilities of some who David coached, but he helped me anyway. He taught in a quick, musical style and I improved rapidly at his studio at which point David called the director of Juilliard Dance and started the process of having me transfer my studies there. Then, when I was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in 1995, it felt like a career in the arts was impossible.

“Young man…I’m going to send you to some people I know. We can’t have you losing too much ground during this.”

He didn’t even consider that I wouldn’t come out of treatment perfectly healthy (and he was right). He arranged for me to work with the founders of the Gyrotonics system between rounds of chemotherapy. I took Yoga classes and worked on movement machines which kept me fit and helped me recover from my illness. I also took ballet classes when I felt able and David insisted I use his office to change and clean the post workout sweat from the medical tubes that were implanted in my chest.

During my Illness, I had no contact with my family because of an imagined quarrel and rebellion I was going through. David and his staff teachers visited me in hospital and counseled me. I never felt alone, even during my darkest hours.

“Young man, you can’t go around without any pocket money.”

He would reach into his pastel colored sweatpants, fish out his overstuffed wallet, and hand a broke, bald dance student several 0 bills on a regular basis. I never forgot such generosity to someone who didn’t have the talent he was used to working with. After treatment, I wished I could become such a great dancer; David’s investment in my recovery would have paid off.

I never did become a professional performer and transitioned through several jobs before finally settling into a career training dogs. Throughout the years, I always dropped in and attended his classes. Ballet had become part of me and I took comfort listening to his soothing voice and ever-present rhythmic clapping I had heard for my entire adult life. But then work got very busy and I started to avoid David’s classes because I was ashamed of how out of shape I had become.

I haven’t seen David in almost a year and I regret that now. It was a silly vanity, thinking David Howard would only want to see me if I danced well. He was bigger than that and you never know when it will be too late – putting off seeing friends or family.

One of my favorite memories is him looking at a worn out pas de deux (partnering) class and seeing it was a gloomy day. “Everyone gather round and have a seat.” Exhausted and relieved ballet students at a Joffrey School pas de deux class sat in a semicircle on the floor as David launched into stories of ballet superstars and his own shenanigans as a young dancer. David had that dry, British humor and we spent the next hour laughing until we had tears in our
eyes instead of doing lifts and turns. He regularly went out to dinner with his adult/beginner ballet students and would always be entertaining – quite the storyteller.

David had no children, didn’t marry, and had no close living relatives; however, he was not alone. It’s why my Japanese dancer friend called me early Monday morning. David did have a family, a very large family. And we all miss him. - Ryan Stewart


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