Shawn Short: Teaching

It starts with a desire to help people…

Shawn began his journey as an educator in his late teens as Dance Institutes of Washington’s first male instructor, teaching in their “East of The River” summer program in 1997 – providing dance instruction to underserved Black students in Washington, DC’s Deanwood community.

Since his inaugural steps into those dance studios in Washington, DC’s northeast ward (seven) community, Short has never stopped blending his love of dance and communities.


Shawn Short in studio. (c) Micahel Key, Washington Blade


With over 20 years of teaching experience, Short now focuses on training dance professionals of tomorrow. A former ballet pedagogy student of Kee Juan Han (Arizona Ballet & Washington Ballet School/Teacher of the Year, Youth Grand Prix) and John White (Cuban National Ballet), Short is focusing his efforts on providing professional training to African-American youth in areas with minimal professional dance training access.

Using his formal training (Washington Ballet, Maryland Youth Ballet, Lines Ballet Residency, Starting Point Dance Studio) with his completed degree study (BFA in Musical Theater (Howard University), MFA in Dance (Univ of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Post Graduate Certificate in Business Management) Short equipped himself to provide competitive knowledge to garner a solid, competitive organization that trains talented students.

Shawn Short rehearsing DDT dancer Caitlin Granville

As Ngoma Center for Dance’s Director of Education, Short develops teachers in conjunctions with designing new innovation in dance education while evaluating the current curriculum. Ngoma was founded in 2012. Comparatively, Short is asked to teach workshops and master classes throughout the Greater Washington, DC-Baltimore area.  Short has conducted workshops and masterclasses at American University, Suitland High School of the Performing Arts, and Howard Community College Dance Festival to name a few.

Short is also the Ballet Master for his founded company Dissonance Dance Theatre (2007), DC area’s only Black-managed contemporary ballet.

CUA Shawn Teaching

Higher Education

Cultivating the minds of tomorrow, Short was invited by existing faculty at Catholic University of America, to assist in the restructuring and design of their downward treading musical theater programming. The program needed redirection and guidance in dance training. Short’s ability to problem solve and dream big, provided a new five-level classical ballet program with supplemental coursework. Working with his fellow professors, Short increased student semester enrollment from 33 to 77 students with an average class size of 15 students.  Teaching courses in classical ballet, Short also provided men’s classes, partnering, stretch and conditioning, modern dance, dance history, and acting for dancers.

Notable Students:
Sean Burns –  Jersey Boys (Ogunquit Playhouse), Hello Dolly/National Tour
Melissa Victor – Equity Actress, Ford’s Theatre, Denver Center PAC, Signature Theatre, Pippin
Hasani Allen – Helen Hayes Award-Winning Equity Actor, Ford’s Theatre, Signature Theatre

2008 – 2015 – Professor, Catholic University of America

Shawn Short teaching students at audition

Outreach Programs

Through his time as a founding outreach instructor with Dance Institute of Washington (DIW), and as a founding faculty at The Washington Ballet’s southeast DC campus WSB@THEARC, Short taught a range of classes. Even though a short tenure with DIW, Short (no pun) rallied and inspired young students through jazz dance performance. This culminated in an annual community performance for friends and family.

While a faculty member at WSB@THEATRE, Short joined the WB’s inaugural outreach dance-education efforts through DanceDC – Washington Ballet’s outreach program serving students across the city.  Short instructed students in beginning classical ballet classes while instilling in students manners, etiquette, poise, healthier living habits and encouragement for a better future. Schools include Washington School for Girls, Septima Clark, Malcom X and Greene elementary schools.

*Summer  1997 – Instructor, Dance Institute of Washington
*2001 – 2008 – Founding Faculty, Washington Ballet@THEARC’s DanceDC program

Shawn Short teaching at ATMTC

Shawn Short in movement class. (c) David Moss, ATMTC

Musical Theatre/Children’s Theater

Since 2001, Short has collaborated with theater professionals to assist in the development of aspiring young performers to prepare them for professional productions.  Teaching classes in classical ballet, jazz, traditional modern dance forms, acting techniques, and character scene study Short’s students gained a full range of skills to become competent with hard-working students gaining access to professional work and entrance into college programs.

*2001 – 2007 – Show Director/Choreographer/Teacher, Kelsey Collie Children’s Experience (Formerly Howard University Children’s Theater)
*2009 – Instructor, Imagination Stage, Dance Division
* 2011 – 2015 – Head of Dance, Adventure Theatre Musical Theatre Center (ATMTC Academy)

Notable Students:
Cole EdelsteinMatilda, Broadway (March 3, 2015 – September 4th, 2016)
Maya Allicock – Film/Voice Over Actress  (Amazon Prime, Footlocker, TLC)
Carmen JacksonEvita National Tour (Closed 2019)
Asia Martin – Sketch Comedian/Playwright, Second City/Kennedy Center’s  Theater Lab Stage (2017 – )

Shawn Short Teaching anatomy

Secondary/Elementary Schools

From dance teams to teacher-collaborative  dance curriculum and after-school programs, Short has had his share of public and charter school experiences regarding dance. Short coached competitive dance team shortly after his tenure as an All-American Cheerleader Nominee – giving back after school to his high school alma mater Duval High School. Additionally, Short taught lesson-based arts lesson, assisting homeroom teachers in getting students excited about science and history using theatre and dance.

*1997 – After-School Instructor, Duval  High School (Prince George’s County Public Schools)
*2002 – Arts Instructor, Seaton Elementary (Washington, DC)