Andrea Ziegelman

Never forget to be grateful for, and say thank you, to those who help you, or your organization, pursue its goals.


Andrea Ziegelman is the President of Accent Dance NYC and of the Erwin and Isabelle Ziegelman Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Andrea was born in Detroit, Michigan and comes from a family of classically-trained pianists, cellists, singers, and violinists who held leading positions in professional symphonies and opera companies in the United States, Europe, and the former Soviet Union. Along with the study of piano, Andrea pursued rigorous ballet training throughout her youth, enrolling after high school in the ballet department of the University of Utah. Andrea also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in French literature from the University of Michigan and attended Georgetown University School of Law and Columbia Law School. In addition to maintaining a law practice in Manhattan, and being appointed by judges to represent children in family law cases as their attorney and as guardian ad litem, Andrea continues to enjoy taking regular dance classes, performing, and teaching dance to children of all ages. As a long-time patron of the arts, Andrea started Accent Dance NYC with her fellow teaching and performing artists to bring the highest quality of dance education programming to school-aged children in New York City and in neighboring areas.

Where did the idea for Accent Dance NYC come from?

I grew up in a suburb of Detroit, the child of a family of Russian-Jewish cellists, violinists, and pianists on one side and Polish-Jewish doctors, lawyers, and architects on the other. Education was of paramount importance to my family, as was exposure to the arts. As a child, I was able to delve into my academic studies while also pursuing my passion for ballet, which continued through my college years. At the same time that all of these opportunities were afforded me, I also recognized that the inner city out of which my parents took my brother and me in the late 1960’s was filled with people who were not nearly as lucky as me; they were trapped in a cycle of poverty, prejudice, and inadequate education, in a city divided by racial conflict and socio-economic strife.

Accent Dance NYC emanated out of a desire from my childhood to right some perceived wrong in society. When I returned to the ballet studio in my fifties, after raising children and spending thirty years practicing law, I seized an opportunity to realize a dream to bring the power and beauty of dance to children in neighborhoods like the Detroit of my childhood. My ballet teacher, Elisa Toro Franky, was a beautiful and highly-articulate professional ballet dancer from Colombia who shared, along with another cherished dance colleague, Mara Driscoll, my enthusiasm for bringing high level dance performances and dance residencies to children in underserved communities in New York City and neighboring areas. Ultimately, the group expanded to include many other international teaching artists, choreographers, and professional dancers from Cuba, Haiti, Argentina, Spain, Puerto Rico, and the United States, and Accent Dance NYC was born.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I try to get up early and seize the day – “carpe diem”, my husband Dave used to say to my two now grown boys. After drinking coffee, eating breakfast, reading the newspaper, and stretching at the base of our bed, I read through and respond to any outstanding e-mails. I also send out a series of e-mails first thing in the morning (usually by 7:30-8:00 a.m.) about Accent Dance NYC projects that I would like to advance. Because I continue to practice law part-time, I also work on any existing projects and make a plan to speak to clients.

I love to exercise and, at my age, it’s best to do so early in the day before I’m too tired physically to make it happen. I try to take ballet class three to four times a week, plus an occasional gym visit, yoga, and physical therapy exercises focused on dance biomechanics. This energizes me and gets my creative juices flowing. I also love the camaraderie and high spirits of a dance class filled with dancers of all ages and walks of life who still love it as much as I do.

My days are filled communicating with my Accent Dance NYC colleagues, attending rehearsals, preparing for and participating in lecture demonstrations in schools we are serving, preparing lesson plans, teaching in the schools and after-school programs, locating grants, drafting grants, exploring new dance residency and performance opportunities, communicating with schools, engaging in teacher training, meeting with potential choreographers, dancers, and educators, posting on social media, and handling the multitude of administrative, legal, business, and other tasks inherent in running your own charity and practicing law.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I turn on music. All kinds. Classical, tango, Motown, FIFA soccer songs, flamenco. You name it. It helps me think, dream, and visualize possibilities.

I then try to articulate clearly my ideas in writing, sometimes sending them to my Accent Dance NYC colleagues for their input. Otherwise, I put them in a large physical “idea” pile to revisit at some future date. I also share my ideas with my husband, dance colleagues, and our PR sensation, Kimberly Giannelli. She is one of my best critics, and tells me when I’m on to something – or not!

If I am serious about pursuing an idea, my husband and I invite the entire artistic team of Accent Dance NYC to the house for a lively dinner, and we hash out ideas, pursue concepts, and plan a realistic timetable for getting a project done.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Young people spreading the power and passion of their voices through social media and other means of communication on a variety of important issues, including politics, gun control, immigration, and climate change.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

The daily discipline and inner conviction of being able to accomplish what I set out to do. While I recognize achieving a precise goal is not always attainable, I accept imperfect results as being part of life; nevertheless, I generally am optimistic about making a dream a reality if I work hard, am focused, and have the right team behind me.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Take time to find projects and/or a career path about which you are passionate and which resonate with you as being meaningful and socially valuable. Enjoy ordinary moments because they are fleeting. Seek out new opportunities even if life can feel a bit unsettled when you are in the midst of a transition.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I can sit still.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Never forget to be grateful for, and say thank you, to those who help you, or your organization, pursue its goals.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Surrounding myself with the right people has been critical – Accent Dance NYC has secured multi-talented, compassionate, and collaborative teaching and performance artists, sophisticated business people, a Board of Directors with a varied skill set, and a kick-ass PR person. At the same time, I appreciate the importance of remaining actively involved and invested in steering the direction of our organization.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I didn’t think through all of the elaborate insurance requirements needed for a small charitable organization like mine that should be in place well before even planning to perform and teach in school and after-school settings. We need a variety of insurance policies that I never had to secure as a lawyer in private practice, including commercial liability insurance, employment practices insurance, directors’ and officers’ liability insurance, etc. I didn’t plan adequately for the delays involved in securing such policies. I dealt with the problem by being honest with the relevant administrators about the necessity of securing such policies before Accent Dance NYC could safely teach/perform in the schools and other public settings.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Bringing the joy of dance to more children in more places is very important to me and to the other members of Accent Dance NYC as a vehicle for social change. While the younger generations are spending more time than any others tied to technology, an educational app would be a wonderful way to bring dance to more kids in more places. Whether it be streaming live classes with professional teachers, or performance footage of dancers exhibiting different genres to broaden artistic horizons, an app would give kids access to dance whenever they wanted it while also helping to foster more culturally-enriched adults.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

A ten-pack dance class card.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I love the simple “notes” function on my I-phone. It allows me to have access at all times to my ever-changing and evolving “to-do” list.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

“The Snowball, Warren Buffett and the Business of Life.”

Mr. Buffett has that rare combination of exquisite business sense as well as a soul. If you’re interested in attaining a successful career in business while also maintaining the moral high ground, it can be done. Mr. Buffett shows us how it can be done.

What is your favorite quote?

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.

Key Learnings:

  • Carpe diem
  • Find personalized ways to spark your creativity. When you have an idea, articulate it in writing as clearly as possible, and either share it with those close to you and/or keep it in a place where you can retrieve it later, when the time is right.
  • Don’t waste your time doing things about which you are not passionate and invested, if you can help it.
  • Find time for regular exercise doing something you love (or at least like) because otherwise, you won’t have the energy or the good health to realize your dreams.
  • Have the personal conviction to believe you can accomplish what you set out to do and then harness your energy in a disciplined way to make it happen.
  • Surround yourself with the right people, and then make sure they know how thankful you are they are in your life.
  • Seek out professional help whenever possible/feasible. Don’t forget the complexities of the business and legal world no matter your field.
  • Find beauty in unexpected places.