Reflections on Mentorship

by | Jun 15, 2023 | Warm Note

A while back, I came across this quote on Instagram, and it really moved me:


“We live in the age of isolation. Mentorship is the missing piece.”


Surrounding myself with role models whose careers I admire has helped me in such a huge way. I went to a Montessori school, and the whole idea behind Montessori education is that you come in as a little one and find yourself in the same classroom with bigger kids. Those bigger kids are your mentors – you look up to them as they lead by example, and then soon you are the bigger kid and the little ones are looking up to you! 

This early experience informed how I’ve led my life, in the dance studio and in my career as a video creator.

Being a mentor or mentee is inspiring, and you always learn so much.

When our Next at The Kennedy Center broadcast aired, I received messages from several of my most important mentors. I was so inspired to hear from them. 💜

I had a wonderful conversation with Matthew Diamond, an acclaimed film and television director and choreographer. He directed So You Think You Can Dance back when Sonya Tayeh was on the show, and Fosse on Broadway when I worked at PBS 20 years ago. We first met in college.

I told Matthew that he used to be on my vision board, and he told me he had me on speed dial! We talked about how what we do as dance videographers is very unique… and how we know dance!! Essentially, our company motto! 😂

Then Jenny Holub, another special dance video mentor and collaborator, texted me and said her late husband Johannes, also an accomplished dance videographer, would be very proud of me.🥹

Carmella Vassor-Johnson also wrote me to say that she loved the film… Carmella is the one who hired me as a Video Documentation intern at Jacob’s Pillow!! She taught me everything I know. 🥰

These dance film greats who paved the way are rooting us on!! I’m so grateful!!!

For years now, I’ve considered it my duty to mentor the younger generation as well. I’ve learned that mentoring takes listening, openness and patience, just like being a mentee. I love mentoring the younger dance videographers on my team, and our media interns at Jacob’s Pillow!

This beautiful process of learning, listening and growing is a key part of anyone’s success, including my own, and I am so grateful the power of mentorship has been a constant in my life from such an early age.

Nel Shelby is Owner & Filmmaker for Nel Shelby Productions, her New York City-based company dedicated to dance videography and editing. Nel shares her mission to preserve and promote the art of dance with her husband, Christopher Duggan, a dance and wedding photographer. They collaborate on projects with dance companies of worldwide renown, up-and-coming choreographers, dance educators, dance schools and more. Nel is Video Producer at Jacob’s Pillow and Vail Dance Festival and is also the proud Director and Producer of PS DANCE! — a New York Emmy-nominated documentary about dance education in NYC’s public schools.