If you are or were lucky enough to grow up as a dancer, you know first hand how dance training imparts strengths that serve us well in all walks of life. The National Dance Institute of New Mexico concisely sums up some of the most important lessons in its “core four” teachings: work hard, do your best, never give up, and be healthy. Dance teachers who can instill these values in their students significantly impact those students’ lives.
This is exactly what NDINM does. The organization’s in-school program offers students in New Mexico public schools dance training (with live musical accompaniment) and produces year-end performances (with over 500 students per show). More advanced levels of training and performance are offered through after-school programs and dance teams. Remarkably, these opportunities are made available to all students, regardless of parents’ ability to pay, by a sliding scale tuition policy. “Affordability is never going to be an obstacle for any child to participate,” says Artistic Director Liz Salganek. “It’s important to us that the programs be representative of and serve the community.”
The results are compelling. In addition to learning to dance, gaining social skills, and building confidence through acquiring new abilities and performing together, NDINM students excel academically, achieving better science, reading, and math scores than non-NDINM counterparts on standardized test.
Performance themes complement school subjects and allow students new modes of engaging with academic concepts. This year’s show in Santa Fe, Imagine the Possibilities: A Celebration of Reading, engages students in explorations of literature. Another performance for Albuquerque students, Rolling on the Rio, teaches students and audience members about conservation, geography, and different river-related myths from around the world.
“They do an amazing job fitting the dance training into our curricula,” says Elaine Pino, a veteran teacher at Gonzalez Community School. “My daughter, Sydney, is in her 4th year of NDINM and she’ll often tell me, ‘Oh, I know that from dance!’”
For Sydney, who is in 6th grade and has dyslexia, dance has provided a new channel of self-expression. “It’s been a great confidence booster,” says her mother. “She actually choreographed a dance for a school talent show!”
And it’s consistently positive, which might be one of the most important keys to NDINM’s success. 14 year-old Nicole, a member of NDINM’s elite Celebration dance team, agrees. “It’s a great opportunity to learn how to dance and how to focus yourself and enjoy yourself in a new way,” she says. “We’re like a family. We connect and help each other out.”
Performances will be held this month. Check out the calendar for dates and purchase tickets here. If you’d like to support this organization, you can donate online. You can also teach! Recruiting more teachers allows NDINM to expand its reach. New teachers are trained in the organization’s pedagogical style through a paid apprenticeship program, which is a rare opportunity. Learn more here.
Photos: NDI New Mexico