Dance program helping New Mexico students reaches milestone

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – This year marks the 20th anniversary of a local program at an Albuquerque school that’s helping students in and out of the classroom.

The National Dance Institute of New Mexico’s outreach program at Janet Kahn School of Integrated Arts introduced students, like Amadeus Hernandez, to dance.

“When I first did it I kind of, I eased into it after a while. It just felt so weird because it was something I had never really done,” Hernandez said.

“He started in third grade in the program,” said Laurie Moodie, his former elementary school teacher.

She said she watched dance change Amadeus, along with her other students in the program.

“They had children that were non-verbal and suddenly they had a new vocabulary and they could express themselves with movement,” Moodie said.

Janet Kahn was the first school in Albuquerque that NDI started working with, according to the organization. That was 20 years ago when it was still known as Eubank Elementary.

“I was a classroom teacher from the first class that [NDI] had here,” Moodie said.

She said dancing gave her students confidence when approaching their academics.

“When you’re dancing and the instructor’s encouraging you and everyone’s doing the same thing and week by week, you can see you’re getting better and you realize, ‘Oh, never give up. This is what it means,’” Moodie said.

After nearly 30 years of teaching, Moodie retired and continued her work with NDI as a volunteer.

About a decade after her student Hernandez’ first dance class, he’s now dancing with the New Mexico Ballet Company.

“Now seeing it’s something I do every day, it’s just amazing,” Hernandez said.

Studies show children involved in the arts, including dance, do better in math, reading, thinking skills and social skills. Studies show the arts are even more important for kids who come from lower income families.

One of the most comprehensive studies, by the National Endowment for the Arts, found that students involved in the arts score higher on science and reading tests than their peers. The study also found those involved in arts programs had an overall grade point average roughly a half point higher than their peers.

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