Dance fuels youth’s imagination for reading

This story was published by on May 6, 2015

Posted: Wednesday, May 6, 2015 8:00 pm

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 3.07.23 PMEmily Lowman wasn’t so much directing as refereeing as she shepherded about 500 youngsters in kindergarten through ninth grade on and off the stage Wednesday afternoon at the National Dance Institute of New Mexico’s Dance Barns on Alto Street.

She was enjoying herself all the same. “The best thing about directing kids is their willingness to go the extra mile. They let their imagination rule them, and I love that,” Lowman said during a rehearsal for Imagine the Possibilities … A Celebration of Reading, which opens Thursday at the Dance Barns.

The show, featuring children from a number of Santa Fe schools as well as members of NDI’s advanced student dance teams, will offer more than 20 dances with themes based on books — including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, Bless Me, Ultima and Where The Wild Things Are.

There’s also a snippet from 1001 Arabian Nights, the old fable about a woman who delays her husband’s attempts to kill her by telling him a never-ending story that needs to be continued every day. Eventually he falls in love with her and spares her life — a happy ending.

Alan Ruiz, a fourth-grader from Turquoise Trail Elementary School who appears in that bit, displayed a gruesome sense of delight in retelling the part about the king killing his string of wives before coming across Scheherazade, the spouse who wins him over with her tale.

“People smile. People clap,” Ruiz said about why he likes being in the dance.

Max Singleton, a ninth-grader from Santa Fe High School who is part of NDI’s “Celebrations” team of older teen dancers, said, “Children see the dances, and that inspires them to read the books.”

The National Dance Institute of New Mexico started in Santa Fe in 1994. It includes an educational outreach program that serves about 8,900 students statewide. Every year, the organization mounts an end-of-year dance extravaganza featuring students from an array of schools and guest performers such as police chiefs, celebrities and politicians.

This year, a half-dozen members of the Santa Fe Fire Department are dancing in the show. One, Freddie Martinez, said being in the show gives the firefighters a chance to work with children on a positive level and “build a rapport that makes them more comfortable to approach a firefighter.”

Lowen said that while she hopes the show makes the audience happy, ultimately the goal is to “help these children develop a sense of discipline and a standard of excellence … that will carry them through the rest of their lives and help them become responsible adults.”

Contact Robert Nott at 986-3021 or

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