SHIPROCK — More than 100 Shiprock students were movin' and groovin' to music in front of their parents, teachers, and other community members Friday.

The students had been working with the National Dance Institute, a New York-based nonprofit, for the past two weeks learning how to dance before they put on a show Friday at their school, Atsa' Biyaazh, in Shiprock.

The institute has a branch in New Mexico that has been working with the school, part of Shiprock Associated Schools, Inc., for nearly a decade. The institute is known nationally for its work with children in underserved communities.

"We visit children that normally wouldn't be exposed to the arts," said Alyx Sanchez, a traveling instructor.

Because the New Mexico Department of Public Health recently signed on as a sponsor with the institute, the instructors this year put an emphasis on health.

"There's a lot of obesity and diabetes in this community," said Freda Nells, Atsa' Biyaazh principal.

Students in kindergarten and 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grades this year performed around a "Detroit" theme, telling the story of how the Motown music genre developed in the Midwestern city.

Many of the students practiced the routine for hours at school, and at home.

"We get to get our own parts," said Kilee Bylilly, 11, who was part of the "SWAT Team." SWAT, which stands for Super Wonderful Advanced Team, is made up of students who display an advanced skill level.


A key part of the progam is teaching the children self-confidence and teamwork that are vital for success, no matter what they pursue, instructors said.

Jenny Kane can be reached at; 505-564-4636. Follow her on Twitter @Jenny_Kane