WORK HARD. DO YOUR BEST. NEVER GIVE UP. BE HEALTHY.by Meg Peralta-Silva NDI New Mexico provides high-quality arts and healthy-lifestyle programming to youth throughout New Mexico, but it is so much more than that. Many participants consider NDI friends and teachers to be a second family. Since 1994, NDI New Mexico has served more than 125,000 youth throughout New Mexico with in-school and afterschool programs and advanced dance teams at their “dance barns” in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. While students are learning jazz, ballet, hip-hop, modern or other forms of art and movement, they are also being inspired by life principles referred to as the “Core Four.” NDI’s principles are seemingly simple: work hard, do your best, never give up and be healthy. According to staff, students and families, these principles impact life beyond the classroom. This year, the principles took on new meaning for all of the NDI programming. Since March, NDI instructors shifted their programming online. They held a virtual gala event, created movement breaks that aired on PBS, hosted international guest artists as instructors and recorded over 750 videos, including some offered in Spanish, and had classes the whole family could participate in — all offered at a pay-what-you-can basis.
“The Core Four have been a pillar in the formation of my beliefs. Working hard has really been a reflection on my own perseverance and unwillingness to give up. All four of them are present in one’s life, even with my NDI peers who aren’t pursuing the arts.”
– Hugo PizzaroHugo Pizzaro, who along with Terrance Matthew became one of the first two New Mexicans ever to be accepted into the prestigious Juilliard dance program, reflected that he wouldn’t be where he was today without the support of people from NDI and its Core Four principles. His first introduction to non-sports-based movement was as a fourth grader in Española, at an NDI outreach class. He continued with NDI until graduation, even receiving his acceptance call to Julliard while volunteering at NDI, helping with the advanced team. Pizzaro says, “The Core Four have been a pillar in the formation of my beliefs. Working hard has really been a reflection on my own perseverance and unwillingness to give up. All four of them are present in one’s life, even with my NDI peers who aren’t pursuing the arts. I can see that they are also using the Core Four as a belief system, and that’s the cool thing about NDI. I feel like every student gets these ideas instilled in them as a child, and then they begin to live them out.” As an elementary student, learning the Core Four begins with “the Core Four cheer,” but as students mature, the instructors create space for students to relate the principles to their own life and reflect on them. To wrap up the Dance 101 class this summer, students, instructors and guests gathered on Zoom to watch the pieces students had choreographed after studying global dance history and culture. The dances they created were conversations, an expression through choreography of the times we are in, addressing isolation, connection and world events. Steven Melendez, The Hiland Theater Artistic Director, reflected, “These kinds of conversations are conversations I think we need to be having more often, and I think even with young people in our programs, there are things we can’t ignore. This is part of our charge — to be sure that we are caring for the complete student, including social and emotional health.”