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Keshet Center for the Arts Interview with Carolyn Tobias and Sarah Williams Gonzales

Since 1996, Keshet Center for the Arts, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has operated as an arts-based non-profit with the mission to inspire and unite community by fostering unlimited possibilities, through dance, mentorship and a creative space for the arts. Keshet Center for the Arts is home to Keshet Dance Company, a contemporary repertory company, Keshet’s education and outreach programming (KLab or Keshet Kinesthetic Education Laboratory) and Keshet Ideas and Innovation Center, a business.

According to Carolyn Tobias, their Communications Director, Keshet operates with the core values of inclusion, excellence, opportunity, personal growth, authenticity and fluidity. Their education and outreach program (KLab – Keshet Kinesthetic Education Laboratory) invites students from ages two through adult to grow through the experience of dance, no matter their economic capacity or physical ability. Their accessibility through unlimited non-competitive scholarships (youth under 18 years), and Adaptive Dance programming is unique to other dance education locations in New Mexico.

Keshet uses the model of movement + mentorship = metamorphosis (M3) to teach incarcerated youth self-esteem, confidence, teamwork and academics through dance.

 

Keshet’s Pre-professional Program, KP3, offers a rigorous curriculum for students who want to pursue a dance career, developing both skills and character. They hold a high technical standard for their KP3 students, who train in ballet, contemporary, hip hop, jazz, and pointe. Their curriculum also includes a theoretical component, where students learn about dance history, French terminology, kinesiology, theater tech, resumé building, and more. KP3 students are expected to be leaders and mentors who show character and integrity. KP3 doesn’t just teach dance steps. They aim to develop well rounded, employable future artists.

Keshet’s Pre-Professional Program Director, Sarah Williams Gonzales, believes that in teaching every small breakthrough moment is a success. On the road to personal growth and excellence, no bit of success is greater or more significant than another.

At Keshet, they believe that some dancers try to move forward before they have mastered the basics. They want instant gratification, to be perfect immediately. What they don’t realize is that anything that is worth something, in dance or in life, is worth the hard work put into it. Keshet tries to help their students to understand that they need to take baby steps every day, so eventually they will be able, armed with prior background knowledge, to take larger strides and leaps.

Their goals at Keshet are their student’s goals. It is their job to help and guide others to realize their goals. In KP3, for instance, they ask the students to write down their goals for the year. At the end of the school year, they look back at how far they have come, how much they have grown.

Founded in 1996, Keshet’s mission is to inspire and unite community by fostering unlimited possibilities through dance, mentorship and a creative space for the arts.

Their professional dancers work with the community as mentors and instructors to provide young artists with guidance along a professional career path, increase youth health and self-esteem, provide a strong base of positive mentorship for homeless and incarcerated youth and demolish misconceptions about individuals with physical disabilities.  Offering approximately 80 classes per week and reaching over 8,500 community members annually, Keshet programs include: an annual production season featuring the Repertory company, which integrates professional and local artists; an on-going dance school; an intensive Pre-Professional Training Program; a variety of outreach programs bringing dance to low-income, at-risk, homeless and incarcerated youth; and a program for youth and adults with physical disabilities. Since its inception, Keshet has presented over 60 productions, and impacted the lives of over 80,000 children and adults.

This year Keshet celebrates its 20th anniversary. Keshet was started by Founder and Artistic Director, Shira Greenberg. The word “Keshet” is Hebrew for “rainbow.” Shira chose to name the company Keshet because it represented the coming together of people of all levels of ability.

Since 1996, Keshet Dance Company has been creating and performing innovative, experimental and inspiring dance works. Receiving both local and national recognition for choreography and artistic programming the Repertory Company is comprised of a core group of salaried dancers, complemented by local and visiting artists, both professional and amateur.

Whether developing productions based on the impact of the Holocaust on American Jews, the images and texts of poet Pablo Neruda, or a modern interpretation of the traditional Nutcracker, Keshet’s repertory engages audiences young and old, opening minds and changing perceptions of what dance and a dancer can be.

At the Keshet Center, students have the opportunity to take dance classes in Ballet, Contemporary, Creative Movement, Jazz, Hip Hop, Adaptive Dance and Adult Fitness such as Cardio & Core, and Stretch & Strength.

Keshet has a number of ­­community outreach program. Since its inception in 1996,  Keshet’s talented teaching faculty has been connecting community members with dance in an effort to build a stronger community. Programming includes workshops, classes, and performances in youth shelters, detention centers, schools and community centers throughout New Mexico. Participants in the Outreach Program gain self-confidence and self-discipline by challenging themselves to use their bodies in new ways and by working together with instructors and other participants.

Keshet also provides a free school matinee series for Nutcracker on the Rocks and the Spring Concert Series each year. Over 8,500 community members are reached annually via the Community Outreach Program.

Keshet’s On-going Outreach Programs include: Youth Diagnostic and Development Center (YDDC)/Foothill High School; Keshet’s outreach facilitators teach daily dance classes as part of the high school curriculum on site at YDDC, New Mexico’s state juvenile detention facility, using dance to teach literacy skills, math skills and conflict resolution skills. Keshet also has a pre-release and post-release program to continue mentoring students while they transition out of the facility, providing a structured mentorship program through the parole and reintegration process.

When asked, “How does this program inspire you?” one student replied: “It shows how you could change and do something positive with yourself. It shows that there are people out there who really care.”

In 2007, the New Mexico State Legislature passed House Memorial 107 “to commend Keshet Dance Company on its dance programs, its educational and social curricula and its provision of mentorship relationships for incarcerated and paroled youth, all aimed at reducing juvenile recidivism rates.”

In 2009, Keshet received the Coming Up Taller Award from First Lady Michelle Obama for its work with YDDC.

The Title 1 Homeless Project is an after-school program that provides academic tutoring and a hot meal to homeless children in Albuquerque. As part of the program, Keshet’s outreach facilitators teach 8 to 10 classes per week at elementary, middle and high schools throughout the city, reaching approximately 250 homeless youth annually.

“Keshet has brought joy to their students. You have enriched their children’s lives significantly.” – Helen Fox and Katy Braziel, Title I Homeless Project Coordinators

Providence Support Services provides assistance to adults with disabilities. Keshet faculty teaches a weekly creative movement class onsite at Keshet’s studios.

Each year Keshet hosts a School time Matinees Series where local school groups are invited to attend various shows for free. Keshet also hosts a Q & A with the dancers and choreographers after each performance and teachers are provided with a free curriculum guide for each show.

In addition to the on-going programs mentioned above, Keshet regularly works with Aher Biehl Charter High School, Bosque School, Mountain Mahogany Community School, Artes los Martes/National Hispanic Cultural Center, Girl Scouts of Chaparral County, UNM Continuing Education, and the Pueblo of Sandia in Albuquerque.  Keshet customizes each program to meet the needs of the participating organization.

“Keshet Dance Company is an excellent example of using the arts to help their young people help themselves.” Alexander D. Crary, Former Chief of Staff, National Endowment of the Arts

Keshet is always looking for ways to provide more community members with the opportunity to dance. If you know of an organization that may be interested in Keshet’s Outreach Services, please contact them at 505-224-9808.
If you would like more information about Keshet Center for the Arts, visit their website at www.KeshetArts.org, call them at 505-224-9808 or email info@KeshetArts.org. You can also “Like” them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KeshetArts, follow them on Twitter @KeshetDanceCo, connect with them on LinkedIn and watch them on YouTube.

Anyone who has danced at Keshet Center for the Arts, with Sarah Williams Gonzales or with any of the other instructors at Keshet, is invited to comment on their blog.

On the road to personal growth and excellence, no bit of success is greater or more significant than another.

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