Kindergartners wait backstage for their turn as area school children rehearse with the National Dance Institute, performing Reach Out! The Sweet Sounds of Motown at Pueblo Auditorium, Thursday. (Mark Wilson Photos)
Students and teachers of Pecos Elementary presented Thursday at Pueblo Auditorium a dress rehearsal for a tribute to the music of Motown.
More than 100 students, from grades 3 through 5, as well as 19 teachers from the school worked with the National Dance Institute of New Mexico’s for two weeks to learn its latest show, “Reach Out! The Sweet Sounds of Motown.”
Students practiced for an hour each day, said Principal Dr. Barbara Ryan. “The students at Pecos just love music,” she said. “They love dance, they love movement.”
The school has worked with NDI-NM for several years and Ryan said it not only teaches dance and music skills, but it also teaches children skills such as teamwork and listening.
“The whole package is what makes it excellent for kids,” she said. “It’s just a wonderful program and we’re fortunate to have it at Pecos.”
Cristiane C. de Oliveira, residency director at the Institute, said the program uses dance as a tool to teach students four core principles: to do their best, work hard, never give up and be healthy.
In the audience for the dress rehearsal were other students of Pecos Elementary, as well as students and teachers of Washington Avenue Elementary.
Before the presentation, Institute Residency Assistant Alyx Sanchez and students demonstrated how NDI-NM teaches its choreography, which Sanchez described as “telling a story with your body.”
The musical told the history of Motown, from its beginnings in Detroit to its impact on pop culture. The students danced to renditions of classics by artists such as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and The Jackson Five. The teachers and Ryan performed a routine set to the Jackson Five’s “The Love You Save,” to cheers from students in the audience.
Pecos Elementary teacher Kirk Mundy provided narration and sang songs, as Institute Residency Music Director Maki Kimura provided piano accompaniment.
Kindergartners from the school, or “tiny tots,” also appeared in the show in various roles, including Motown groups such as The Supremes and The Jackson Five.
The students performed again later that evening for parents and other guests.