What we doKEEP’s distinctive dance program utilizes the award-winning National Dance Institute teaching methodology and program model developed by former NYC Ballet principal dancer and MacArthur Fellow, Jacques d’Amboise. These time-tested teaching techniques are used around the country to inspire children to understand the meaning of excellence and strive to reach their full potential in everything they do. Kids Excel is a proud associate of the National Dance Institute, located in Harlem, New York.
Recognizing that the arts have a unique power to engage and motivate children, the mission of Kids Excel El Paso (KEEP) is to help children develop discipline, a standard of excellence, and self-confidence that will positively impact their education and all aspects of their lives - one dance step at a time.
Partner Schools in 2019-2020
Students Participating in 2019-2020
Our StoryKids Excel began as a pilot program in 2004, serving 3 schools and 280 children in South El Paso. Over the last 16 years, the organization has grown to meet the demand for its programming and will serve more than 2,700 children in 36 El Paso schools over the course of the 2019-2020 school year. The children at the schools KEEP serves average 94% Minority, 84% Economically Disadvantaged, 69% At-Risk, and 51% Limited English Proficient. Since inception, KEEP has served 30,622 children, 1,186 classroom teachers, and 348,920 audience members.
Each week, in gyms and cafeterias throughout El Paso, thousands of lives are transformed through the magic of music and dance.
KEEP’s Arts Education Outreach Program is conducted on the campus of each of its 35 partner schools. Because in-school classes are held for the entire fourth grade level as part of the school day, children who might not have the resources to participate in extra-curricular arts activities have the opportunity to expand their horizons and experience quality dance and music education.
KEEP will conduct an average of 70 classes per week in its partner schools with classes ranging in size between 25-35 students. A Teaching Artist and Musician who have been extensively trained in the National Dance Institute (NDI) methodology teach each class. KEEP’s program is performance based, and all activities during the school year are geared toward the school-wide assemblies in December and end-of-year performances in May. The assemblies and performances allow students to demonstrate what they have learned and gain positive reinforcement from peers, teachers, parents, and community members.
Program expansionFor the 2019-2020 school year, KEEP has maintained its curriculum in 33 schools, and provided after-school programming on 3 campuses in EPISD, thereby serving a total of 36 schools, 2,600 students, 140 classroom teachers, and 28,000 audience members.
If you are interested in becoming a Kids Excel partner school, the first thing you must do is secure a spot on the waiting list in your district. To be added to the list, please ask the Principal or other school administrator/representative to contact the main office of your district. For specific contact information please visit:
You can also contact Barbara Bustamante, Associate Director/Kids Excel, at:
Partner SchoolsKids Excel classes are conducted on the campus of each of our 36 partner schools. Because in-school classes are held for the entire fourth grade level as part of the school day, children who might not have the resources to participate in extra-curricular arts activities have the opportunity to expand their horizons and experience quality dance and music education. All Kids Excel in-school programs are free to children and their families.
2019-2020 Partner Schools
El Paso Independent School District
Canutillo Independent School District
Ysleta Independent School District
·La Fe Preparatory School
Our StaffCourtney Elam, Executive/Artistic Director Administrative Staff
Barbara Bustamante, Associate Director
David Sierra, Business Manager
Karla Rangel, Graphic Design/Administrative Assistant
Ismar Melchor, Music Director
Hector Rodriguez, Associate Music Director
Ana Nieto, Special Teams Coordinator/Teaching Artist
Gina Barnett, Artistic Associate/Teaching Artist
Carlos Barba, Musician
Barbara Bernal, Teaching Artist
Noe Cardenas, Musician
Brenda Delgado, Teaching Artist Assistant
Freddie Edwards, Teaching Artist
Cesar Garza, Musician
Trisha Holmes, Teaching Artist
Abraham Lerman, Musician
Allison Licon, Teaching Artist Assistant
Omaira Minjarez, Teaching Artist
Henna Rodriguez, Musician
Sam Rodriguez, Musician
Laura Scally, Teaching Artist
The Benefits of Dance
Recent studies confirm compelling evidence of the beneficial effects of physical activity on children’s cognitive development and brain health. Increased physical activity is associated with improved academic achievement and stronger connections between brain regions, as well as with more efficient activation of regions involved in cognitive tasks.
Children who are more physically active generally do better in school, as reflected in their performance in mathematics, spelling, and reading.
According to a 2019 study posted on the Blog for Learning and Development, A learning/developmental perspective emphasizes that physical activity can also be cognitively demanding – when it is characterized by difficult rules or complex movements, for example. This type of physical activity is believed to activate the same brain regions as those needed to perform cognitive tasks. These regions are shaped, or “trained,” to function more effectively, resulting in improved cognitive performance. Results of recent studies suggest that the two mechanisms are additive. In other words, moderate to vigorous physical activity that also involves complex rules or movements will have the most beneficial effects on cognition.
KEEP’s innovative methodology is designed to inspire children, regardless of their physical, cognitive or behavioral ability, to achieve goals they may not have ever considered attainable and motivate them through increased expectations of their capabilities. Weekly classes are carefully sequenced so that children gradually build upon their knowledge and physical abilities. With each mastered step, children become more confident and learn the work ethics needed to become excellent in any endeavor. Children take the confidence and self-esteem bolstered by KEEP’s classes with them into the classroom and out into the world.
KEEP's pedogogy encourages children to work hard in everything they do and experience the benefits of their hard work in return. Students learn discipline that allows them to focus which carries into their everyday lives.
Never Give Up
Students learn that mistakes are a normal part of the learning process. KEEP encourages success through repetative instruction and individual excellence.
Each student learns that their personal best differs from their classmates. Students learn to support eachother and create a team, to work hard while having fun, and to have confidence to try new things.