Dancer pushes boundaries, community

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The same old song and dance is not the case for hip-hop dancer “Shuga Shane” Montoya. While making a name for himself as an artist, he spreads dance throughout the community.

“The goal is an avenue of artistic expression in life,” Montoya says of his work as a performer and a teacher at local studios and dance companies in Albuquerque.

Montoya’s spends most of his time with the United Hip-Hop Family Krew (UHF), a local dance company of which he is both a member and a co-founder. The group’s mission is to promote growth and expression through dance. This month, the group hosted the annual Breakin’ Hearts event, a weekend of competition, music and free community workshops.

Montoya and other UHF dancers also devote their energies to New Mexican organizations in need of help and change. Over the years, these groups included the Title 1 Homeless Project, the Youth Detention Center and the Children Youth and Family Department (CYFD). Most recently, this included teaching dance to children from elementary school to high school age the Festival de Bellas Artes, a program provided by Albuquerque Public Schools.

“Do it for the right reasons,” Montoya, 28, says of dance as a career. His hip-hop class on Feb. 12 was part of his teaching for the week. (Jaclyn Younger / CJ 375_001)

“Do it for the right reasons,” Montoya, 28, says of dance as a career. His hip-hop class on Feb. 12 was part of his teaching for the week. (Jaclyn Younger / CJ 375_001)

“Everybody is sharing the same energy,” Montoya says of the community outreach programs. Through what he considers all-inclusive, positive places of dance, Montoya gives new opportunities for those touched by UHF’s work.
In addition to being a leader of the UHF, Montoya is also a member of Dancing Earth, an indigenous contemporary dance company. Although it is not a year-round job, Montoya says his experiences with Dancing Earth are close to what occurs in a professional dance company.

“I was very blessed to be a part of it,” Montoya says of his work with Dancing Earth.

With the group he traveled around the world, participated in the Battery Dance Festival in Manhattan, N.Y. and made history as Dancing Earth became the first indigenous dance company to perform in New Zealand.

“Being able to be myself,” Montoya says is the best part of dancing for a living. “I can be an open canvas, no one is telling me what to paint.”

As a member of UHF and Dancing Earth, Montoya’s main focus is hip-hop, commonly known as break dancing or “breaking.” According to him, being a “b-boy,” or a break dancer, is unique because the dance form is open to individual creativity, a characteristic not typically seen in other forms of dance.

When Montoya isn’t with UHF or touring the globe, he is, of course, dancing. He does everything from choreograph to perform in studios and dance workshops across the city. Montoya teaches regularly at Alwin School of the Dance, Dance Theatre Southwest (DTSW), National Dance Institute (NDI) and Marshall Performing Arts Conservatory. His classes range from young children to adults. He describes his involvement in the dance community as a way of, “spreading the love.” One of his goals is to encourage the growth of potential in other dancers with his experience and love for dance.

Montoya says he was first inspired to dance by his older brother who, after being guided in a, “not so positive light,” strove for a new beginning. His brother saw dance as a way to start over. Montoya began dancing at the age of 13, working on popping and locking, a type of dance that isolates specific body parts. In addition to hip-hop, he studied classical ballet, modern and jazz to widen his knowledge and versatility as a dancer.

“Through a lot of hardships, beautiful things emerge,” Montoya says of his reasons for beginning to dance. His motivation is to show others the opportunities and change that dance can bring.

In the future, Montoya says he may want to open a dance studio to expand upon the work that he has accomplished with the United Hip-Hop Family Krew. For now, however, he wants to continue to grow as a dancer and a person.

According to Montoya, dancers should be mindful of their contributions to the dance community. His question to dancers in both Albuquerque and across the globe is, “Do you believe in something greater than yourself?”

Jaclyn Younger is a ballerina, aspiring journalist, and a writer. She is currently a student at the University of New Mexico.

Read her blog or visit her Linked-In page.

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