arts & justice initiatives

Arts & Justice Initiatives

Keshet’s Arts and Justice Initiatives focus on nurturing and advancing aligned partnerships and goals via multiple collaborative efforts for systemic change in local, state, and national juvenile (in)justice ecosystems. The initiatives and partners/collaborators vary in scope, duration, nature of collaboration, and history of relationship.  However, a constant through-line for Keshet is centering the arts in these initiatives, and centering system-impacted youth voices in the pursuit of a community-based, healing-based, and strengths-based approach to a re-imagined justice system.

Keshet’s work in this field began in 1997, and while originally focused specifically on dance education programming with incarcerated youth/young adults, Keshet’s work quickly evolved to use dance as a vehicle to propel juvenile justice legislative policy platforms and broader systems-change.  Over the past 25 years of deep investment in this work, Keshet has built partnerships and collaborations with multiple community and government organizations, working towards meaningful and sustainable systems-change, including the closing of juvenile carceral settings in New Mexico, and increasing community-based and arts-based resources and resource-connectivity.

Currently, Keshet’s Arts and Justice Initiatives include:

  • Daily programming within New Mexico’s juvenile prison system (since 1997), via Keshet’s M3 Program (Movement + Mentorship = Metamorphosis) 
  • Post-release programming, supporting previously incarcerated young artists/students throughout the parole and reintegration process.
  • Curriculum codification, sharing, and teacher trainings – locally and nationally. 
  • Arts and Justice research initiatives, with a specific focus on research that supports progressive policy agenda platforms, in partnership with New Mexico Voices for Children www.nmvoices.org 
  • Community convenings with a focus on resource connectivity, activating opportunities for shared resources, moving youth out of carceral settings and into community.
  • Participation as a founding member of the ABQ Justice for Youth Community Collaborative, in partnership with La Plazita Institute, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and 22 community organizations working on direct systems-change in juvenile justice.
  • National peer learning programming in partnership with the Arts for Healing and Justice Network www.ahjnetwork.org, connecting field research and program learnings from organizations doing similar work at the intersection of arts and juvenile justice across the country.
  • Local voting positions on Bernalillo County’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiatives Boards and Committees.
  • Development and operation of Arts and Justice Youth Leader Internship Program which supports young adults transitioning out of incarceration in a 3-12 month, paid position of an arts-based community internship. 
  • Keshet’s Arts and Justice Youth Leadership Council, a youth driven council providing peer learning, policy/advocacy activism, and community support.

Through Keshet’s Arts and Justice Initiatives, our work has included many other activities over the past 25 years, including (but certainly not limited to):

  • Participation in the Create Justice national cohort for peer learning https://www.createjustice.org/ with subcommittee work specifically in arts and justice policy https://www.createjustice.org/policy-action-group 
  • Successful amendment to the NM Juvenile Parole Restrictions, amending the restriction for paroling youth to cut ties with mentors from “inside,” allowing for continued relationship support with the Keshet community on the “outside.”
  • Recognition at the White House for Keshet’s M3 programming https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TN1WWoE-gg8&t=43s (at timestamp 2:05)
  • Codification of Keshet’s M3 Curriculum, and national teacher trainings in five communities across the United States (Boulder, CO; Minneapolis, MN; Helena, MT; Monticello, NY; Washington, DC)
  • Interdepartmental residency (Law School, Theater/Dance Department) at the University of Colorado Boulder.


M3 Program (Movement + Mentorship = Metamorphosis)

Keshet’s teaching faculty of professional dancers and teaching artists facilitate daily dance classes as part of the credited high school curriculum on site at YDDC and the Camino Nuevo Youth Center, New Mexico’s state juvenile detention facility, to provide a holistic environment for students to learn literacy, math, science, and conflict resolution through dance and choreography. Students completing these courses can then continue their work with their Keshet mentors through pre-release and post-release program while they transition out of the facility, providing a structured mentorship program through the parole and reintegration process.

  • For more information on the M3 curriculum, click here

  • For a three minute overview of the M3 program, click here.

Keshet is so much more than dance; Keshet is rehabilitation and restoration.  Keshet teaches our kids about math, English and conflict resolution, but more importantly, Keshet teaches our kids to dare to dance.  To dare to dance, is to dare to really live.  If Martha Graham was right and “dance is the language of the soul,” then Keshet teaches our kids to find their voices.  Incoherent mumbles are transformed into ecstatic shouts of “I can laugh!” “I can love!” “I can dance!”

– Greg Nelson, Director of Community Initiatives, State of New Mexico’s Children Youth and Families Department

Artist to Artist Dynamic:

A critical element of the M3 program success stems from the relationship between artists.  The M3 staff artists approach each student as a fellow artist, not as an inmate or juvenile delinquent. This mindset, while often unspoken (and sometimes spoken), is a powerful shift for the student. It is commonly the first “label” they have been given that embodies something positive, creative, and full of potential. The fact that the M3 faculty are professional artists outside of the prison/M3 context is a critical component to the relationship.  It says to the student that a professional artist finds value in his or her voice as a young artist and validates what they discover with that voice; it removes any confusion that the teacher is part of a punitive-based or court ordered system (social service, parole monitor, etc); and it underscores the artist/M3 faculty presence in the classroom (jail) is by choice with the intent to create art together.  For the M3 teaching faculty, their art is not a hobby, it is a passion, a career, and a life path.  For a young person, developing a relationship with an adult mentor who has chosen to make a living doing what they love is an important role model to access and often a new experience for these incarcerated children.  This becomes a critical component as they explore their own process of self-inquiry to discover what it is that they wish to do with their lives post-incarceration.   The difference in labeling a child a “case file number” versus a “dancer” or a “choreographer” has tremendous power to change the trajectory of that child’s life.

Movement for Mercy


Mercy /noun/ compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm

Movement /noun/ an act of changing physical location or position or of having this changed; a group of people working together to advance their shared political, social, or artistic ideas

Movement for Mercy: co-created performance installations with system-impacted youth; including residencies and partnerships throughout the U.S.

Movement for Mercy is a collaborative performance created by a team of artists, both Incarcerated and non-incarcerated, with the work shared through the bodies of those on the outside for this unique performance experience. 

This project takes many iterations, and is co-created by Keshet Dance Company, members of Keshet’s Arts & Justice Youth Leadership Council, and currently incarcerated students within Keshet’s M3 Program (Movement + Mentorship = Metamorphosis).

Movement for Mercy 2021

Click here for 2021 Performance Video  

2021 Creative Team:

Collaborating Artists: Sonia Bologa, Emani Brooks, Juliana Gorena, B.H., Julian Jimenez, A.L., Ana Lopes Arechiga, Alyssa Lopez, Elysia Pope, Lara Segura, and A.U.

Rehearsal Directors: Ana Lopes Aréchiga and Elysia Pope

Stage Manager & Lighting Design: Edward Carrion

Camera/Editor: Aaron Hendren

Costumer: Diana MacNeil

MfM 2021 Photographer: Pat Berrett

Artistic Director: Shira Greenberg

Movement for Mercy 2020

Click here for 2020 Performance Link 


2020 Creative Team:

Ana Lopes Arechiga* – choreographer, performer

Sonia Bologa* – choreographer, performer

Emani Brooks^ – choreographer, performer

Joe Brown – voice 

Mason Campbell^ – poet, choreographer, voice

Kristen Carrara – choreographer, performer

Eddie Carrion – stage manager, lighting design

Jaden Faulk^ – choreographer, performer

Juliana Gorena~ – choreographer, performer

Shira Greenberg – choreographer, director

J.J.– poet, choreographer

Rufino Lopez^ – choreographer

Diana MacNeil – choreographer, costumer

Sophia Phillips – choreographer, poet

Lara Segura* – choreographer, performer, poet, voice, sound editor


*Keshet Company Member

^Keshet Youth Leadership Staff

~Keshet Pre-Professional (KP3) student


For more information on Movement for Mercy or to inquire about your community getting involved, contact Shira Greenberg, Shira@KeshetArts.org

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