I have a question for you, Santa Fe (and non-Santa Fe) readers: What was your high school experience like? Mine, at Santa Fe Prep, was a far cry from the hands-on, artsy, Rudolph Steiner-ism of Santa Fe Waldorf School.---

At the time I matriculated at SFP in 2000, the college counselors liked to remind us that New Mexico's education system was ranked the third-worst in the country, including the territories. If No Child Left Behind's "adequate yearly progress" standards for 2009-10 are any indication (arguable), things haven't really gotten much better.

In his now-infamous TED address from 2006, Ken Robinson invites us to consider a system wherein our schools teach exercise, humanities and arts with the same emphasis as math and sciences.

I bring this up because, of course, Santa Fe now houses the New Mexico School for the Arts, the arts charter school that my musician buddies and I were all hoping, in 2000, would sprout miraculously from the prairie-grassroots to save us from our arts-deprived secondary educations.

I attended the NMSA dance department's inaugural performance, Winter Dances, not really knowing what to expect. Liking the school's vision of fostering "art, smart and heart" is all very well in theory, but whether that would translate into an enjoyable and thought-provoking performance was another matter entirely.

The show didn't disappoint.

Part of the first ensemble piece was set to the music "Time" from the film Inception. The concern, of course, with using film scoring as the base for a dance, is that the dancers already have various associations connected with the music. But the cast pulled off the routine admirably.

A number of solo and small group pieces followed. A duet by Marie Kuhns and Theresa Rascon, dressed in tutus, set the music from Le Corsaire, demonstrated impressive control of classical ballet techniques from these two students. The short-film River Dance chronicled the students' involvement in the Flash Flood for a Living River community event from last year. A handful of edgy and thought-provoking gender-specific pieces followed, including an intimate and tasteful quartet by the department's four male dancers.