As hard as she tries, Chenoa Scippio cannot fully describe her dancing techniques to her teammates on the Harrison softball team. That's in large part because they haven't witnessed it firsthand.
Scippio, who has ancestors of Navajo and Santa Clara Pueblo descent, takes great pride in her heritage, which strongly encourages participation in two annual feast days to celebrate harvest and other sacred traditions.
"When they ask me, I tell them that I dance, but it's not like the dancing you see on TV," said Scippio, a junior first baseman who also plays basketball and tennis for the Panthers. "I guess the meaning behind why I do it, when compared to why most people dance, is way different. It's real important to me, and I take every opportunity I can to be part of it."
For the Aug. 15 day to celebrate the harvest and patron saint St. Clare, it means Scippio must miss several days of high school softball practice to travel and perform in the event on a reservation in north central New Mexico.
That never caused problems with Harrison's coaching staff. In fact, it was applauded.
"I have no problem letting her go do that," third-year Panthers coach Janet Schafer said. "To be part of those activities, I think that's a great thing. I think it would be fun to see. I think it's cool that she's that passionate about her heritage."
And while she's away, in practice for the traditional dancing and music, her heart still resides with her Harrison comrades.
She knows that it will help her in her athletic endeavors.
"I know that during practices, you're going to get hot, and with the conditioning, you're just running and running," Scippio said. "I think back to my Santa Clara Pueblo upbringing. I think about the drums. When we dance, as long as those drums are going, my feet are, too. We're not going to stop. I try to hear them in my head when we're working out at school. When I'm dancing, I think about the games or practices and how it's going to make me better."
So it's probably no coincidence that Scippio, in her first full season on varsity, shares the team lead with 12 hits and five doubles and ranks third with a robust .927 OPS.
"Even though we're not having a winning season, she's one of the leaders on the team," Schafer said. "She's one of the athletes that's probably the most improved of the last year and a half. She's a pretty strong kid; she can hit the ball a mile if she gets a hold of it. Plus, she's very intense and heady. She's really aware of what's going on. I know without a doubt that her athletic abilities and leadership have come from how she was raised."
The team's softball season will conclude Thursday, but for Scippio, basketball and tennis won't be far behind. Then, before you know it, it'll be summer again, and briefly, time for athletics to take a back seat to tradition.
She wouldn't have it any other way.
"They're such big feasts, and they are very hard to describe, and they come just once a year," Scippio said. "You never know the next time you'll be able to do it."
Schafer added: "It's neat to know she has that type of background and ancestry, and she knows that. A lot of people don't know what their ancestry is, or they don't really care. For her, it's a critical part of her life. In an age where many kids don't play multiple sports, she's doing a sport, plus a family activity. It's a great experience for a student-athlete, and it's neat that she likes to share it with her teammates."