Shepard students learn art, history of dance
May 24, 2012 12:08PM
Shepard High School students Ivan Mangana and Itzel Villegas danced the bachata as part of teacher Denise Valdez’s project on dance, history and culture. | Supplied Photo
Updated: June 28, 2012 12:56PM
Dressed more for a festival than Spanish class, Shepard High School students delivered their PowerPoint presentations recently on the history and cultural significance of Latin dances.
Their slideshows, however, provided only an introduction: Teamed as couples, they turned the lights back on, hit the “play” button to start the music, and then performed bachata, merengue, flamenco and other forms of Latin dance.
Teacher Denise Valdez designed the lesson to make her students, all of whom grew up speaking Spanish in their homes, conduct a college-level research project. Students dressed to emulate native performers of the regions of their chosen dances and blended technology, music, history, cultural research and art.
“I wanted the students to understand the history behind dance in Latin America,” Valdez said. “They learned the origins of these dances and how they influenced each country.”
Research included the style of music, the different instruments and clothing related to each dance.
“Many people identify dance as an important aspect of their culture,” Valdez said. “Many of the dances we covered were developed during times of war or economic struggles.”
Valdez said people also developed dances as mediums of entertainment, expressions of feelings, and to bond with one another.
“Some Latin dances incorporate more than one country and united them together to form some of the most popular dances we know today, such as salsa,” Valdez explained.
Students researched the historical roots of their dances as they rehearsed for their performances.
Students discovered that the bachata originated in the Dominican Republic during political struggles to keep low-income people united through their songs and discuss their hardships while living under a dictatorship.
Students also learned about cumbia, a popular dance in Colombia and Panama that traces its history to African and indigenous cultures.
Provided to the SouthtownStar