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Rhythm is gonna get you: Worthington middle school students learn Latin dance moves

Alyson Buschena/Daily Globe Worthington 5th grade students dance the cumbia with parents and staff.1 / 3
Alyson Buschena/Daily Globe Worthington 5th grade students dance the cumbia with parents and staff.2 / 3
Alyson Buschena/Daily Globe Two Worthington Middle School 5th grade students dance the merengue as part of the Latin Rhythmic Movements class, taught by America Vergara.3 / 3

WORTHINGTON -- For the past couple weeks, the halls of the Worthington Middle School have been filled with the sounds of Latin music, not coming from the music classrooms, but from the gym.

Local Zumba instructor and Realtor America Vergara worked with the Worthington Middle School fifth-grade students for two weeks to teach them the art of Latin rhythmic movements.

As Worthington Middle School artist in residence, Vergara taught the students the basic steps for three types of Latin dances -- cumbia, salsa, and merengue.

Students also learned the names and the geographical information for each of the dances.

Vergara said the students seemed to really enjoy the classes.

"I was surprised that the boys wanted to do it more than the girls," she said. "They were always first to volunteer."

At the end of the two weeks of classes, notes were sent home to parents to invite them to watch their children demonstrate what they had learned and to encourage adult participation.

On Friday and Tuesday, the more than 100 fifth-grade students gathered in the gym, and in groups ranging from six to more than 50, showed off the dances they had learned.

To encourage multi-generational movement, parents and teachers were also invited to participate and dance with the children.

As the students showed off their new skills, the audience, of their peers and parents applauded and cheered on their performances.

Vergara started dancing in El Salvador in the mid-1990s. She originally taught aerobics, but quickly found that Latin rhythmic movements where more her style.

Vergara said she loves teaching dancing and was excited when the school approached her about the classes.

Jeanette Jenson, Worthington Middle School music teacher, said incorporating dance into the Worthington Middle School curriculum is a goal of CAPP, the organization that sponsored the event.

CAPP (Comprehensive Arts Planning Program), founded by Jenson and Jeanne Mammen, is an arts group based in Worthington that has tried to incorporate standards-based rhythmic movement into the arts curriculum in Worthington schools since 2009.

According to Minnesota Academic Standards, schools are required to offer at least three of the five arts areas - dance, media arts, music, theater and visual arts.

District 518 formally offers all arts areas except for dance.

CAPP therefore focuses primarily on dance and tries to bring in local artists, Jenson explained, to share what they know with the students.

CAPP has brought other dancers to the district in the past, including Native American Fancy Dancer Larry Yazzie.

The physical education teachers at the Worthington Middle School were also thanked for their cooperation as the dance classes took place during their regular instruction time.

The students have really seemed to enjoy the classes, Vergara said. and "I've had so much fun working with them."

Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at 376-7322.

Alyson Buschena
Alyson joined the Daily Globe newsroom staff after spending a year in Latin America. A native of Fulda and graduate of the University of Northwestern, she has a bachelor's degree in English with a dual concentration in Literature and Writing and a minor in Spanish. At the Daily Globe, Alyson covers the crime beat as well as Pipestone and Murray counties, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and cooking. More of Alyson's writing can be found at
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