'Rock, step, cha-cha-cha'

The lesson: Introduce Latino culture through dance while developing social etiquette.

On Tuesday morning, Ashland Middle School sixth-graders were out of their seats and doing the samba and cha-cha, thanks to a grant from The Ashland Schools Foundation. The 16 students have been receiving dance lessons for eight weeks and they are confident of the beat.

"Rock, step, cha-cha-cha," calls out instructor Jeri Capuzo, above the sound of the song "Cha-Cha Danzon" by The Latin Drums.

The young dancers take a breather as Capuzo demonstrates an important dancing technique. "No spaghetti arms," he reminds them. "Keep those arms strong."

The students then return to dancing, changing songs and partners often and with ease. Steps are studied and dance routines created while sixth-grade teacher Sandy Brand can be seen on the sidelines, practicing her dance steps before joining the students. "This is an enriching, entertaining and healthy activity that the students can continue doing the rest of their lives or return to at some point," she says.

The grant was given after a student suggested dance as a way to enrich the class's Latino and Spanish language studies.

And it has.

For more information on The Ashland School Foundation visit www.ashlandschoolsfoundation.org.

— Heidi Monjure

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