Dance and diversity on Cinco de Mayo

Students' multicultural performances entertain at retirement community

By Emily Ostrowski, Columbian staff writer



Residents of Kamlu Retirement Inn got a special Cinco de Mayo treat when students from Pioneer Elementary’s Spanish Dual Immersion dance troupe put on a performance to celebrate cultural diversity.

Thirty students were dressed to the nines in attire honoring various cultures, and excited to perform the routines they had worked on for the last several weeks.

The students, made up of children in first through fifth grade, split up into two different dance troupes: the Mexican Dancers and the Multicultural Parade and Dance Group. The Mexican Dancers went first, dancing to a mix of Mexican folkloric music, which represented the culture of different Mexican states.

“The students who have Mexican roots feel very proud dancing and feel pretty close the culture of their parents’ heritage,” said Alma Parada De Campos, teacher and leader of the dance troupe. Parada De Campos noted that the students who come from different cultural backgrounds are also “happy to experience the culture of the language they are learning at school.”

Next up, the Multicultural Parade and Dance Group took the floor representing five different countries, including Vietnam and Russia, and even did a bit of line dancing to “Achy Breaky Heart” in tribute to the United States.

Residents were smiling and clapping along throughout the entire half-hour performance by the two troupes and made sure to give the kids a loud ovation as they finished their last dance — and bid adieu to their audience.

“I thought it was great, just the excitement of the girls and boys performing,” said Harry Brooks, who just moved into Kamlu this past week. “If it’s like this every week, I definitely made the right choice.”

The residents were hardly the only ones left enthused after the performance. Moises Castaneda, a fifth-grader in the Mexican Dancers group, enjoyed his time in the spotlight. “I love getting cheered on,” Castaneda said. He has been involved with the dual immersion program for the past three years.

“It was pretty cool dancing in front of the people,” echoed third-grader Aracely Diaz Montes. “I was nervous at first, but I felt better after we started dancing.”

Third-grader Itzel Garrido said she felt no nerves because she had confidence from all the practice they put in, while classmate Ashley Rubio was a bit nervous but knew her friends would be there to cheer her on.

Marianne Bowers, the enrichment coordinator at Kamlu who helped organize the event, had nothing but praise for the young performers. “They were on their mark,” she said. “Our residents just took it all in, and loved it.”

Bowers jumped at the chance to coordinate with Pioneer Elementary in hosting the performance. She has worked with Kathryn Garcia-Stackpole, community partnerships supervisor for Evergreen Public Schools, in organizing several intergenerational events with students and Kamlu residents in the past. She thought this would be another great opportunity to expose the residents to something new, something Bowers believes is extremely significant to the enrichment of those living at Kamlu.

“It’s the energy, the experience and the exposure that are so important,” Bowers said. “Exposure to the school systems, and what they’re doing, and just to learn more about other countries and their traditions and cultures.”

Multicultural night

The afternoon’s performance served as something of a dress rehearsal for later that night, when troupe members, including the 15 students from the Parade and Dance Group that were unable to attend the performance at Kamlu, took the stage at Pioneer Elementary’s Multicultural Night at Frontier Middle School.

Multicultural Night celebrates the diversity of all of Pioneer’s students, though the Dual Immersion Program, which was implemented at Pioneer four years ago, served as the initial inspiration.

In addition to the dance troupes performing, teachers presented a slide show representing the diversity of all of the school’s students, and students and families enjoyed dinner together.

“Multicultural Night is the biggest turnout we have for our families,” said Pioneer Elementary Principal Jenny Roberts, who was also on hand to introduce the students at Kamlu earlier in the day. She said the event grew so big it had to move to a larger venue at Frontier Middle School.

“It is two groups of children coming together and learning a language together,” added Roberts. “The interactions and challenges the children face are positive, and it’s amazing by the end of kindergarten to hear our students interacting in a language they’re just learning. It’s just amazing.”