The 15th annual MCPS Latin Dance Competition showcased a variety of cultural dances to students, parents, and teachers from across the county. The event is a signature program of the After School Dance Fund, a non-profit organization that provides artistic support to students.
Eight high school dance teams took part in the competition, including Clarksburg, Einstein, Watkins Mill, Gaithersburg, Wheaton, Springbrook, Quince Orchard, and Blair. The dancers all arrived on that stage after several months of unceasing training with one purpose: to showcase the Latino culture.
Students danced in different divisions, including typical Latin music genres such as Salsa, Cha-cha, Bachata, and Merengue. Other divisions included a parent-student dance and a “Jack & Jill” dance, where students were selected and paired randomly to compete together to win the division.
Before the competition, students worked arduously practicing the routines they would be performing during the night. One competitor mentioned having to stay long hours at her school practicing, sometimes until 7 pm.
Many of the dance competitors mentioned how hard they had to work. Many of these competitors are first generation immigrants who are taking ESOL classes and must spend countless hours doing homework to maintain a good GPA. Some parents get concerned about the amount of practice hours the students devote to the dance team.
But the rewards are enormous. Usually many of these teams have a study hall period where these students work on their homework before practice begins.
After study hall, it’s time to roll up their sleeves and sweat. In order to get the dance routines perfect, many dance teams scrutinize clips of their team and other teams performing, get tips from professionals, and spend a lot of time together. This builds their teamwork and trust in one another, which is essential for a stellar performance. It also enables them to get fast, accurate, honest feedback.
All dancers know that every minute detail is important: rhythm, timing, execution of steps, focus, gracefulness, fluidity on the dance floor, use of space, expression, gestures, not to mention make-up and costumes. When these dedicated dancers put all these factors together, their performance appears seamless and effortless.
Guest speakers at the event, including Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr, reiterated the importance of extra-curricular activities, such as dancing, for students. Students are given the vitalization when moving their feet to different beats.
Giving an outlet to teens who want to express themselves is the mission of so many organizations, and school dance teams, across the county. Students performing at this competition hailed from various cultural backgrounds. The best dancers, and artists of every kind share one thing in common: their passion helps them realize that they share the world with each other, regardless of their beliefs, social status, or color of skin. They want to communicate this passion with others with the hope of motivating their audience as well to improve themselves.
Albert Einstein HS, also known as los “Titanes Salseros,” took the trophy for best overall performance, for the third year in a row. Watkins Mill HS, who looked to surprise, took 2nd place for five of the seven divisions, winning 1st in the “Jack and Jill” and Alumni divisions.
This left fans and onlookers alike biting their nails, and then astounded to see the underdogs come in second overall. While Einstein is the favorite of many fans, many other fans are cheering for Watkins Mill to win first place next year.
But the real winners were not merely the schools, coaches, teams in ranking order, but every single participant, who worked hard to achieve their best on the Strathmore stage. The participants will use all they learned on dance floors beyond the four walls and in their high school and college classrooms.
Article by the MoCo Student Staff Writer Darian Garcia