Students get a picante lesson in Latin culture

CORONA DEL MAR — Corona del Mar High School's Spanish-language students battled Wednesday to be crowned CdM's Best Latin Dance Crew.

"It was really fun," said junior Kyle Sherburne, 17. "I watched it last year and knew I wanted to be in it."

Five teams from CdM's Spanish 3 students competed in front of about 1,200 middle- and high-school students for the sixth year of the competition. A live salsa band set the mood and teachers opened the assembly with a dance that combined both salsa and hip hop.

The teams practiced for two months to pull together a two-minute dance routine that incorporated salsa and hip-hop moves — even back flips — to win a pizza party on campus and an unlimited play pass, both donated by Boomers!, the family entertainment center chain.

Kyle's team, Consigue Dinero, Te Pagan Dinero — which means, "Get money, get paid" — won the competition.

Students were in for a surprise during the assembly when Spanish teacher Nelson Rojas, who organized the event, announced this was the competition's final year.

A few disappointed teenagers sounded upset when they heard the news, but the mood quickly changed to excitement as Rojas explained that it was coming back as CdM's Best Dance Crew.

Rojas announced he was passing on his pet project to the Associated Student Body so that the competition would be open to all students and all styles of dance.

Rojas, who showed off his own salsa skills with two partners during the assembly, started the competition in his classes as a fun way to teach his students more about Latin culture and dance.

"I feel like we learned a lot more about [the culture] and it makes it a lot more fun, too," Kyle said.

Starting only with salsa, the event has evolved into a way to show the entire school what the world languages department is doing, he said.

CdM also offers French and sign language classes.

Since the competition started, Rojas has seen an increased interest in Spanish and even had students tell him at the beginning of the year that they signed up just to compete in the competition.

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