Campers at Changing Lives Dance Center Kidz Camp got a taste of Latin America through culture and dance last week at their new location on South Chestnut Street.
Rudy Flores, center owner and head instructor, said the students learned a contemporary dance native to each country as they studied its culture through crafts, videos and games. Flores said they wanted the kids to be able to travel outside Angelina County without ever leaving.
“We try to teach what makes those countries great, that those people in other countries are just like we are,” he said. “Even though we might be split up by language, there are kids who their same age doing the same things at school, having the same issues, those kinds of things.”
All of the decoration for the camp was handmade. The hallway was made to look like street vendors with pottery and fabric purchased from Mexico, clothes purchased from Cuba and more.
Growing up, Flores said he didn’t understand that there was a whole wide world out there until he visited Mexico with his family and saw kids his age playing and just being kids, even though they spoke another language.
“I could communicate with them by being a child,” he said.
The students performed five songs for their parents Friday afternoon to end the camp. The first song they performed was their morning wake-up song, a high energy electronic beat themed around the Minions from the movie series “Despicable Me.”
The second song was “Boom Boom” by the Kumbia Kings. The dance is styled after cumbia, a graceful, percussion based dance from Columbia. Twelve-year-old Kendall Lopez said this was her favorite dance.
Kendall said she loved learning about the country and things like sugar cane, one of its main commodities. Kendall is coming back to the camp in July to be a counselor.
Eleven-year-old Makayla McClure said her favorite dance was the third song they performed — “Stand by Me” by Prince Royce. This rendition of the older song puts it to the beat of the bachata dance that originates from the Dominican Republic. Bachata is a new dance created in 2001.
“I love dancing, and I love meeting new people and making new friends, and I love learning about different countries,” Makayla said.
Makayla’s brother, 5-year-old Landon McClure, said he loved the quebradita dance from Mexico to the song “El Coco No” by Roberto Junior and Su Bandeño. He said dancing is really fun, and he was glad he could dance at camp.
Seven-year-old Jaiden Parker said his favorite part of camp was planting the watermelon seed, a hot commodity of Brazil. Flores said the seed will take 30 days to mature.
The students performed a samba to the song “Let Me Take You to Rio” from the movie “Rio.” Celeste Monrroy, Zumba instructor, camp leader and center front desk clerk, said she knew about samba, but she didn’t know it came from Brazil.
“The kids love learning new things, too — new facts, new dance moves,” she said. “Their faces light up.”
Monrroy has been coming to the center for three to four years. She said she loves the lively atmosphere and amazing people at the center, and she loves seeing familiar faces and getting to know people better.
The last song the students performed to was “La Gozadera” by Getre de Zona. The dance was a salsa that originates from Cuba. Eight-year-old Marco Cedillo said he loved everything about the camp, but the salsa was his favorite.
“I like dancing and the arts and crafts,” he said.
Ruby Hernandez said Marco and her 4-year-old daughter, Iza Cedillo, loved the camp last year and couldn’t wait to come back.
“They always come home and want to listen to the same songs and dances, and they’re ready to show off their moves on Friday,” she said.
The camp has grown to three weeks this summer instead of two, Flores said.
“It all started to get kids active during the summer, giving them an option to come and exercise and move around without them realizing that that’s the target goal,” Flores said.
For more information on the camps, visit the Changing Lives Dance Center’s Facebook page or call 632-6484.