Why This Matters: Beyond basic dance skills, the Carolinas Latin Dance Company’s (CLDC) program teaches students the historical, cultural and geographic context of traditional folkloric dances from Latin America and Spain, promoting cultural awareness and acceptance.
By Lillian Parker
The Carolinas Latin Dance Company (CLDC), supported by ASC, is transforming the way children learn about their heritage through the art of dance.
“Students are getting prepared to participate in today’s global society,” said Gladys Gómez, Executive Director of CLDC. “We are promoting cultural acceptance in our community.”
Through one-hour weekly classes on Saturdays, CLDC dance instructors teach folkloric dances from Latin America and Spain to students ages six and older. Beyond basic dance techniques, choreography and performance skills, classes focus on the historical and cultural context of each dance and the geographical background of each dance’s origin.
Most of CLDC’s students come from bi-cultural backgrounds. By combining elements of history and culture into the dance classes, CLDC’s program helps students understand their origins and heritage in a fun, engaging way that is often challenging for parents to provide.
“I believe it’s important because when you are exposed to different cultures, your way of thinking opens up,” Gómez said.
CLDC sees most, if not all, students who are able to attend return year after year, and in the last eight years, the program has welcomed students with autism, as well. Through their repeat participation in the program, Gómez says her students’ confidence and concentration have improved drastically.
“No one comes for just a year,” she said. “We see great progress. Their self-esteem is boosted.”
CLDC’s program follows the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools calendar, and enrollment for the annual session will open in August.
The CLDC program is divided into two parts over an eight-month period: Dance Training and Showcase Performance. From September to December, Dance Training takes place where students learn dances ranging from pre-colonial time to present day. Training continues into the second half of the program, when focus moves toward the production of a professional student showcase called “Dancing Through Latin America”. In this finale Spring performance, students present to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community all they have learned in the training portion of the program, including the cultural content related to each dance.