Students Breakdance at Santana High (from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

The following article is by Richard Irwin from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. The original article can be found at:

Belly and break dancing aren't usually part of the school day. And guitars rarely form the school band.

Unless you go to Santana Alternative High School in Rowland Heights. There, students have the unique opportunity to take belly dancing for physical education and guitar lessons as an elective.

All of which prompted an unusual performance on May 25, when the kids let loose and entertained the campus during a lunch hour presentation.

"We wanted to offer the students some different classes to increase their interest in school," explained Principal Debi Klotz.

So when teacher Shereen Elcherif suggested belly dancing and music teacher Darlene McGrady wanted to teach guitar, the principal was all for it.

As were the high school students, who quickly filled the new classes. The courses draw up to 30 kids, who practice an hour a day.

The young performers decided to share their budding talents with the student body on a bright spring day. A group of guitarists were the first to take to the impromptu stage in the high school's courtyard.

As they strummed through "The Middle," the young musicians concentrated on their sheet music.

"Most of them are beginners. They started by learning how play chords, then we played some blues and worked up to reading music scores," McGrady said.

Angel Cruz said he really enjoys playing the guitar. The 17-year-old was glad they offered the new class.

"I've been playing for six years," said 19-year-old Robert Garcia, "but I'm glad they started this class because a lot of kids who go here have lost hope and aren't interested in school any more."

Everyone's interest perked up when the belly dancers took the stage. With undulating hips and swaying arms, the young women were clearly a favorite with the audience.

"It's actually pretty strenuous," reported 19-year-old Andrea Pope, who also plays volleyball. "Dancing is a good workout."

Juliana Sanchez says the class is a lot of fun. "I like dancing so this was a natural choice for me," the 17-year-old explained.

A trio of young men were a big hit with their break-dancing routines. The "Marionette" number was particularly well done.

The young dancers pretended they were puppets run by a ballerina clad in black. Invisible strings tugged at the dancers as they performed with white masks.

Kevin Dayton and Prince Santiago said they choreograph their own routines. The 18-year-olds were drenched in sweat by the end of the number.

Dance partner Geoffrey Jackson, 18, agreed that taking break-dancing classes for credit was "awesome."

The recital ended with a surprise performance by rappers Tactician and Lucia. Not the usual spring concert by the school choir, but appropriate for a high school where they grade belly and break dancing. Word.

(Staff photos by Watchara Phomicinda)

Read more: