Students step up to dance challenge; [Final Edition]
MIKE BOONE. The Gazette. Montreal, Que.: Feb 15, 2006. pg. A.7

If they can stand the weather this far north, ghosts of the holy trinity - Perez Prado, Xavier Cugat and Tito Puente - will be hovering over Vanier College today. Eight students will be shaking their southern extremities in the finals of the CEGEP's So You Think You Can Dance competition.

Like Young lives - in St. Laurent.

Peggy McCoy, co-ordinator of student services at Vanier, describes the dance contest as "educational in the broadest and best sense." To support this assertion, she rounded up the finalists to talk about devoting hours of their spare time to mastering something alien to their experience.

In the progression from Fred and Ginger through John and Uma to Michael Jackson and Napoleon Dynamite, dancers somehow lost touch with reaching out to touch someone other than themselves. But after about a dozen hours of after-class instruction, eight hip-hoppers learned to glide.

And they liked it.

"I love to dance," said Frederick Mayo, who was impressed, as a high-school student, by Jackson's virtuosity. He would download video clips and study dance moves. After years of being a solo act, Mayo wanted to learn social dancing. He, along with 15 other Vanier students, signed up for the program in October.

None of them knew each other. Partnerships were formed by drawing names out of a hat, and a similar random selection determined which dances the couples would learn.

Mayo and Mercedes Forbes-Martinez drew the cha-cha. Douglas Rivera and Alexandra Zabeida learned a dance he correctly pronounces ROOM-bah. Juliet Oppong-Nuako and Brandon Calder are the salsa finalists; the merengue-istas are Christina Crevello and Frankie Iacovelli.

"He's been terrific as a partner," Forbes-Martinez said of Mayo. "I've learned a new dance and made a really good friend. It's been great."

Rivera entered the dance program with two friends. They dropped out, but he persevered because "when I say I'm going to do something, I keep my word."

Semper fi on the dance floor.

"The rhumba is supposed to be very intimate," added Rivera, whose Hispanic heritage affords him some familiarity with the dance. "But we'll do it ballroom style, with a lot of exaggerated hand movements."

Zabeida, whose family moved here from Russia 12 years ago, may have ballet in the blood. But she lists her favourite dance styles as house, hip-hop and break dancing. The hardest part of the rhumba, Zabeida says, is "putting emotion into it."

Motion was what confounded Calder.

"Salsa is so different from hip-hop," he said, an observation that got the group laughing in assent. "I wasn't used to having to move my hips that much."

"The steps were hard," Oppong-Nuako concurred. "I usually jump into everything, but to learn salsa I had to slow down and study the steps.

"Also, I'm into jazz ballet and Brandon's into hip-hop. So there was an adjustment by both of us."

"The way to be a good dancer," Calder said , "is to learn a lot of styles. There's so much out there."

Article found on ProQuest