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Cleveland Public Library’s “Baila Conmigo!” Program exposes children to Latin dance, culture

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 9:21 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Terresha Smith and her three children took time Thursday to listen to salsa music, a genre none of them were previously exposed to.

“It definitely makes you want to move; it makes you want to dance,” Smith said.

Smith’s kids, along with a dozen others, participated in the Cleveland Public Library’s first “Baila Conmigo!” program. The activity hour aims to get kids excited about Latin American culture and Music.

“Kids are more open to new things and open to learning,” Joanna Rivera, lead dance teacher for the program, said.

Rivera gathered the children out to an open space outside the Cleveland Public Library’s Memorial Nottingham Branch in North Collinwood. The sound of salsa music sang through her speaker as she taught the young dancers the basics of the dance.

“They’re probably going to show me a hundred times between today and tomorrow,” Smith said on her kids’ experience.

For Rivera, fun is key: “They’re getting to learn, but also having fun at the same time.”

While the majority of Cleveland’s Hispanic population lives in the city’s West side, others are not exposed to it. “A lot of this history and culture, they don’t get to learn this in school,” Rivera said.

Along with dance, the program also featured an art-and-crafts section, where kids used markers to design their own designs on rocks based on the Taino people, the Natives from Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands.

As she prepares more dances and songs for the rest of the month, Rivera hopes they’ll leave an impression: “I’m just excited for them to do new dances.”

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