La Ballona School Ends Year with Flurry of Artistic Activities


As the academic year slowly starts to wind down, La Ballona Elementary School remains busy with a flurry of arts and musical activities that spotlight its dedication to cultural diversity.

Principal Luis Ramirez said school events, like the Spring Concert, Ballroom Dance and International Show, all artistically emphasize what truly makes La Ballona's community so special.

"There is a very diverse and rich ethnic mix in this school, and that allows students to be able to appreciate different ethnicities that they may not have been able to come into contact with otherwise," he said.

Ramirez, who is finishing up his first year as the school's principal, believes that exposing children to various arts and music genres is essential for a student's overall development.

"We really have a lot of activities that focus on all aspects of a growing child's mind," he said. "They are able to perform and tap into another side that they didn't know existed within them."

Recently, nearly 50 students took part in three performances of Disney's Aladdin KIDS production. In its second year, the annual production was initiated in 2018 through the Disney Musicals in Schools program, and was initially funded through a Center Theater Group grant.

This year's Aladdin performance, which was directed by teachers Kathryn Banek and Brittney Welch, featured an elaborate handcrafted set design, an assortment of handmade costumes, as well as professional sound and lighting.

In addition, through the annual Ballroom Dance, fifth-grade students will soon get a chance to showcase three classic dances – salsa, swing and waltz – that they have been practicing since November.

PTA President Marti Paez believes that being part of the Ballroom Dance, which is directed by Coach Mark Mendoza, gives children an experience that will remain with them long after they graduate from La Ballona.

"Anytime a child is given an opportunity to move and grove, children are learning about joy and ways to express themselves, which is extraordinary," she said.

The Ballroom Dance will be held at 7 p.m. on June 5, and is open to the public.

La Ballona's Spring Concert is also a chance for the third- through fifth-grade choir members to showcase their musical skills that they've developed throughout the year.

Kimberly Gallagher, an elementary vocal music educator who also directs the choir, said this year's concert features a cultural mixture of music, from folk songs to classical choral music. Students will also be performing songs in five different languages, including Japanese, Latin, and German, during the concert, which will take place at 6:30 p.m. on May 28.

In addition to experiencing music from different cultures, Gallagher said that being part of the choir provides children lifelong lessons.

"Students not only begin to learn the basics of healthy singing, we also emphasize literacy by reading our music texts, both in English and beyond," she said, adding that "singing together is also an amazing foundation for working together as a team."

Lastly, it takes a large team, comprised of faculty, staff, students, parents and the community, to put on the school's final event of the year – the annual International Show.

The International Show, which is on June 7, offers an opportunity for families to sample a variety of ethnic foods, while being entertained by music and dances from around the world.

Each classroom of students performs a dance from a different country, such as Japan, Cuba and India, and the student Folklorico group will also perform traditional Mexican dances.

Paez said the International Show encapsulates the ethnic diversity that's celebrated all year.

"I feel the heartbeat of La Ballona is a multicultural community," she said. "We have a belief that we need to celebrate the cultures that we are all born to, and we are very mindful to be inclusive of everyone in all that we do."

Ramirez said that students are taught inside the classroom and through school activities to embrace and celebrate their differences and similarities.

"We are a mix of different peoples with different cultures and background, but all come together under the umbrella of La Ballona," he said.


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