Five little girls joined their teacher after school at Washington Elementary this month to spice up their dancing styles with salsa.

Five little girls joined their teacher after school at Washington Elementary this month to spice up their dancing styles with salsa.

Stephanie Butler said all five girls are either in kindergarten or first grade.

"We do less salsa and a lot of movement," said the kindergarten teacher.

Butler, who lived in Chile for six weeks when finishing up her teaching certificate, fell in love with the Latin styles of dance.

"I love different cultures," Butler said.

Dance, she said, is part of Chilean culture.

In Chile, it is not uncommon for students to go home after school and watch dance for hours on television, according to Butler.

On the weekends, they go out to the clubs and put into practice what they have learned.

"Their salsa is different," said Butler. "Parents dance with them. It is really fun."

After Butler returned from Chile, she said, she discovered a significant salsa community in Columbus.

"I started going a couple of years ago," she said.

When several of the teachers at Washington Elementary School decided to incorporate their hobbies into teaching enrichment courses after school, Butler decided to share her love for salsa with the students.

She did not expect any of the male population to show up for the dance class, but it was made available to everyone ranging from kindergarten through fifth grade.

Butler was relieved when she did not have a wide age range to try to teach, thinking it might have been harder reaching the younger students if they were mixed with fourth- and fifth-grade students.

Initially, she said, there was a lot of excitement when the girls told her they would attend the class.

As they described it to her, Butler realized that they had salsa and the limbo confused.

Even after three weeks, she said, she is not sure that the girls know what salsa is, but they know it involves dance, moving, laughing and having fun.

"The benefit of working with kindergarten and first grade is to get them to move to the beat," she said. "That is my goal for the class."

With the younger age level, Butler is able to target the music and movement appropriate for the group.

"They have no inhibitions, they just like to do it," Butler said. "They do what makes them feel comfortable and confident."

Every Tuesday during April, the girls join their teacher after school at 3:30 p.m. for a 45-minute session.

"We have a snack and then we dance for a good solid 20 minutes," Butler said.

After two classes, she said, the girls were going home and showing their parents what they were practicing.

"We are not working toward performance dance," Butler said, "but they have grown and changed so much in dancing. We did a little bit with partners last week, moving back and forth to the music."

Most of the girls draw on their past experience in dance and gymnastic classes to help them with the movement, according to Butler.

catwogan@yahoo.com