Spanish exchange students show a flair for flamenco

Thursday September 27, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The stage at Pittsfield's Colonial Theatre welcomed a handful of performers all the way from Spain on Wednesday afternoon, for a brief and impromptu performance of classical guitar playing, flamenco dancing and comedy.

The talent came from among a group of 15 teenagers visiting Pittsfield as exchange students from Carousel Student Tours through a scholarship program in Cadíz, Spain.

Cadíz is a port city located on a small peninsula on the coast of southwestern Spain, just north of San Fernando.

The exchange students did a farewell tour of the theater and performed there before heading back to Spain on Thursday after their three-week stay.

"This is my third time traveling to the U.S. but it's been different. I've been living with a family here and definitely feel more welcome," said exchange student Carmen Nieto, 17.

She has been staying with Pittsfield High School's Sienna Carpenter, 16, who has been taking Spanish since eighth grade.

The two smiled at each other like sisters.

"We will keep in contact and hopefully she can visit in Spain next year," said Nieto at a yes-nodding Carpenter.

Bobby New, 16, said he's enjoyed being able to meet and host Cristóbal Roman Rodri guez with his family, despite a language barrier.

"If don't know words in English, we help them by talking in Spanish," New said.

"This is huge for him. It's his first trip outside Spain," Span ish chaperone Sybelle Mar quez said of Rodriguez.

Incidentally, the students' visit coincided with National His panic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15), established to celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens who have roots in Spanish-speaking countries.

During their visits, the ex change students spent time in Pittsfield schools, touring Berk shire County and cities like New York and Boston, and learning about a new culture.

After school, the students' cultures blended with exchanging activities like learning how to dance flamenco for taking a trip for ice cream at Friendly's -- a kind of space and food the Spanish students said they don't have at home.

Jennifer Hashim, a Spanish teacher at Pittsfield High School, said the exchange, a first for the Spanish department, has been beneficial.

"To have students from Spain here at the beginning of the school year has been the biggest boost in motivation and enthusiasm for my students. To have human dictionaries in the classroom, people who can tell you about their culture has a huge influence," Hashim said.


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