- Business Advocacy
The students not only had to learn to dance (some of them were terrible), they had to continually negotiate with their parents who had envisioned their high school sons studying to become doctors or engineers, not dancers who had 25-hour-a-week practices.
The underdog at any competition, Mark Keppel High School’s MKAM Dance Team, against all odds, competed on NBC’s World of Dance March 10. The only all male high school dance to ever appear on the show, MKAM won its duel and is qualified for the next WOD round, chasing the $1 million prize. Air date to be announced.
None of the kids, who among them speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Tagalog, Spanish, Korean, and English, ever had a dance lesson before they joined MKAM Dance Company as ninth graders. Every other tween or teen competing on WOD (or any television show for that matter) is the product of years of dance studio training combined with home schooling on a set. The MKAM dancers raised the money for competitions and costumes with Boba tea fundraisers.
MKAM’s story is incredible determination in the face of significant obstacles that pays off in an unimaginable fairytale way. The students not only had to learn to dance (some of them were terrible), they had to continually negotiate with their parents who had envisioned their high school sons studying to become doctors or engineers, not dancers who had 25-hour-a-week practices.
Each boy has a story. Paul Im, MKAM team captain with the 4.2 GPA, was the worst dancer ever when he joined as a freshman. Now he is very clearly the best. Alan Angeles, fluent in Tagalog, is the dancer who is the team hair cutter and charges $5 a haircut. Nathan Cao, who is of Chinese descent but born in Honduras, speaks better Spanish than Eric Moreno, the team member from Mexico.
MKHS Dance Arts Director Activate Arroyo is still another story. Never was a coach more aptly named. Thanks to Mr. Arroyo, Mark Keppel High School is one of only 13 high schools in the state of California to offer a weighted Honors Dance program.
Both MKAM and the MKHS Dance Team just swept the March 15-16 West Coast Elite National Competition. The MKHS Dance Teams won three 2019 West Coast Elite Dance National Championships in the Large Male, Medium Female, and Small Male categories. Large Male also won Top Overall Points and Best Showmanship. The MKHS Dance Team then won Top Overall Championship. At the West Coast Elite Nationals, MKHS Dance Team alumna, now a talented freelance photographer, Jessica Chou followed the champions throughout the competition to capture their inspiring drive as representative of the immigrant community in the San Gabriel Valley. Ms. Chou’s work appears in the New York Times and other news and magazine outlets. Watch for her award-winning work at www.jessicachouphotographs.com.