Dancing the dream


Gissel Enriquez

On Janurary 22, Spanish teacher, Ms. Richelle Mercure, holds a flamenco pose in her classroom: R-6,to express her passion for Latin dance. “When I teach and see my students dance, it is so meaningful to me,” Mercure said, “ because I remember how important dance was when I was their age.”

Mia Dixon-Slaughter , Co-Editor-in-Cheif

Ms. Richelle Mercure didn’t always pursue a teaching degree in Spanish; when she was younger her mind was set on dance. Her passion for the art started early and she continues to dance to this day.


Mercure’s athleticism started at age four when her mother enrolled her in gymnastics. Soon she began to branch out into other athletic and artistic activities such as cheerleading, and then dance.  She explains that gymnastics was the foundation of her dance career.


“My dance background grew from gymnastics,” Mercure said. “Soon gymnastics led to cheerleading, and cheerleading led to dance.”


Her passion for dance was so strong that she spent most of her twenties teaching dance as well as dancing professionally. Some of the groups she performed with include The World Champion Chicago Bulls Luvabull Cheerleaders, the Arizona State SunDevil Dancers, the South Bay Latin Dance Ensemble and the Precision Dance Company. Having completed her B.A. in Spanish after high school, she later went back to school to pursue her teaching credential in order teach Spanish at the secondary level. At Downey High, she incorporates dance in her Spanish lessons and founded the DHS Cultural Dance Ensemble. She currently directs the annual Cultural Talent Show as well as a June annual showcase of cultural dances.


Bonnie Shilling, 12, a student of Mercure, says that speaking about dance elicits an admiration from her Spanish teacher.


“You can tell she really loves it,” Shilling said. “Her face brightens up and she gets this huge smile on her face.”


Mercure’s love for dance inspired her to start the Hispanic Culture and Dance class at Downey High where students who are interested in cultural arts can learn not only new dance techniques and skills but also the heritage and culture behind the dances.


“Teaching here is a nice way to incorporate dance and to help students that are interested in cultural dancing and Latin dancing,” Mercure said.


Juliana Martinez, 10, a student of the Spanish teacher, explained how her teacher tries to keep dance a part of her teaching.


“She teaches us dances, often just with our hands and arms,” Martinez said. “She taught us how to dance Bachata and we danced as a class.”


The Spanish teacher explains that with hard work and drive you can achieve great things and have much success.


“I always tell students to dream big and make a plan and work towards it. When you do, you are that much closer to living your dream,” Mercure said. “Things do not come easy for me. I am good at what I do because I work at consistently and diligently day in and day out.”


Ms. Mercure works teaching Spanish and Hispanic Culture and Dance classes at Downey High School. Outside of work, she teaches Zumba Fitness and yoga, as well as spends time with her husband and two boys. Her passion for dance stays with her as she progresses in life and will always be apart of her life.