Y dancers take cultural trip to Thailand

August 2, 2016 Comments (0)

Sarah Jones, left, feeds a treat to the elephant as her grandfather Ron Jones, joins her in a ride.GIG HARBOR, Wash. -  Earlier this year over spring break, a group of 16 teens, including three from Gig Harbor, made the trip of a lifetime — a two-week cultural exchange visit to Thailand, complete with elephant rides, river rafting, visits to a floating market and the king’s palace and lots of dancing.

The teens are members of dance groups sponsored by the YMCA’s Cultural Arts Program.
Gig Harbor was represented by Sarah Jones, 12; Molly Ng, 15 and Moira Cummings, 14.
Sarah’s grandfather Ron Jones, a member of the Gig Harbor Y’s advisory board, went along as a chaperone and photographer.

The Cultural Arts Program has been in place for more than a decade, according to Lynn Wilmot-Stenehjem, associate executive director of the Pierce/Kitsap YMCA Center for Community Impact.

As part of the program, every two years a group of Y teens visits a foreign country in a cultural exchange. In the past, dancers have traveled to London, China, Vietnam and Cambodia.

“I’m so passionate about giving our youngsters a global perspective,” Wilmot-Stenehjem said. “I think it’s very important for kids to have a broad cultural awareness. When they come home they’re so much more confident in other parts of their lives.”

And it reinforces the idea that dance and music and other arts are a way of communication, even when people speak different languages, she added.

“In Thailand we focused on American dances like tap and hip hop and the Thai dancers shared their own dances with us,” she said. “When all the kids were dancing together there was a wonderful, wordless connection between them.”

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By Charlee Glock-Jackson | Gig Harbor Life

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