Skip to main content

The City Journals

Elk Meadows students learn about Middle Eastern, Asian culture

Mar 08, 2018 02:57PM ● By Julie Slama

Elk Meadows students watch dances from around the world during the school’s art assembly. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Through an assembly filled with music, dance and color, Elk Meadows Elementary students learned about Middle Eastern and Asian culture.

The Artistic Resource for Teachers and Students Inc. assembly, featuring Lloyd Miller and Katherine St. John, featured music on instruments students may not have been familiar with such as a hammer dulcimer and a zarb or tonbak drum, said Jordan School District’s Norman Emerson, who scheduled the program.

“They introduce unique instruments, rhythms, movement with their professional dancers and musicians,” he said. “It’s an engaging program with super colorful costumes, music and traditions. We’re hoping to expose our students to another culture through music and dance and give them an enriching experience.”

The three dancers — Justine Sheedy-Krammer, Laura Taylor and Lisa Hoyt — met at the University of Utah and have gone on to become performers on their own dancing with Ballet West, Rose Wagner and others. Among the dances they showcased were a classical Persian dance, an Afghanistan folk dance, an Iranian dance and their finale, a dance from Uzbekistan with colorful costumes.

“We love being able to share snippets of the dances so kids can make a connection to them,” Hoyt said.

Sheedy-Krammer said through the program students’ interests may pique with the culture and information they present about the geography, history, music and culture.

“They can come away knowing that the political boundaries don’t match the culture, so this is a chance for them to get to know some countries’ traditions,” she said.

The program includes music, song and dance from Turkey, Afghanistan, Iran (Persia), Uzbekistan, Mongolia and Western China.

St. John and Miller both have traveled the area, and he even lived in the region for a while. They met while she was studying Afghanistan dance at Brigham Young University, and he was studying Persian music at the University of Utah.

“We decided to pool together to create a music and folk dance assembly for young audiences,” St. John said, adding that they have toured nationally for the past 25 years.

St. John’s interest in the culture began when she was in fourth grade. Walking home from school, she found a bell from India.

“It was interesting, and it made me wonder what goes on in the world,” she said, adding she still has that bell today. “We want students to see cultures from the world and get to know people through music and song. We want them to see the dances of the Middle East and Asia and have a deeper understanding of the world around them.”

As part of the assembly, some kindergarteners were invited to stage to play bells; selected students learned dances, and the student council learned to play a Turkish song with spoons.

Sixth-grader Rhett Dawson, Olivia Kartchner and Morgan Evans said although they would be interested in learning how to play the spoons from their peers, the dance was what intrigued them.

“I liked the dances and how it embraced the culture,” Rhett said.

Olivia, who has had lessons in ballet, jazz and hip-hop, said she would be interested in learning the dances.

“You could tell the dancers had ballet technique, but it would be fun to learn to dance in the super beautiful costumes,” she said. “I liked the music they played for the dancers. I didn’t know much about the instruments before.”

Morgan said that it would be fun not only to learn about the dances but also the countries.

“I don’t know much about where they came from — the countries, the costumes, their culture—but it would be cool to find out,” she said.

Principal Aaron Ichimura said through the ARTS Inc. assembly, Elk Meadows students can appreciate a new variety of music and dance.

“The students are gaining an exposure of their culture through the arts, and it may be piquing their interest to learn more,” he said. “When you look at our country, there is a mixing pot of society, and through understanding, we are more accepting of others around us.”

The assembly also will be held at Falcon Ridge Elementary April 9. They performed earlier this school year at Columbia Elementary. Both schools are in West Jordan.