Jane Takeda Dances it Up in Finland


The Following article is our first installment in the series “Ashland High School Abroad”, and is written by AHS junior Jane Takeda from her host school in Finland.

This past week has probably been the best week of my entire exchange so far. Aside from spending lots of time with my friends, there was the vanhojentanssi, or Wanhat, the “oldies dance”. I have been looking forward to it since September.

For two months now, my fellow 2nd year students (the equivalent of high school juniors) and I have been learning and practicing the dances for the vanhojentanssi, such as Tango and Waltz. The purpose of the dance is a celebration. In Finland, the third year students have a several month “vacation” to study for their final exams. During this time the second years are the oldest students in the school. The dance is part of a transition between the grades. The dance is really four dances, because you perform four times; once for our families, once for the elementary students, once for the middle school students and once for the first year high school students.

The Wanhat dance is a tradition in every Finnish high school. The dances performed will vary from school to school, but every school performs some type of Waltz and Tango. At my school we danced eight different dances; Waltz, Tango, Jiffy Mixer, The Fireman’s Dance, the Spectacular – a dance choreographed by the students–, and three others.

Jane's classmates pose for their formal dance. Jane is in the back row, sixth from the left.

Everybody who decided to dance had an amazing time. Because of the preparations for the dance, the free time between dances, and the dancing itself, students were able to spend more time together. As a result, my friend, an exchange student from Germany, and I were able to get to know students who weren’t from our class. We even ended up making a few new friends.

Jane (Middle) and two friends

After the last dance on Friday, there was a dinner in the nearby city of Hämeenlinna. Most of my good friends went, so I had a really good time. After we ate, a small group of my good friends and I walked to Mc Donald’s to buy Mc Flurries. We hung out in Mc Donald’s for awhile then my three best friends and I came to my house and we hung out and watched movies.

Coming on exchange has opened up a whole world of things for me. Besides learning a new language, I have made lifelong friends, adopting a new way of living, and learned how to dance in a floor-length gown. This past week has been one of the best of my entire life; words cannot accurately portray the immense feelings of community and happiness that have accompanied the Wanhat dance or how good it feels to be fully accepted by an entire school. All I can say is that this week is just one of the many amazing weeks I have had, and will have here in Finland.