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'Cats ready for Vietnam

"The upcoming Swingin' Hepcats tour of Vietnam will be an exciting venture for all the teen dancers,.For team member Sonya Jakawich the trip has another dimension. The tour marks the first time Jakawich, who was adopted as an infant from Korea, returns to Asia.When I joined Hepcats a year ago, it never crossed my mind that I'd be going to Asia, Jakawich said. Who knows what it will be like there? The trip will harvest feelings I can't begin to predict.Jakawich was three months old when she left Seoul to be adopted in America.The only information her new family had received about Jakawich's biological parents was that they were not married. In an Asian country, an unmarried woman with a child - it's going to be very hard for her, Jakawich said. Jakawich, now a high school senior, grew up in an American family. As she grew older, her family tried to connect Jakawich with her roots.Jakawich and her parents read books about the country; she and her father even took Korean language lessons together. He stayed with it longer than I did, Jakawich said. I thought of myself as American. I didn't have that strong an interest in Asian culture.In school, Jakawich gravitated to the sciences and excelled at chemistry. She also focused on dance, taking jazz, ballet and tap lessons.Jakawich was always on the lookout for new dance forms to try.On TV, you'd see people dancing with each other, she said, and I'd always say 'How do they know what to do with each other?' I wanted to learn the partner aspect.The Swingin' Hepcats' coupled dance routines attracted Jakawich.She joined the Bainbridge-based group in June 2000, swiftly mastering the dance form. A few months later, she accompanied the group on their Nicaraguan tour, a shorter trip made in preparation for this summer's Vietnam junket.On Aug. 10, the troupe will depart for Vietnam and, joining forces with local teen dancers, perform throughout the country for three weeks at the invitation of the Vietnamese government. It will be interesting, Jakawich said, because the Vietnamese kids don't know each other. They're being pulled from all over the country. This will be one of the most amazing things they could ever have the opportunity to do. The American teens have been raising money for the Vietnamese teens to join the group. The Hepcats have raised over $20,000 from letters, paid performances and sales of Vietnamese artwork. Now, as the departure date approaches, they still need $6,000. The last major fundraiser is a performance in Seattle July 28.I'm hoping people will come out to support us, Jakawich said. For me, this trip is the chance of a lifetime - to visit Asia, the place I came from. "

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