A Dance for Every Season

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    By Rosalie Westenskow

    Latin American, Native American and Polynesian students collaborate to share their heritage and excite others to learn about their own in a performance this weekend.

    Living Legends, a group of ethnically diverse BYU students, performs traditional song and dance numbers from North and South America and the South Pacific.

    This weekend”s performance, “Seasons,” portrays the cyclical nature of culture and of life.

    “It”s a universal story. It tells about a people who made decisions and the cycles and seasons they went through,” director Janielle Christensen said.

    The show opens with a Native American piece that portrays the sacredness of the eagle and the Yakima swan. Other dances give the audience a taste of the cultures of Ecuador, Hawaii, Samoa, Guatemala, Paraguay, Tahiti, Colombia, Tonga and New Zealand.

    All of the pieces performed by the group feature authentic choreography and many of the costumes used in the performance were made in the region on which a dance focuses.

    “Seasons” portrays a story with which every audience member can relate because everyone has experienced periods of plenty, prosperity, war and rebirth, said Daniel Bair, Living Legends president.

    “We go through these times ourselves and the show portrays how we can go back to times of happiness in our lives,” said Bair, a senior majoring in environmental soil science.

    The inspiration for the show, and its cyclical nature, also links to messages in the Book of Mormon.

    “It”s an overall look at life the way the Book of Mormon explains it,” Bair said.

    Living Legends recently returned from a tour of Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota, an area where many Native American tribes reside.

    The group visited with many Native Americans, including members of the Shoshone tribe.

    “We went through a couple of reservations on tour and we had the opportunity to meet direct descendants of chiefs and other important people in those communities,” Bair said.

    One of the goals of Living Legends is to share the cultural heritage of the performers and to invite audience members to take pride in their culture as well, director Christensen said.

    In order to share these values with young people, the group makes an effort to participate in outreach programs by performing in schools whenever they go on tour, she said.

    “The outreach programs are important because they allow us to not only share the beauty of the cultures we represent,” Christensen said. “But it also allows students [at the schools] to see role models who are excelling, attending college and achieving goals.”

    Audience members do not have to be of the cultures represented in the show in order to be inspired by the message, she said.

    “Anybody who watches the show, no matter what their culture, will hopefully have a desire to learn about their own culture and represent it well,” Christensen said.

    Students who attend the show will have the opportunity to observe a variety of different types of dances.

    The Haka, a war dance, is one of the most intense pieces, said performer Malcolm Botto Wilson, a graduate student studying math communications.

    BYU students may recognize the Haka as the BYU football team”s recently adapted ritual performance at the beginning of football games last fall.

    In the Haka, traditionally performed by the Maori people from New Zealand, performers slap their bodies and stomp their feet.

    “It”s supposed to intimidate the opponent,” said Wilson, who has been a member of Living Legends for five years.

    “Seasons” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 10 and 11, 2006 in the de Jong Concert Hall, located in the Harris Fine Arts Center. Tickets are $10 or $8 with a student ID. To purchase tickets, call the Fine Arts Ticket Office at 422-4511 or visit performances.byu.edu.

    (For comments, e-mail Rosalie Westenskow at )

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