Living Legends dance story of the Book of Mormon “Seasons” performance

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Living Legends performers Michael Ikahihifo and Sia Fifita rehearse a Polynesian dance in preparation for their upcoming on-campus performance of “Seasons.” (Stoker)

BYU Living Legends will be performing a representation of the story of the Book of Mormon in their show “Seasons” on Feb. 5-6 at the de Jong Concert Hall.

“Seasons” is the story of the Book of Mormon in the wording of a Native American legend, according to Living Legends Artistic Director Janielle Christensen. The show illustrates through song and dance the pride cycle found in the Book of Mormon.

The performances will showcase a combination of traditional dances from the Native American, Polynesian and Latin American cultures representing seasons of worship, prosperity, pride, war, humility and rebirth. The story about the “Seasons” of life makes the show a unique cultural experience for both the performers and the audience, according to Christensen.

“It’s a very entertaining, colorful, fast-paced, beautifully-costumed show,” Christensen said. “But along with all the entertainment value of those elements, we have the opportunity to tell a very important story about their common heritage.”

The show also represents “Seasons” of a more personal level by demonstrating the cycles of life that people go through individually, according to Living Legends Student Body President Kamalu Kaluhiokalani.

The inspiration for “Seasons” came from the Book of Mormon, according to Christensen. She said the creation of the show started by sitting down at a computer with the Book of Mormon in one hand and an old Native American legend in the other hand. They then put the story from the Book of Mormon into the language of a Native American legend and made a dance representation of the pride cycle using various cultural dances.

Tiana Cole practices a traditional Native American dance for Living Legends’ “Seasons.” The various cultural dances in the show represent the different seasons of life as portrayed in the Book of Mormon. (Stoker)

“Once we thought about it, it was a very easy fit to put these dances into seasons and to be able to tell that story in a way that was just a very beautiful story for the audience to understand on whatever level of experience they might be bringing to it,” Christensen said.

Living Legends’ presentation of “Seasons” this year includes many new numbers and new dances from Bolivia, Ecuador, Samoa, Hawaii and Tonga.  The new number from Tonga will begin with a special kava ceremony by one of the performers, Sia Fifita. The kava ceremony may only be performed by a descendant of a particular Tongan village, or with special permission from someone of that village, according to Philip Conte, a first-year performer with Living Legends. Fifita has permission to perform the ceremony as a descendant of the village. The kava ceremony represents the Tongan people, having respect for others and giving everything that you have, even when you have nothing, Conte explained.

This year’s show will also feature a new hoop dancer, who recently placed fourth in the nation in a hoop-dancing competition in Arizona, according to Kaluhiokalani. The hoop dance in this show will include new formations and will bring a new energy to the show, Christensen said.

Living Legends will be visiting New Zealand, Tonga and Samoa on a special three-week tour when the winter semester ends. Christensen said the group plans on the tour will include carrying out student assemblies, Sunday devotionals and outreach performances for nursing homes, orphanages and special needs groups in addition to their concerts. The group will also perform for the King and Queen of Tonga on their tour, according to Kaluhiokalani.

Christensen said each performer comes from the heritage and culture that he/she represents as a dancer. She said the group starts out each year in September as a mixture of both students who have grown up performing cultural dances all their lives as well as students who know very little about their culture and have come to perform with Living Legends to learn more. By January, she would challenge an audience to pick out which dancers started out experienced or inexperienced, Christensen said.

“It’s just so amazing to see how unified the group is and how we all help each other out and how we all just love each other,” Living Legends Performer Ivette Leal said.  “There’s just a bond there that gives you a sense of belonging.”

Christensen said she enjoys seeing the student performers bring their cultures to life through Living Legends.

“The main thing I love about directing Living Legends is the great opportunity to work with these very gifted, talented, spiritual students,” Christensen said.

Kaluhiokalani said performing with Living Legends gives the group a unique opportunity to share their culture.

“Something that’s a big point in our group is not just showcasing who you are, but showcasing your ancestry, those who came before you,” Kaluhiokalani said. “We dance to honor our ancestors, our families, our names and also our Heavenly Father, who gave us the ability to dance.”

The performers also enjoy sharing their beliefs in the gospel of Jesus Christ with others through Living Legends in addition to sharing their cultures, according to Leal.

“We’re always reminded that the purpose in Living Legends is so much greater than just dancing,” Leal said. “It’s been something that has really changed my life and has given me a better perspective of what I can do to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands.”

Conte said he hopes the audience will enjoy both the rich spiritual and cultural aspects of the show during the on-campus performances. He hopes that those at the concert will share the energy of the dancers and be a part of the celebration that happens on stage.

“Hopefully when people come, they’ll feel like they have just been immersed in these cultures, that they have traveled, gone on a journey, learned important lessons, seen beautiful costumes and heard beautiful music,” Christensen said.

Living Legends will perform “Seasons” on Friday, Feb. 5 and Saturday, Feb. 6 at 7:30 pm in the de Jong Concert Hall. Tickets to the performances are available through the HFAC Ticket Office, by calling 801-422-2981, or by visiting the BYU Arts website at arts.byu.edu.

[vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKqaF74YUL4″]

(Permission granted by Janielle Christensen to include this promotional video for Living Legends created by the BYU Performing Arts Management Office.)

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