Brigham Young University’s performing group Living Legends recently returned from a three-week tour in the Pacific Islands where they dazzled appreciative audiences with their show “Seasons” and built lasting friendships through service rendered at schools, hospitals, care centers and other venues.
“What they brought to the South Pacific will long be remembered,” said the Rev. Maauga Motu of the National Council of Churches in Samoa. “What they performed will live forever.”
The message from the performers was one of love, peace and unity among all peoples and cultures. More than 16,500 children, teenagers, parents, university students, dignitaries, diplomats, religious leaders and members of the media were entertained and served during the nine performances and 19 private outreach events during the tour.
“We were so pleased to come to New Zealand, Tonga and Samoa. We came wanting to spread goodwill, to share these marvelous cultures we represent from Polynesia, from Latin America and from the American Indians,” said Rex Barrington, BYU director of Performing Arts Management, who led the tour. “We’ve been so wonderfully well received. We feel like we’ve accomplished exactly what we came to do — to uplift, to provide support and to provide an atmosphere that says ‘we love you.’”
Some of the outreach events in New Zealand included a visit to the West Auckland School. The Living Legends team danced and taught a dance to more than 150 school-aged children. They also made a surprise visit to residents and families at the Ronald McDonald House in Auckland, as well as provided dance performances and personal visits to Bishop Viard College, the University of Auckland, Henderson Intermediate School and the Whakatakapokai residential unit.
After a performance for about 900 people in Auckland’s Holy Trinity Cathedral, Teresa McNamara from the Catholic Diocese said, “The show was definitely of a standard you would expect from professional dancers.”
Following eight days in New Zealand, Living Legends performers arrived in Tonga. They first sang and danced before Her Majesty, the Queen of Tonga, Queen Nanasipau’u and approximately 800 invited guests.
Their second performance was to a crowd of more than 5,000. The audience included Tonga’s Crown Prince, Tupouto’a Ulukalala, his wife, Princess Sinaitakala, and their son, Prince Taufa’ahau. After the performance, the Prince and Princess walked onto the stage to personally meet, congratulate and thank every member of Living Legends by shaking their hands.
“It was a fantastic show — a family show for everyone,” Prince Tupoutu’a said.
“The performance was mind-blowing,” said Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa Fiame Naomi Mata’afa. “I just loved the show. It was lovely and amazing.”
Living Legends added a special number to their shows in Samoa that was not performed elsewhere on their tour. To show respect for the Samoan people, the Taualuga — the Samoan last dance — was performed by cast member Jaz Emerson.
“The dance is usually done by the chief’s daughter, so it was an honor to be here in Samoa and dance that dance,” said Emerson, whose family comes from Malaemalu Village Falealili.
Although Living Legends members visited islands, there were no “beach days,” said Janielle Christensen, artistic director of Living Legends and producer for the BYU School of Music, of this tour that took three years to plan.
“It’s always exciting to take Living Legends to countries we represent in our show. We really strive to bring honor to these cultures by performing their dances with the very best costuming, music, choreography and precision in the way we represent ourselves on stage.”
Living Legends consists of 39 student performers of Polynesian, American Indian, and Central and South American descent. Apart from the friendships created in the Pacific Islands, three wedding engagements between Living Legends members also took place while on tour.
“Being a part of this group has helped me learn more about my culture, heritage and legends,” said 24-year-old performer Filemoni Tiatia, who met up with his grandmother in Samoa. “The best part is [that] I share these stories, culture and dances with the other performers, and we get to tell those stories and portray our culture to wherever we travel.”