UCOL’s Palmerston North Performing Arts suite was brought alive by the vibrant colours, and spirited music and dance of South America last week, with a visit from Living Legends from Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah.
UCOL Diploma in Performing Arts, and UCOL Certificate and Diploma in Contemporary Music Performance students, greeted the visitors on Queen Street with a song and were then captivated as members of the troupe, dressed in dazzling cultural attire, sang and danced through a short 20 minute performance.
The most memorable of the dances involved four male native American performers spinning and intertwining hoops to portray birds, nature and the globe.
The troupe which comprises 36 singers, dancers and musicians, and eight technical staff, are on an international tour to New Zealand, Tonga and Samoa.
Living Legends is one of several performance groups from BYU that travel and perform around the world. BYU is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and, excluding online students, is the largest religious university in the United States with a roll of approximately 30,000 students.
In their full length show, the talented performers of native descent, portray the rhythms of Polynesia, the fascinating legends of Native American people and the energy of Latin America.
Both the lavish outfits and the intricate choreography are authentic representations of the cultures.
BYU's Artistic Director for Living Legends Janielle Christensen, says the group is always well prepared for their trips abroad. The fulltime students, aged from 18-35 years old, have weekly classes to learn about the culture of the countries they will visit and are required to do a research project.
The performers must audition each year for the limited places, and individually contribute a set fee to the travelling fund.
Twenty two year old Living Legends performer Taylor Barlow, is of both Māori and Tongan descent and identifies closely with both cultures. "I am so grateful to be able to perform in New Zealand and Tonga," she says. "It is very humbling to see the audience's reaction to what we do."
Janielle adds, "The performers thrive on their amazingly rich travel experiences, and say they gain much more than they give."
UCOL Performing Arts Lecturer Craig Geenty says the visit was invaluable for the UCOL students. "It was great for them to watch a quality performance and appreciate the degree of commitment required to perform consistently at such a high level."
The experience will also offer added inspiration for an indigenous South American dance performance, in celebration of Frida Kahlo, which the UCOL students are planning later in the year.
The visit culminated with a noisy and hilarious dance lesson conducted by the Utah students, and an impromptu singalong around the piano. Not surprisingly, new friendships were forged by the international 'language' of music.