The first week in Nauvoo for the International Folk Dance Ensemble was full of activities, performances, visiting historic sites and making new friends.
Arriving on Monday, June 3, the Folk Dancers were greeted by President and Sister Gilliland of the Nauvoo Illinois Mission. The Gillilands treated the group to ice cream at the mission home and gave a warm welcome with an inspirational message.
The group was especially excited to see Diane and Richard Allen, who are serving as missionaries in Nauvoo. Diane had served as the Folk Dance Ensemble's costume designer for ten years and is a great friend of the folk dance program.
Attending the "Rendezvous" performance by the senior missionaries was a highlight. Diane and Richard were thrilled to have the Folk Dancers in the audience. The students laughed, cheered and thoroughly enjoyed the effort and the message that was conveyed in the performance. The missionaries received a standing ovation from the students.
The ensemble had the opportunity to perform at the Quincy Senior Center for the seniors and approximately 200 day-care children who were brought in for the performance. The show was very well received and the students were able to interact with the audience afterwards.
The visit to and performance in Hannibal, Missouri were great opportunities for the Folk Dance Ensemble. Unfortunately, only one week before the performance, the city of Hannibal was hit by a tornado and then suffered flooding from the rising river. Many buildings and parks were damaged.
Hours before the actual performance, the group was able to visit and tour the Mark Twain Caves, which turned out to be a highly adventurous and entertaining experience. After visiting the caves, the group dressed up in their "Americana" costumes and toured the city of Hannibal, singing to the accompaniment of the band.
The group attracted quite a bit of attention and was able to invite many people to come to the park for their performance. The performance went very well, with the audience doubling in size by the end. It was a very positive outreach where many of the dancers and local missionaries were able to interact with the audience.
One young man, who drives a horse-drawn carriage through town for tourists, stopped by the park to see the show. Afterwards he invited some of the students to ride in his carriage. They played music and sang all the way through old town Hannibal as people stopped to take photos of them. The students and Nathan, the carriage driver, became instant friends.
Later that day Nathan surprised them by travelling one and a half hours with his sister to attend the Folk Dance performance in Nauvoo. The students visited with Nathan and his sister after the show, and it was obvious that the positive interaction earlier that day made a tremendous impact on him and his sister.
It is apparent that the students' testimonies have grown so much because of this tour. They have grown not only as a result of attending the Nauvoo Temple, but by also visiting the many historic sites there. The Folk Dance performances each evening have been well attended and received with enthusiasm. Because they rotate between two different concerts, many people returned after seeing one show to see the other show.
More than 500 people attended the fireside Sunday evening. The students sang and played several hymns and shared their testimonies. It was an exceptionally spiritual evening. President Condie, the Temple President, and his wife, as well as President Gilliland and his wife have both been very supportive and have attended the performances and fireside.
Next week the group anticipates enriching activities, performances, and spiritual experiences.