Brigham Young University’s Living Legends, a performing group specializing in dances and music from the American Indian, Latin American and Polynesian cultures, were featured at the Alaska Federation of Natives’ annual convention Oct. 26-28 in Anchorage.
The federation specifically invited Living Legends to participate in the conference, which gathered more than 3,000 Alaska natives and delegates to discuss critical issues affecting their culture.
Living Legends artistic director Janielle Christensen said the audience was incredibly responsive to the group’s message.
“I think that the people really related to our message of family, education, and honoring your heritage and ancestors by choosing to walk along correct pathways,” Christensen said. “Because of that, the comments were more than just that they enjoyed the dances and the music. They said that they felt the goodness of these students and their cultures and felt like they had been taught an important lesson.”
The conference, which is the largest annual gathering of any kind in the state, was also broadcast to 237 native Alaskan villages.
Sarah Logo, a freshman Living Legends performer from Anchorage, said she was humbled by the appreciation the audience showed the group.
“After our finale, we were able to go out and shake hands and meet with the audience, and all you heard was ‘Thank you’ and more ‘thank yous,’” Logo said. “They said it was wonderful and they felt something.”
The federation sponsored the four-day tour, covering all expenses for the 46-member group. While there, Living Legends also performed for Quyana, a night featuring native Alaskan dance groups. The students shared the stage with other ensembles representing the Inupiaq, Yupik, Aleut and Tlingit cultures.
Ed Blaser, director of BYU Performing Arts Management, said the group accomplished as much in four days as it would in a typical 10-day tour. The performers gave two additional performances at local high schools in Anchorage and Glennallen, a town with a population of 500.
Nathan Crowfoot, a third-year Living Legends performer from Alberta, said the concert in Glennallen was particularly meaningful in that the performance was a rare opportunity for the tiny community, known for the diverse beliefs of its residents, to come together.
“For me personally, [our show] shares a message of unity, how despite coming from varied backgrounds we can all get together and get along,” Crowfoot said. “I think also it shares the importance of attaining a higher education and the divine worth of every individual.”
This tour marked the first time that Living Legends had been invited to perform so early in the school year. With the majority of the student performers new to Living Legends this year, Christensen said everyone knew that they had to dedicate themselves in order to make the performances successful.
“Everyone sensed and felt that this was an important occasion,” Christensen said. “I think the students learned that courage, dedication, hard work and most importantly faith, can bring about great miracles.”
Living Legends will next perform in January for audiences in Nevada and California during a 10-day tour. In May 2007, the group will travel to the Dakotas and Canada for an extended tour.