A group of performers from Brigham Young University called Living Legends are heading to Samoa.
The Samoa stop is part of their tour of the Pacific that includes New Zealand and Tonga. For many of them, including dancers with Samoan blood connections, the tour offers a chance to meet family for the first time.
Living Legends is renowned for its exhilarating performance of dances, music, and traditions representing the Native American, Latin American, and Polynesian cultures.
This Brigham Young University ensemble pays tribute to their ancestors and inspires all in attendance to recognize the value of preserving and honoring culture through their performance of Seasons.
Living Legends has only traveled once to the South Pacific, in 1997. This summer, it will return to two cities from that tour – Auckland, New Zealand, and Apia, Samoa in addition to five new cities and a first ever visit to Tonga.
The group arrived in Auckland last month.
From there, they have performed to audiences in Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington and Porirua.
In Nuku’alofa, Tonga, the team gave a special performance for the Tongan Royal 12, finishing with two more public performances in that beautiful city.
Brothers Adam and Philip Conte grew up surrounded by strong Polynesian influences.
“We joined a dance group called Suli o Ali’i and since then we have danced at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii,” Adam Conte said.
“I am excited to go on tour to the islands because I was raised with Samoans and Tongans and have gone to school with kids from New Zealand. I have always felt a special connection with them.” Philip Conte is looking forward to meeting family who live half a world away.
“We have cousins that live in New Zealand and they are excited to come see us perform. We grew up dancing with and surrounded by Polynesians. We learned the dances and the culture through it and we love it and are proud of it.”
“My grandfather comes from the town of Kolovai in Tonga which is where the royal family resided for some time,” recounts performer Meleloukalesia “Sia” Fifita.
“When the Samoans came to visit the royal family, their gift to the royal family or the town was a baby (my grandfather) which is where my Samoan side comes from.” Fifita had traveled to Tonga almost every summer, but expects this to be a special visit, having the opportunity to perform in her ancestral land.
The dramatic finale “God My Son” highlights how the students in Living Legends – along with many others – have followed their ancestral advice to go and get an education.
Performer Filemoni “Moni” Tiatia, who was raised in the United States to full Samoan parents still has family in the South Pacific.
“My grandma who lives in Samoa today has always inspired me to get an education and I know she has made so many sacrifices for me to be where I am today. This is an opportunity to give back to my people and ancestors.”
Living Legends originates in the Department of Dance, College of Fine Arts and Communications, at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. B.Y.U. is one of the nation’s largest private universities with an enrolment of 30,000 students from the United States and 105 foreign countries.
The group is scheduled to perform at the Church of L.D.S. in Pesega on Friday and Saturday this week.