The Living Legends Group’s stop in Samoa might have been just another stop for most of the 39 members, but not for Filemoni Tiatia.
A native of Saipipi and Lalomalava in Savai’i, the trip for him was about coming home.
Filemoni said their visit to Samoa was the perfect time for him to meet his grandmother, Lautele Nautu from Lalomalava Savai’i and to give back to his people and ancestors.
“My grandma 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,” he said.
The 24-year-old is not a full-time dancer or performer. He is pursuing a Bachelor in Psychology and Business Management at the Brigham Young University in Utah, and he has one more year to go before he graduates.
Filemoni joined the Living Legends four years ago, and aside from studying, he spends at least 10-15 hours a week practicing and learning all the dance routines with the rest of the group.
He admitted that balancing his studies and practice is not an easy task for him. However, he believes that hard work and commitment is the way to do it. “You need to manage your time wisely and stay focused otherwise you will get caught up with your schedule. It’s not easy, but if you put your mind into it, you can do anything.
“It does require a lot of work and a lot of time, but I love what I do and I have a great passion for it, so I guess that’s what makes it easy.”
Moreover, he said that being a part of the Living Legends group has really helped in a lot of ways.
“Being a part of this group has helped me learn more about my culture, heritage and legends,” he said.
“The best part is, 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.
“We get to take our culture to other countries like Russia, Alaska, America and so forth. And there is always that sense of pride in me whenever I stand in front of an audience, because I love my culture so much.”
Building up his confidence is one of the things he gained from joining the group.
“And I also get to travel around the world and represent my country and culture.” Filemoni said that dancing had really helped him with his studies while pursuing his degree.
“Dancing is believed to improve a person’s cognitive skills since it prepares the brain for prime learning,” he said. “I’ve been dancing since I was a kid with my family, and I never wanted to stop since then.
Dancing pumps blood to the brain, giving it the glucose and oxygen it needs to function well. Dancers are just like athletes and surgeons, meaning they are bodily or kinaesthetically intelligent.”
Furthermore, he believes that dancing is not only a workout for your brain but a great workout for the body as well. “Whether you are young or old, you can enjoy improved strength, flexibility, endurance and balance after a few sessions of dancing. Without a doubt, dancing can help you jump your brain to overdrive.”
The group also visited other Pacific Island countries like New Zealand and Tonga; however, Filemoni said their stop in Samoa was his favourite.
“It feels good to be in Samoa, especially seeing my grandmother here,” he said.
“I am pleased and thrilled to be here. And the best part is having my grandmother here to watch my show.”
Looking ahead, his dream after his studies is to open up a fitness centre and a dance studio.
“But we will see what God has in store for me for the future.”
The group left the country yesterday.