MESA, Ariz. As young women throughout the world are asked to "stand as witnesses of God," some here decided not only to stand, but also to dance.
Four dancers at Mesa High School members of the school's dance team or top performing group had taken issue in the past with music and costumes they felt were inappropriate, not in keeping with Church standards.
During the summer, one of them, senior Tricia Hale, 17, of the Mesa Arizona Kimball Stake, was trying to find a Laurel project. She came up with an idea a "dream," she calls it: a spiritual Christmas dance program.
She enlisted three friends and fellow dancers at school to make the dream a reality senior Anna Woolf, 17, of the Mesa Arizona Pueblo Stake; and juniors Jill Hendrickson, 16, of the Mesa Arizona Kimball Stake, and Donelle Crandell, 16, of the Mesa Arizona Kimball East Stake.
The four young women invited other dancers at school to join them in planning, practicing and performing a dance concert focusing on the Savior. Although all were not members of the Church, prayer and devotionals were always part of their rehearsal time.
The group of dancers began practicing early in September, giving up many of their Saturdays and evenings.
They arranged through the school to perform in the auditorium on Dec. 15. However, only weeks before the date, school administrators balked at the religious content of the performance and notified the girls that they would not be able to perform on the school campus. The officials feared the activity crossed the thin line that separates acceptable and unacceptable forms of religious expression at school.
Tricia's mother, Diane Hale, who is also her ward's Young Women president, met with the principal.
"My opinion to him was that we all need to learn and respect each other's feelings and beliefs, not suppress them," she said.
She also contacted the city's daily newspaper, which ran a front page article focusing on the girls' desire to perform in a religious manner and the political and legal issues connected with it.
"We have a lot more religious rights than we think," said Sister Hale. "We just have to use them appropriately."
The principal consulted district officials and an attorney and discovered that within certain legal guidelines it would be permissible to allow the girls to perform at the school. These guidelines included the event being student-initiated and sponsored by a student group at school. The girls approached the Christian Club, which agreed to sponsor their dance program.
The free program, entitled, "Let There Be Praise!" drew a crowd of approximately 500 people.