It has been a summer of dance for many young people in the Church as they have performed in dance festivals. For example, approximately 3,200 young women and men from 14 stakes in the Portland, Ore., area put on three performances in the Portland Memorial Coliseum in June. Another group of about 600 youth from three stakes in Southern California put on a show in June at a high school football field.
The Portland event's theme was "Hearts Bound Together," taken from an April 2005 general conference address by Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve.
Rehearsals and costume work parties began in February as the youth worked on early English, Celtic, Western, Swing, Greek, African, Latin and Pacific Island dances along with the Viennese Waltz and others.
Dressed in purple tunics and yellow pants, 700 Beehives performed the Asian Ribbon Dance. The dance routine from the movie "Napoleon Dynamite" was re-created by 500 deacons.
Adding to the spirit of the event, video clips of talks by General Authorities provided most of the narration for the festival. Vignettes portrayed early converts thanking the missionaries who brought them the gospel. As a 70-voice festival choir sang the Primary song "Army of Helaman," about 180 full-time missionaries marched onto the arena floor.
The event also included a fireside prior to the performances featuring Young Women General President Susan W. Tanner, and a concert the night before by the popular LDS group Jericho Road.
The theme for the California festival was "Dancing through the Decades." Youth from the Barstow, Hesperia, and Victorville stakes had been planning, preparing and practicing for a year-and-a-half for the performance.
Following the theme helped the youth connect with the popular music and dances of their parents and grandparents, many of them in the audience watching young people bridge the generations.
Beginning with the Big Band Era, the young single adults performed a routine to Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing." Music mixes and accompanying dances from the 1950s to the present followed as the enthusiastic dancers entertained an appreciative audience.
Along with the themed dances, several specialty numbers were performed. Nearly 100 Beehives paid tribute to the musicals of Hollywood and Broadway. Another group of dancers dipped and swayed to the distinctive rhythms of Latin music. A Polynesian segment featured an exhilarating Samoan Fire-knife Dance, a Tahitian Otea and a traditional Maori Haka.
The festival enabled the youth to develop their talents and devote themselves to an uplifting cause that required long-term dedication and hard work. In a testimony meeting a few hours before the performance, many of them shared how the festival had positively affected them and increased their testimonies. Several participants who were not members of the Church expressed how the Church and the festival had touched their lives.