Dance festival celebrates Washington centennial

Church members are eagerly taking part in the celebration of Washington state's 100th anniversary during 1989, according to Church leaders.

However, one highlight of the state centennial came for members when 10 stakes joined to create a whirlwind tour of state history – all in a giant dance festival held here Sept. 2.More than 1,500 youths performed before a crowd estimated at 13,000 at the Tacoma Dome. The regional dance festival was listed as an official centennial event, and was promoted in television, newspaper and billboard ads.

The dance was also the highlight of a youth recognition week, initiated by the Church and co-sponsored by the Associated Ministries of Tacoma-Pierce counties.

Young dancers from Bremerton, Elma, Olympia, Puyallup, Puyallup South, Centralia, Silverdale, Tacoma, Tacoma South, and Lakewood stakes began rehearsing in March for the extravaganza.

They stepped through dances depicting frontier and territorial history, then into numbers from the roaring '20s, the Great Depression, the Golden '50s, the '60s and up to the present. Selections ranged from the elegance of ballroom dance to a Woody Woodpecker number and dances on roller skates.

Twana Indians in the Elma and Centralia area assisted in helping the youths in tribal costumes present authentic Indian dances and chants. Dramatic interpretation of these numbers included narration by Yvonne Peterson of the Twana Tribe.

A highlight of the festival included dancing to a birthday tribute to the state of Washington in an original centennial song composed by Sylvie Hillsberg. The full-cast number included green and white balloons.

All the cast was also involved in the finale, dedicated to the "rising generation" to be a light of freedom to the world. The dancers formed a giant flag using red, white and blue pompons.

At the event, a leadership award was presented to Pierce County Executive Joe Stortini by Pres. Kent J. Stepan of the Tacoma stake, chairman of the festival. Elder Robert B. Harbertson of the Second Quorum of the Seventy and counselor in the North America Northwest area presidency delivered an address to the youths earlier in the day.

"The initial response of the youths was one of enthused acceptance," said G. Perrin Walker, Tacoma south stake dance specialist. "But then they had to work, and learn to discipline themselves. Eventually, they learned that if they put their hearts in it and applied themselves, they could coordinate the dances and make the festival work.

"We generated a great deal of love, and a bond that is precious."

One of the dancers, Michele Lambert of the Lakewood stake, agreed that the practices were tiring, "but being in the dance festival was an experience of a lifetime," she said.