Rehearsals begin for dance festival

LONGVIEW, Wash. — Some 1,000 teenagers gathered for a dance festival kick-off at Lower Columbia Community College in Longview, Wash., on Feb. 15. Four stakes from Vancouver to Centralia brought their youth to launch rehearsals for "O Come Ye Nations of the World," to be performed July 23 at McKenzie Stadium in Vancouver, Wash. The dance festival is being held to honor the 175th Anniversary of the Church and the 200th birthday of Joseph Smith.

"The theme celebrates our nation's heritage and the freedom we have to worship how we want," said Dennis Hill, regional dance festival director.

The festival will involve youth participants and leaders from the youth programs of 27 wards from the Vancouver, Vancouver West, Longview and Centralia stakes. With youth and adult leaders and volunteers, more than 1,500 people are expected to participate. Brother Hill said the festival will also honor "the worldwide nature of the Church and the brotherhood of man."

The rehearsal began as Jon Collier, dressed in period clothes and acting as Joseph Smith, entered the gymnasium as the youth were singing "High on the Mountain Top."

"I didn't want to participate," confided Liesel Goold, 16, of the Vancouver Evergreen Ward after her performance on the audition dance team. "I prayed to Heavenly Father that He would soften my dad's heart so that he would not make me do this. Instead He softened my heart. I'm having the biggest blast of my life. When we sang, 'High on the Mountain Top' tonight and (the actor portraying) Joseph Smith came out, I felt the Spirit so strongly. There was no doubt in my mind that the Church is true."