For 45 years, and through a succession of performers, Living Legends has been bringing together the dance and music of three very different cultures.
Native American, Latin American and Polynesian cultures are combined into a 90-minute show that showcase the joy and beauty of these three cultures through their music and dance, according to Janielle Christensen, the group’s very enthusiastic artistic director.
“We kind of weave a storyline through it that tells the history of these cultures,” said Christensen. “These are all cultures that pass down their values and their stories through music and dance.”
While the show and dances change a little from year to year, Christensen said what doesn’t change is the devotion of the students in the show to their heritage.
There are 36 performers in the show, 12 for each of the three cultures, with each student representing their own heritage.
“Students that have a great love for their cultures and a great love to keep the cultures alive and to pass them down to the future generations,” said Christensen.
They do sometimes combine, however, for dances that require more people on stage.
“The students do have an opportunity, which they love, to learn each other’s cultures and to dance in those cultures,” said Christensen, adding that honouring the particular cultures is key to the performance.
“We are very sensitive to what is appropriate from the cultures for us to be doing,” said Christensen. “What we are really trying to do is show with the greatest degree of respect and honour and authenticity the numbers from these particular cultures.”
With three colourful cultures on stage and over 300 costumes, Christensen said she isn’t surprised to find the audience entranced by the show.
“But beyond the entertainment value I believe the audiences feel the spirit … and the importance of the message of these particular dances,” she said. “I think we very much respect and honour and then bring students that feel that same desire and passion for their culture.”
Living Legends is touring B.C. and is stopping in Penticton to perform at the Cleland Community Theatre on May 1 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the Community Centre.