Living Legends recently returned from a three-week whirlwind tour to Russia, where they performed for 19,347 people in live audiences. This was the group’s first visit to the country and the first time a BYU performing group had traveled to the nation in 11 years. The group presented 21 concerts in cities such as Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ufa, Chelyabinsk, and Tyumen. Four of the cities had never before been visited by a BYU performing group, and audiences were equally enthusiastic. Through performances, assemblies, workshops, televised appearances, and radio spots, the group captivated the hearts of over two million people.
The U.S. embassy and consulate invited Living Legends to present concerts in Moscow and St. Petersburg. In Yekaterinburg, U.S. consulate general D. Michael Reinert introduced Living Legends and expressed his appreciation that the students were willing to travel so far to represent their school and the United States.
Several performances were given to benefit important local needs, such as a concert hosted by the local Ministry of Culture at the Ufa Children’s Orphanage and a concert at the Peterhof Orphanage in St. Petersburg. At the Peterhof Orphanage, some residents with mild disabilities prepared a few cultural numbers and put on a small show for the group. As part of the outreach, Living Legends members taught the residents two Polynesian numbers: a hula and the haka. “This was probably my favorite stop of the whole tour because of the happiness we were able to instill in [the residents],” said Native American section member Sam Pereyra. “I don’t know how many times they get visits like these, but I imagine it was a memorable experience for them, because it certainly was for us.”
A live TV broadcast featured the group in Yekaterinburg, focusing on their interaction with students from Ural State University and the performance held afterwards. Native American section leader Stephen Freeman, who has been with the group for three years, explained that one thing that stood out from other tours was the warmth the Russian people showed. “I came home actually feeling like I was able to touch someone’s life,” Freeman said. “The group’s theme for the year was ‘I’ll find you, my friend,’ and I truly believe that as Living Legends, we were able to stick to that theme throughout our tour in Russia, making it easier for us to connect with the people we met there.”
In preparation for the tour, Living Legends learned a Russian folk song entitled “May There Always Be Sunshine.” Latin section member Gracie Leong said the group was nervous to sing the song at the first performance, but all worries were cast aside when the audience stood up and sang along with the ensemble.
“We couldn’t speak the Russian language fluently, but I think that this song was our way of connecting and communicating with our audiences, and, really, that’s what Living Legends is all about,” Leong said. “We may be from different parts of the world, with different cultures and backgrounds, but through our songs and dances we have the ability to share a message and share a spirit that can be understood in any language.”