Living to Give in Brazil
Interacting with the people of a country is one of the best ways to become acquainted with a culture. During this year’s tour to Brazil, Young Ambassadors fully experienced Brazil’s culture as the group served and connected with the people. The members of Young Ambassadors not only performed sold-out shows for brimming crowds but, most important, lived to give to the people they visited.
The city of Manaus was the perfect start to the tour. There, the group members explored the
Amazon rainforest and visited an indigenous tribe. “Meeting the natives was a really unique experience,” says Young Ambassadors member Carlos Garcia Guirado. “How they welcomed us to the village set a precedent, and it told us how it would be for the remainder of the tour.”
At each airport, locals greeted the group with banners and short performances. At devotionals, people crowded the chapels and hallways, while others stood outside, listening through the windows. Every show was a success, and the crowds filled the venues. “It was humbling to go out onstage and hear the audiences screaming and cheering for us,” says Young Ambassadors member Jayne Edwards. “The audiences were amazing and made each performance so unique and special.”
In addition to meeting Brazilians after performances and devotionals, the group also participated in service projects that left lasting impressions. One of the group’s first service projects was in Belém. With the aid of Mormon Helping Hands, Young Ambassadors spent time with underprivileged children at a local public school. “It was so fun to play with the children and spend some time hopefully bringing some light into their lives,” says Edwards. As a treat for the children, Young Ambassadors members learned a few of the show’s songs in Portuguese. “At one point, [YA member Ellora Lattin] sang ‘Over the Rainbow’ for the children in Portuguese,” recalls Edwards. “It was magical to watch them listen to her with wide eyes and big smiles on their faces.”
The group’s service ventures continued in each of the cities they visited. In Recife, part of the group visited the Premature Unit at the IMIP Hospital. Wearing their yellow Mormon Helping Hands vests, Young Ambassadors members delivered care packages put together by the local Relief Society. The performers also met with the mothers and later sang for them. TV Globo Nordeste broadcast the event to nearly 5 million people.
In Rio de Janeiro, Young Ambassadors visited a home for retired artists. “It was touching to spend time with these people who understand the power that art has to change lives,” says Edwards. At the retirement home, Young Ambassadors members sang and danced with the residents, communicating through music. Afterward, the group members walked around the community to reach out to those who couldn’t join them earlier. “Connecting with people can really make a difference,” says Young Ambassadors member Jessica Jensen. “No matter how you do it, you just need to show love.”
In São Paulo, Young Ambassadors visited the Associação Fernanda Bianchini Cia Ballet de Cegos, a school that teaches dance to students who are blind or who have other disabilities. Not only did the BYU group members get to watch the students perform, but they later put on blindfolds and were taught some of the dances. Through this exercise, the group members understood how their new friends learned. “[Fernanda Bianchini] had so much faith in her students and what they can do. It was awesome to learn from them; it was one of my favorite experiences,” says Jensen.
Toward the end of the three-week tour, Young Ambassadors visited some of Brazil’s cultural sites and natural wonders, including the Christ the Redeemer statue, Sugarloaf Mountain, and Iguaçu Falls. “The falls was honestly one of the most humbling experiences. It was so big and powerful, and it makes you feel small, but it’s just so beautiful,” recalls Garcia Guirado.
The theme of this year’s tour was Live to Give. Though Young Ambassadors gave much, they received much more in return. “For the most part, we were there to give,” says Jensen. “I didn’t have to be thinking about myself. I did my best to think of others and how I can help and love them. And that made the trip so much better.”
Recalling her experiences serving, Edwards says, “I am so thankful for the lifelong friendships I made with so many incredible people in Brazil.”
Members of Young Ambassadors pose with one of the artists at a retirement center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The members of Young Ambassadors wear the colors of the Brazilian flag at Iguaçu Falls.
Young Ambassadors members (from right to left) Jordan Bromley, Taylor Stanger, and Scott Hendrickson talk to mothers at the IMIP Hospital in Recife, Brazil.
TV Globo Nordeste interviews Jordan Bromley during the network’s morning show in Recife.
Sharing the Stage with Filipino Superstars
The Brigham Young University Chamber Orchestra had a unique touring opportunity this past summer when it traveled for the first time to the Philippines. As they toured, the orchestra members shared the stage with outstanding artists and brought their talents to communities on three islands, strengthening their bond with the Filipino culture.
For the first concert, the Chamber Orchestra combined with the orchestra of the University of the Philippines Diliman, a top-ranked university, at its campus in Quezon City. Before the performance, students from both orchestras rehearsed, toured the campus on traditional jeepneys, and ate dinner together. The UP students were great hosts to their new BYU friends. “It was really easy to connect with them because of our common interest in music,” says BYU tuba player Nolan Harris. “The best part was to make friends that play the same instruments as us and to get to know them in their setting and culture.”
The performance later that evening ended in a standing ovation. Professor Edna Marcil “Michi” Martinez, conductor of the UP Orchestra, was thrilled for the opportunity her students had to play with the Chamber Orchestra. “This performance was amazing!” says Professor Martinez. “My students loved spending the day with the BYU students. . . . They will remember this for many, many years.”
A few days later at the Meralco Theater in Pasig, the group performed a benefit concert with singer Tim Pavino for the Catholic charity Caritas Manila. Pavino, who is known for his appearance on the show The Voice of the Philippines, collaborated with the Chamber Orchestra on a recommendation from renowned Broadway performer Lea Salonga. The orchestra members were excited to perform with and learn from Pavino. “He was a good example to us of someone who is beyond the state of a student and a step up on the professional level,” says Harris.
While the orchestra rehearsed, Pavino sat in the theater to watch. “I was amazed at the urgency for perfection they had,” says Pavino. He challenged the orchestra to play Filipino music, which required two of the students to create the part for their instruments by ear on the day of the performance. And it came together beautifully. “It was a unique and remarkable experience for me,” recalls Pavino. “What I love about BYU Chamber Orchestra is the harmony, how everyone plays as if they are one mind.”
Pavino wasn’t the only star the BYU Chamber Orchestra joined forces with. The group’s last performance was with Salonga, famous for being the singing voice of Mulan and Princess Jasmine. All of the seats of the Main Theater in the Cultural Center of the Philippines were sold out for the show.
“Performing with her was really cool because of her connection with the audience, and her performance was incredible,” says BYU violinist Kirsten
During the three-week tour, the BYU Chamber Orchestra also had the chance to visit the islands of Bohol and Cebu. At both places they joined with local music groups and familiarized themselves more with the Filipino culture and people. One of those partnerships was a surprise invitation to perform at the 2017 Gabii sa Kabilin (Night of Heritage), an annual festival in Cebu that celebrates Filipino
When the students weren’t performing, they were serving the people and learning about the great history of the Philippines. In Cebu, the Chamber Orchestra participated in a humanitarian project to build a community bathroom. The students carried heavy materials to the location and stacked hundreds of bricks to form the small bathroom complex. “It was pretty cool to provide a humbling service to the community,” says Harris.
The group also visited Corregidor Island, an important World War II site, where Americans and Filipinos fought side by side to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese. “My favorite thing to learn was the deep connection that we had with the Filipino people, how much they still remember, and how much honor and respect there is between the two countries,” says Skabelund.
The experiences of the tour enhanced the students’ education and gave them memories they will long remember. “The main thing that stuck with me no matter where we went was how everyone was so welcoming and nice,” says BYU horn player Andrea Manwaring. “People in the streets would wave to us, and we saw a level of service from all the people. It was eye-opening for how we should treat one another and to see that example of kindness.”
Students from the University of the Philippines Diliman pose for a selfie with members of the BYU Chamber Orchestra.
Maren Vernon (left), a member of the BYU Chamber Orchestra, interacts with a student from the University of the Philippines Diliman during their rehearsal.
The BYU Chamber Orchestra stands with Lea Salonga after their combined concert in Manila.
Zoë Jorgenson, a member of the Chamber Orchestra, helps build a bathroom for a community in Cebu.
Tour Highlight Photos: A Photo Journal of Our Tours
“It was so fun to play with the children and spend some time hopefully bringing some light into their lives.” —Young Ambassadors member Jayne Edwards
Young Ambassadors member Cooper Sutton interacts with a new friend as part of a Mormon Helping Hands project in a public school in Belém, Brazil.
Living Legends gathers below the Keeper of the Plains statue in Wichita, Kansas.
The Ballroom Dance Company tours the Plaza de la Independencia in the city of Concepción, Chile.
International Folk Dance Ensemble poses in front of the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, Vietnam.
In the Philippines, members of the Chamber Orchestra walk through the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, dedicated to the veterans of World War II.
Combining Cultures in Southeast Asia
BYU International Folk Dance Ensemble returned to Thailand and Vietnam after nearly 20 years and visited Cambodia for the first time. It was the group’s 60th anniversary, and the Folk Dancers couldn’t have celebrated it in a better way than by sharing their show Journey with communities in Asia.
On tour, Folk Dance Ensemble contributed the proceeds from its performances to several organizations, including the Father Ray Foundation’s Vocational School for People with Disabilities, Pratthanadee Foundation, the Chaipattana Foundation, and Suratthani Hospital. “It’s the best thing that we could have done over there,” says dancer Abram Allred. “It’s so much better when your proceeds are for another organization. The sponsors put in so much effort; they were happy to see us and support something good.”
More than 70 influential leaders attended a performance at the Koh Pich Theater in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, that benefited the construction of Nokor Tep Women’s Hospital, a local medical center for underprivileged women. “These guests were overwhelmed with the talent, precision, and professionalism of [Folk Dance Ensemble’s] performance,” says Joni Dowd, a public affairs missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Not only did BYU Folk Dance Ensemble donate proceeds to the Mercy Centre in Bangkok, Thailand, but they also spent time there. The center manages an orphanage and school for children, and it also provides shelter for adults and children with AIDS. Teenagers from the center performed traditional Thai music and then taught dances to the ensemble. Afterward, BYU International Folk Dance Ensemble and its accompanying folk band, Mountain Strings, presented a few numbers. “Even though [the center’s residents] are not in an ideal situation at all, we enjoyed being with them and they enjoyed being with us. They were able to teach about their culture and things they take pride in,” says dancer Allyssa
During the tour, the BYU Folk Dancers were delighted to learn traditional dances from Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam as part of workshops with dance schools and universities. In exchange, the group also had the chance to teach American dances. “We just had a lot of fun. It was a good experience of two cultures coming together and seeing what we have in common,” says Allred.
A particularly memorable exchange happened in Bangkok when the group met with Srinakharinwirot University’s dance department. The two university groups performed and taught dances and then shared the stage before an audience of 700 people to present the dances they had learned that day. “It was fun to be exposed to such a variety of dances that were not part of our repertoire,” says dancer Brandon Carter. “We got to learn more from the culture and learn why the dances are the way they are because of political and cultural influences.”
Folk Dance Ensemble visited historical sites and monuments in each country. In Thailand, the group toured a World War II prisoner-of-war camp near the bridge over the River Kwai and rode Asian elephants. In Cambodia, the group visited the temples of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, along with some civil war sites. “I was in awe of these people from Cambodia,” says Pehrson. “A fourth of the population was wiped out. Even though they were starting from zero and were moving forward, they were so happy and kind and were trying to have a positive look on life.” Finally, in Vietnam, the students explored the historic and famous Củ Chi tunnels, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, and Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House.
Folk Dance Ensemble also participated in devotionals and activities with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They held a nationwide conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, with more than 225 young single adults in attendance. In Hanoi, Vietnam, the ensemble enjoyed dinner and a night out in the market with local young single adults. “I think it meant a lot to [the members of the Church there] because it reminded them that they are not alone in the world and that there are other people who get to share the same talents with a community even though they are across the world,” says Allred. “It was amazing to see the brotherhood and sisterhood there.”
After seeing how much the local Church members enjoyed watching the performances and interacting with the BYU group, Dowd expressed much gratitude: “We can’t begin to relate the incredible impact and magic [the Folk Dancers] made for these most humble, faithful members, many of whom will never have the opportunity to see something of this magnitude for years to come, if ever again.”
International Folk Dance Ensemble visits Angkor Thom in Cambodia.
Emily Huckstep (right), a BYU Folk Dancer, instructs a dancer at Hanoi Academy of Theatre and Cinema in Vietnam.
Folk Dancers (from left to right) Heidy Comish, Christian Hansen, and Mary Beth Johnson float down the River Kwai in Thailand.
Jacob Madsen tours Hỏa Lò Prison in Vietnam with his fellow Folk Dancers.
BYU dancer Taylon Mann (left) interacts with children from the Mercy Centre during an outreach in Thailand.
Chilean Charity and Argentine Tango
Although the BYU Ballroom Dance Company traveled to another hemisphere this summer, the group felt right at home in the dancing cultures of Chile and Argentina. Full of workshops with talented dancers and visits to ornate theaters, this tour was the perfect welcome for the group’s first time in South America. With help from many sponsors and dance schools, the Ballroom Dance Company performed ten full shows and did five workshops with dancers of all skill levels.
Wherever they went, members of the Ballroom Dance Company found others who had their same love for dance. In Santiago, Chile, the group joined the dancers of Academia de Baile José Luis Tejo and the children of Colegio Liahona at the Gimnasio Municipal de Macul for a workshop. “They were all great, and we got to work with people from all ages and see how excited they were that we came,” says BYU dancer Helen Brimley.
The group also held a workshop with Antulaf, a school where young girls do formation ballroom dancing without partners, at a recreation center nestled in the hills around Hualqui, Chile. Dancing with the Ballroom Dance Company men provided a first-time opportunity for the girls to dance with a partner. “It was really good to see these girls enjoying their time even though they didn’t have a partner, which is really hard for ballroom dance,” says BYU dancer Ciara Transtrum. “It reminded me how fortunate I am to have men willing to dance.”
The Ballroom Dance Company visited and performed in beautiful theaters that were evidence of the rich culture of performing arts in these countries. “They were so old—monuments really—and to see how well they have been kept was amazing,” says Brimley. In Argentina the group performed in the historical Teatro del Libertador General San Martín and visited Teatro Colón, which National Geographic highlighted as one of the best concert venues in
In Buenos Aires, Argentina, the group experienced the tango straight from its origins. They spent the evening at Tango Porteo, a former Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie theater filled with refined architecture reminiscent of the era when the Argentine tango was at its peak. While there, the Ballroom Dancers enjoyed a tango lesson, dinner, and a show focused on the evolution of the tango.
“The thing about Argentine tango is not about the steps that you know, but it’s the connection with your partner,” says BYU dancer Matthew Holden. “You work as one with your partner and there’s a deeper focus. I learned that in any kind of dance, you work as one and you do your best to understand the person you are working with—how they dance and how
In addition to sharing the tango’s origins, the people of Argentina shared other local dances with the BYU group—in workshops and also in the streets. “In Argentina everyone knows the cultural dances, and they were all over the streets performing, and that’s what we love,” says Holden. “We even started dancing on a bridge, and it was incredible to be in a country where dance is so socially acceptable
The members of the Ballroom Dance Company were impressed that the people they met had not only a powerful love for dance but also a powerful love for one another. “It was a rewarding experience,” says BYU dancer Brandon Hemsley. “Going to a different country, seeing locals in their culture, and seeing how much compassion they have made me realize that it’s more than going there to perform.”
Mirroring both this passion for dance and this compassion for others, the group donated all proceeds from its performances in Chile to the charity COANIQUEM Burned Children Foundation (BCF).
While in Santiago, the group toured one of three COANIQUEM BCF rehabilitation centers in Chile and interacted with patients and employees who utilize the school and worship services provided for burn victims and their families. The BYU students also performed excerpts of their show and distributed toys to the children. “It was really special that we got to give our proceeds to them, but when we visited and walked through the facility and were able to interact with the children, it made it more personal,” says Holden. “It gave us more of a perspective of what we were doing, and I think that showed in our
Brimley adds, “Being able to participate and dance for a purpose was a win because we got to express our love for dance while helping people.”
Members of the Ballroom Dance Company pose with community leaders and the president of COANIQUEM BCF (fourth from left) in Santiago, Chile.
The Ballroom Dance Company enjoys a night out at Tango Porteño in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
BYU Ballroom Dancers Spencer Crawford (right) and Benjamin Ralph play with children during a family home evening activity in Ñuñoa, Chile.
Jessica Dayton (left), a BYU Ballroom Dancer, talks with audience members in Hualqui, Chile.
The Ballroom Dance Company joins local dance students for a workshop in San Juan, Argentina, where they were taught Argentine folk dances.
Expressions of Gratitude in the Midwest
ring their tour this summer, Living Legends performed eleven shows in nine states across the American Midwest. Members of the group performed and served tirelessly, expressing their gratitude for the indigenous cultures, landmarks, and people they met along the way.
Reflecting on the landmarks that house the sculptures Dignity in South Dakota and Keeper of the Plains in Kansas, Living Legends member Philip Conte, who grew up in the Navajo Nation, says, “[Those places are] sacred for the Native Americans, and . . . I realized that there are people who respect the presence and the culture of the place.”
Wherever they went, Living Legends attracted thousands of people to see their show, Seasons. At the Mid-America All-Indian Center in Wichita, Kansas, the Native American section of the group played drums and sang as they walked through the exhibition. They also did a short performance at the science museum Exploration Place. A representative from the museum commented, “We enjoyed the performance very much and loved seeing the well-made regalia and excellent dancers in production. It was so nice to see young people connecting to indigenous dance and song.”
The focus of the Living Legends tour was to uplift others. In Minneapolis, the group visited Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, where they danced for the patients. “There was a girl who was lying on a stretcher and was maybe 5 years old,” says Living Legends member Keilani Clark. “She had just had back surgery, and it was really nice to see her laughing and smiling when the dance was going on.”
Another memorable interaction occurred when the group spent time with students on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. After performing in assemblies at St. Francis Indian School and Todd County High School, the BYU students had time to connect with the youth. “I think it put into perspective for the other sections [of Living Legends] of what natives have suffered and currently are suffering. It was a different atmosphere compared to the other places we had been to . . ., but you see the transformation after the shows, the little spark in [the youths’] eyes—a bit of hope,” says member Erin Tapahe. Clark adds, “In the performance, there was the ‘Jingle, Grass’ dance, and it derives from their people. When they heard the music and saw it, they were like, ‘This is us!’ When they see their tribe perform, they feel special.”
While on the reservation, members of Living Legends stayed in dormitories provided by the United Methodist Church’s Tree of Life Ministry. To show gratitude for the hospitality, the BYU students woke up early and spent several hours cleaning the facility. Linda Garriott, executive director of the facility, was grateful for their help and encouraged them to continue planting seeds of hope. “Keep sharing your language, your culture, your faith, and your richness of who you are,” said Garriott. “What you’re doing is no small act. It matters, and it has inspired us.”
While visiting Aberdeen, South Dakota, members from the BYU group worked with the local Boys and Girls Club to help clean and organize their new facility so that it could open within the week. “It was really fun to be able to work on this project and know that the service was bigger than ourselves and it would be impacting so many lives,” says Tapahe.
In a different part of Aberdeen, other group members provided maintenance and scraped the old paint off of a home built in 1909. “At the end, [the owner] opened up to us and told us that he had been diagnosed with cancer. He was so thankful to us because he doesn’t know if he’ll stay alive to take care of his house for his family,” says Conte.
Throughout the tour, each student demonstrated the BYU motto “Enter to learn; go forth to serve.” They also put into practice President Worthen’s message: “Experiential learning can be inspiring learning in both senses of that term. It can both inspire students to deeper learning and be the type of learning that leads to inspiration.”
Living Legends members were inspired by the wisdom and gratitude of the people they encountered. The group came to better understand the purpose of sharing their show and preserving indigenous heritage. “We see many different lives and they are so grateful,” says Tapahe. “One of the biggest things I learned is that gratitude is more than saying
The Native American section of Living Legends performs at an assembly at Todd County High School on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
Members of Living Legends help scrape paint off of a home as part of a service project in Aberdeen, South Dakota.
Keilani Clark, a member of Living Legends, dances a Polynesian number for students at Todd County High School.
Living Legends member Ruben Zendejas addresses a group of students at the Todd County High School assembly.