Living Legends

Dancing and Exploring in New Zealand

Members of Living Legends serve dinner to women of the Samoan ward at the Mother’s Day banquet.

On Monday, May 8, Living Legends left Auckland and headed south to tour the renowned Hamilton Gardens, one of the most visited tourist attractions in Waikato. After a morning stroll through picturesque themed gardens complete with gorgeous architecture, the group arrived at the Hamilton New Zealand Temple. They toured the Matthew Cowley Pacific Church History Centre and participated in a pōwhiri—a traditional Māori welcome ceremony—at the marae on the grounds. Later, Living Legends attended a family home evening hosted by the local young single adult ward. 

The performers were busier on Tuesday, with an outreach in the morning at Fraser High School sponsored by the University of Waikato, followed by two back-to-back performances at the Clarence St. Theatre in Hamilton. The group remained in good spirits despite the pouring rain and were cheered on by the enthusiastic high school students and audience members. 

Tom Udall, US ambassador to New Zealand, greets Living Legends dancers Gabriel Abello (center) and Efrain Villalobos and director Jamie Kalama Wood prior to the Wellington performance.

On the way to Napier on Wednesday, Living Legends toured one of the most famous tourist attractions in New Zealand—the Hobbiton movie set—and Huka Falls. They ended the day with an outreach event with stakes in the Hawke’s Bay region. 

Thursday was another busy day for the group as they participated in a combined assembly and student panel before putting on two performances at the Napier Municipal Theatre. They managed to squeeze in some photo sessions on the beach and in the downtown art deco area of the city despite the cold temperatures, grateful for a break in the wet weather. 

Following their final performance in New Zealand, Living Legends poses with the audience at the Opera House in Wellington.

The group boarded their bus on Friday morning for a long day of driving as they left for Wellington, their final stop in New Zealand. They were hosted that evening by the Samoan ward of the Upper Hutt New Zealand Stake at a Mother’s Day feast and program, where Living Legends shared a few songs and dances. 

Saturday morning was spent visiting the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and shopping at the Māori Arts Gallery. The final Living Legends performance in New Zealand took place that evening at the Opera House in Wellington, with Elder K. Brett Nattress of the Pacific Area Presidency for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and several ambassadors in attendance. 

Living Legends visits the Hamilton New Zealand Temple.

The group spent Sunday attending church services and enjoying a Mother’s Day lunch with the Wellington Ward, followed by a quick stop at Mount Victoria for a 360-degree view of the city. That afternoon, they were welcomed on the Takapūwāhia Marae for a pōwhiri with the Elkington family, relatives of Hunter Sagapolutele, a dancer in the Living Legends Polynesian section. In the evening, the group put on a fireside for the Porirua New Zealand Stake, ending a busy and fulfilling week. 

Living Legends dancers greet members of the Church in Hamilton following a traditional Māori pōwhiri.