News Story

Mormon Students Dance Into Canadian Prairie Hearts

A Church-based university dance troupe has built bridges between the Mormon, Catholic and First Nations communities in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints jumped at the chance to bring the Brigham Young University–Idaho dance company Dance Alliance to Canada as part of the troupe’s western summer tour. The group offered performances at no cost in certain communities as part of their annual tour. Local Mormon congregations were invited to work with other organizations to use the events for fundraising opportunities within their communities.

“Since this is a dance-based experience, we decided to try to find a local community dance troupe to be our beneficiary,” says Doug Robertson, a local Church leader. “The St. Mary’s Wellness and Education’s First Nations dance program is a superb program. We were excited by the chance to work with the school.”

Cecile Smith, community coordinator for the St. Mary’s Oskayak Dance Troupe, also was enthusiastic about the chance to build a new relationship based on sharing and dancing. “Dance is a fundamental part of our First Nations culture. It is important to share with others so they will appreciate this as well.”

Tevita Lui, the Church’s local project coordinator, worked closely with Smith and others from the St. Mary’s community to host the event in the cultural hall attached to the Cathedral of the Holy Family. The Catholic community was very supportive and worked closely with the project committee to secure the venue and advertise the performance.

The 35-member dance troupe joined with St. Mary’s to provide a dance workshop at the school. The BYU–Idaho Dance Alliance students watched several forms of First Nations dancing and drumming, followed by the chance to learn a round dance. Then Dance Alliance demonstrated several more dance moves after which the whole crowd joined in dance together.

Alyssa Fujimoto, a member of the Dance Alliance troupe, said it was a memorable experience. “I really love how welcome these wonderful people have made us feel. I never expected this kind of sharing event.”

Touring director Dale Hillier said, “We are the ones who are richer because of this chance to share and learn. … We just knew this was going to be a marvellous place to be.”

Gary Larson, Dance Alliance’s troupe leader, echoed these thoughts. “Dance is such an important way to build bonds of love and acceptance. The love of dance can help build relationships between communities, no matter how diverse they may be.”

“It is all about appreciation for the beauty of all cultures,” added Smith. “There is so much that we can all offer to each other. By experiencing how others feel and express themselves and by celebrating these differences, [this] allows us to build a broader community where all are appreciated.”

BYU–Idaho Dance Alliance’s Canadian performances included Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert, Saskatchewan; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Raymond, Medicine Hat and Calgary, Alberta.

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.