Living Legends cast looks forward to May 1 performance in Vermillion

Living Legends cast looks forward to May 1 performance in Vermillion by David Lias The rigors of an ambitious rehearsal schedule for the cast of Living Legends of Brigham Young University is tempered by the young people's anticipation of touring through the Midwest in May.

Living Legends will perform in Slagle Hall's Auditorium on The University of South Dakota campus on Tuesday, May 1 at 7:30 p.m. The group, formerly known as the Lamanite Generation, captures the essence of ancient and modern culture in a 90-minute celebration of Latin American, Native American and Polynesian song and dance.

Members of the cast note that they are interested in more than simply performing on stage. Participating in Living Legends, they said in a recent phone interview with the Plain Talk, gives them an opportunity to celebrate their unique heritages.

"We really enjoy just representing our cultures," said Malcolm Botto-Wilson, 27, a native of Argentina who has lived in the United States for 18 years.

Shortly after Botto-Wilson's family moved from Argentina to Hawaii, he saw a Living Legends performance.

He saw the group again in 1997, and decided to audition.

"My mom had always taught us dances and music from Argentina," Botto-Wilson said.

In 1998, he left Living Legends to do field work for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He auditioned for Living Legends once more at the end of 1999, and was accepted. "This will be my third year with the group," he said.

Proceeds from the performance's ticket sales in Vermillion will benefit the Ronald McDonald House and Vermillion Child Protection Team.

Tickets are available at the Coyote Student Center. Prices are $25 for a family, $8 for individuals, $6 for students and $10 at the door.

Authentic choreography, intricate costumes and heart-pounding music bring to life the beauty of traditional cultures often forgotten in today's modern world.

From the Hawaiian hula, to Mexican fiesta dances and a Native American powwow, Living Legends reflect the cycle of civilization.

The dances will portray the changing seasons experienced by ancient cultures, weaving together legends of the past with the reality of today.

Vileena Begay represents the Native American culture on the Living Legends cast. She is a member of

the Navaho tribe, and was born in Castleville, UT, located on an Indian reservation.

"I've always enjoyed dancing," she said. "But I really didn't do anything too substantial in that area until I enrolled at Brigham Young University and joined the group."

Begay is in the midst of her fourth and final year with the Living Legends cast. She is majoring in geography, and pursuing degrees in English and Native American studies.

"I will graduate this month," she said. "I hope to get into a master's program, and teach in California on a reservation there. Those are my plans for now."

Performing with Living Legends, Begay said, has added greatly to her education in the last four years.

"I've had the opportunity to travel throughout the United States and Canada," she said. "We've visited Scandinavia, and we've toured in South America. It's just been a great experience."

Fili Sagapolutele, 23, a Polynesian BYU student born and raised in Hawaii, is studying international law and diplomacy.

While attending high school in California, he saw a Living Legends performance.

"I became interested in the group immediately," he said. "During my freshman year at BYU, I auditioned and was selected."

He took a two year break from performing to do mission work for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but was drawn back to the cast when he returned to Utah.

"In our performances, I'm part of the cast that represents all of the Polynesian islands," he said. "We do a lot of different dances, and we try to pick from a wide variety so that it's entertaining and culturally representative of the group."

"I perform in several Latin America numbers," Botto-Wilson said, "but in our group, we also learn about each others' cultures. That's what is really great. We cross over and I'm in a couple Native American and Polynesian performances."

The Living Legends performers all wear costumes authentic to the different cultures.

"Of course, we can't use eagle feathers," Begay said of her clothing. "The performing and packing and unpacking of them would just be too hard on them. But our costumes are authentic in every other way."

The young people involved with Living Legends must sacrifice personal time and energy while maintaining top grades to stay on the cast.

They all agree that the rewarding experiences are worth the extra effort.

"I get to share something that I hold close to my heart," Sagapolutele said. "I get to share something that is part of my family and my culture. These dances have been passed down to us by our ancestors. They bring joy to us, and they bring joy to other people."

"I love it," Begay said. "I can't imagine school without it. It's hard to be in the group and be a student. You must have a high GPA, and it's been a sacrifice to be a part of the group, but it's been a worthwhile sacrifice.

"I've grown a lot personally, and group has been like a family to me," she added.

"Performing is a way of sharing," Botto-Wilson said. "It's a way to remember our roots, while making ourselves stronger."

It's a win-win situation, he added.

"This helps us to learn about our personal backgrounds, and then go forward using our education to help other people," Botto-Wilson said. "We learn the importance of our backgrounds, of who we are, and then we take that information and use it as we move forward."

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