Dancing and entertainment was an important part of the Jaredite culture. Similar to other cultures and eras, there was good entertainment and not so good entertainments over the hundreds of years of their existence.
As Jared, his brother, and their families traveled to the promised land, one way they praised their God was through dance.
They had many different types of dances. There were various ballroom-type dances, where couples danced together. They had their own genres of waltzes, upbeat dances like the swing, and the foxtrot. They also had a form of ballet, folk dances, and other types of dances that were unique to their society. Musicians were an integral part of the dances, as most dances were done to music. If musicians were not available, someone would tap out a beat for practice.
Many children took dance lessons while they were young. It improved coordination and actually helped with their studies, similar to the benefits of athletics. The children performed in dance recitals that the communities supported. Often, the recitals were combined with other performing arts.
One young Jaredite girl, Grace, loved to dance! She even began dancing before she walked. Any time she heard music, she danced. She was naturally gifted as her parents were dancers and loved to dance around their home.
One of Grace’s favorite stories was about how her parents met. She heard the story over and over again as she requested it often.
Grace’s parents met during a large five-day dance festival where dancers gathered from many surrounding cities to perform their various styles of dance and to learn from others.
Her father, Pahana, even in his youth was a well-known dancer, especially in couple dances. He was known for his strength, agility, and elegance. He could easily and eloquently pick up his female partners as they portrayed a story through dance. Several young girls, hearing and knowing about Pahana’s gift of dance, went to the dance festival, not only to perform themselves but also hoping to have an opportunity to dance with him.
Rachel, Grace’s mother, was a beautiful girl with light colored eyes and hair who was about 17 years old when she met Pahana. She was a bit above average height and very thin, yet her muscles were gracefully defined from hours of dance practice. She was a gifted dancer and well-known for her artistic abilities; she was more of a solo dancer, whereas Pahana was most often a couples dancer. Rachel loved performing in front of audiences as it gave her an outlet to express her inner feelings. She loved hearing the applause as she hoped her dances helped the audience to connect with their inner feelings and occasionally to God and inspire in them a desire to be a bit better.
Rachel desperately wanted to go to this particular dance festival. She learned that Pahana, who was just one year older than her, would be attending. She dearly longed for a chance to meet and dance with him. She had first noticed Pahana and his partner in a dance competition a few months earlier and was mesmerized as she observed his artistic grace and skill. Ever since that competition, she had wanted to meet him. She begged her father to take her to this specific dance festival so she would have a chance to meet and dance with Pahana. Even though she was a solo dancer, she had danced in enough couple dances that she had the confidence to easily dance with him.
Because of pressures at her father’s business, he was unsure if he would be able to take Rachel. She assured him that she would help him in anyway that she could. Her father, with twinkles in his eyes and seeing the determination in his daughter’s eyes asked her what would be the possibility that she would even be able to dance with Pahana; after all, would not most of the young women who went to the festival desire to dance with Pahana? He would not be able to dance with all the beautiful young women who attended; lovingly adding that Rachel would be the most beautiful of all of them. Rachel confided that she had a good feeling that she would be able to dance with him and that it would be the greatest experience of her life! Remembering the feelings he had had the first time he had seen her mother, her chuckled at her response and determined that he would do all he could do to fulfill his daughter’s desire.
Rachel was the only daughter of Paul and Lavena. She had two older brothers, Ruben and Pezi. Her mother passed away when she was a young girl, so her father raised her and her brothers on his own. Although her brothers loved to tease her, they adored her and were very protective of her. It was hard for the family, especially Paul, after Lavena died, but he received a lot of help from extended family members.
Rachel belonged to a dance troupe in her city and knew that a couple of the dancers, including one of her best friends Salali, would be traveling to the festival. She and Salali had been dancing together since they were very young and Salali’s mother, Micah was their dance teacher and coach. She mentioned this to her father and suggested the possibility that she could travel with them. Her father assured her that he would take that into consideration and talk to Micah.
The next day, while Paul and Rachel walked to the market to purchase food, Paul informed Rachel that he spoke with Micah and her husband, Donn, and they were more than willing and happy to have Rachel join them. Rachel looked at her father with excitement and love in her eyes. She gave him a big hug and kissed his cheek. He gave her some specific instructions, and assured her that he was happy that she could go and hoped that she would be able to meet and dance with Pahana.
The time to leave for the festival could not come soon enough for Rachel. She and Salali spent hours practicing their dances, receiving last minute instructions from Micah, and creating and organizing their costumes. With the help of a costume designer, Rachel went to one of the dressmakers to have a new costume made just for the festival. It was a beautiful flowing costume using light fabrics in several shades of blue that accentuated her beautiful and shapely body and allowed for complete, unrestricted movement.
The morning of the day before they left for the festival, Pezi and Rueben brought a medium-sized trunk into Rachel’s sleeping chamber. It was a beautiful trunk made out of sweet-smelling cedar wood with a carved picture of Rachel in an elegant dance pose on the lid. Rachel was shocked and surprised at what Pezi, with some help from Rueben, made for her. She put her nose to the trunk inhaling the sweet cedar scent and traced her finger over the elaborate carving. Rachel hugged her brothers and thanked them for the beautiful trunk. She was so surprised and deeply touched at the beauty of the trunk and that her brothers, who had teased her for much of her life, did something so generous for her. Rachel gently and carefully packed her clothes and costumes in her beautiful new trunk.
After Rachel and Salali, arrived at the festival, and set up their tents, they walked around to see who else was there. They recognized several of the attendees as they had seen them in various dance concerts and recitals. Suddenly, Rachel stopped and without saying a word, she pointed off in the distance. Salali, at first, did not understand what Rachel was doing; then she saw who Rachel was pointing at, it was Pahana! Rachel became giddy like a star-stuck girl and wanted to run to meet Pahana. Salali grabbed her arm and reminded her that she would get a chance to meet him.
Rachel and Salali continued to walk around where the attendees were setting up their tents and rehearsing. They talked to many dancers that they knew and met a few that they had seen in previous concerts. Rachel kept a watchful eye out for Pahana, but she did not see him again.
This particular festival was held was at one of the nicest outdoor theaters in the region. The stage was nestled at the bottom of a rounded hill, the perfect place to create a theater setting. The stage was created from thin hardwood strips, sanded to perfection and coated with a finish to protect and preserve the wood from weather. Hardwood walls were constructed behind and over the stage to facilitate scenery and acoustics. The stage and theater were used often for several different types of performances; plays were performed, choirs sang, musicians played, and dancers danced. Rachel and Salali walked to the stage and rehearsed parts of their dances on it. Both girls had already danced on this stage so they were familiar with it.
Since both girls were scheduled to dance the next day, they went back to their tent area to rehearse their routines with Micah observing and giving them last minute instructions to perfect their dances.
The next morning Rachel woke up when there was barely enough light to see, just before the sun was about to rise. She quietly left her tent and walked to a clearing where she could watch the sunrise. There were a few high feathery clouds in the sky that took on light orange and pink colors as the sun reached toward the horizon. Soon, the colors faded as the sun began its ascent and cast long shadows in the clearing. Rachel closed her eyes and said a silent prayer to express gratitude for a beautiful morning and for the great privilege to attend this festival.
As she was finishing her prayer, she heard quiet footsteps coming toward her. She opened her eyes and gasped! It was Pahana! He apologized for interrupting her and then introduced himself. He mentioned that he was also out watching the sunrise, saw her in the distance and thought he would come and join her; if she was agreeable to that.
Pahana was a few inches taller than Rachel and had dark hair with deep blue piercing eyes. Even with his tunic on, Rachel could tell that his body was well-defined and that he took very good care of himself.
Rachel, almost too stunned to answer, finally told Pahana her name, where she was from, and responded that she was happy to have him join her. Pahana asked her when she would be dancing and inquired about the type of dance that she did. Rachel, feeling giddy inside, answered his questions, and asked him about his dances. After talking for a few minutes, Rachel informed Pahana that she needed to return to her tent and prepare for her dance later that morning. Pahana asked if he could accompany her back; to which she readily agreed.
After arriving at her tent, Pahana wished Rachel luck with her dance and expressed his desire to see her again. Rachel, trying to stay calm despite all the excitement that she felt inside, thanked him, wished him luck with his dance, and enthusiastically replied that she would enjoy seeing him again.
As soon as Pahana left, Salali, who was watching from a distance, rushed over to Rachel and impatiently insisted to know all that had happened. Rachel, jumping up and down with excitement, shared all the details with her friend.
(To be continued…)