Hand in hand we stand, all across the land,
We can make this world a better place in which to live.Hand in hand, we can start to understand,
Breaking down the walls that come between us for all time.
(1988 Olympic theme song) As the 1988 Olympics began in Seoul, Korea, athletes weren't the only ones standing hand in hand singing the Olympic theme song. Thirty BYU dancers and musicians also participated in the opening ceremonies.
BYU's fold dance ensemble was one of 12 folk dance companies - and the only representative from North America - invited by the Seould Olympic Organizing Committee to perform at the official Sept. 17, Olympic opening.
Clad in red-and white checkered costumes, the group participated in a seven-minute segment near the end of the almost three-hour program. "it was scary," said Cheri Wride, a member of the team and a junior at BYU. "In rehearsal they kept changing when they wanted us to enter. But it was thrilling. It was like Christmas and the Fourth of July and all my birthdays rolled into one."
Cheri's husband/dancing partner, Wayne, is looking forward to telling their future children about performing live in front of a crowd of 70,000 - plus a TV audience estimated at about 1 billion. "The whole time I was dancing I was thinking that this was something we would be able to tell our kids about. it was such an honor to be there representing America," Wride said.
Representing America wasn't the only honor involved, according to Kristen Pinegar. "Even more exciting than representing our ocuntry was the opportunity to represent our Church," said the elementary education major. "The most exciting part of the whole tour has been the opportunity to meet people and share with them who and what we are."
The group left Provo, Utah, on Aug. 12 for a six-week Asian tour, which included performances in the Philippines, Hong Kong, China and Taiwan, and which culminated with the Olympic performance in Seoul.
Although members of the group did not actively proselyte, many gospel seeds were planted during the tour as many performers had opportunities to talk about the church, said Ed Austin, the group's artistic director.
"While serving as a full-time missionary in France," said folk dancer Dale Madsen, "I was usually the first person to bring up the church in a conversation. Here it seemed like just the opposite. I set the example and that brought up the questions."
The team spent the last week of the tour in Korea participating in the Seoul International Folk Dance Festival, which was held in conjunction with the Olympic opening ceremonies.
In addition to the BYU team, the festival and ceremonies included dance groups from Hungary, Poland, France, Italy, Senegal, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Japan, Indonesia, New Zealand and Peru.
"At meals, it was great to sit at a table and eat with everyone and see everyone communicating in broken English, Italian, Polish and sign language," said Wride.
But language barriers didn't prevent the 12 groups from communicating, sharing and loving.
"We met soe wonderful people throughout the tour," Wride continued. "But we developed a special bond of closeness with the other teams during the festival. . . . It was very hard to leave."
"I think seeing people from around the world has just emphasized for me that we're all children of the same Heavenly Father," said Sister Pinegar. "Of course, our costumes and customes are different, but the bottom line is that we're all children of God."