More than 200 area Mormon youth will kick up their heels in Atlanta today as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rededicates its Atlanta Temple with a cultural celebration.
The celebration, titled "Southern Lights," highlights the culture of the country overall as well as the parts of Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama that the temple serves.
The event is scheduled for the Atlanta Civic Center, and the temple rededication is Sunday.
"I feel glad to be part of it," said Cameron Wolfe, 16, one of some 120 area boys who will be doing a Revolutionary War dance as part of the celebration. "We're representing the church to the world."
Attendees said all youth ages 12-18 were invited to take part from the 15 stakes (regions) the temple serves in the three states.
"It's very exciting," said Hannah Duperre, one of some 80 area girls who will be doing a salsa dance in the event. "It's going to be a lot of fun. It's a highlight for most of us participating in it. The president of the whole church (Thomas S. Monson) will be there to watch us."
More than 2,700 youth from the three states will participate in the celebration, officials said.
Duperre said the groups practiced about three months before tonight's event. Group leaders were sent specific choreography, and group rehearsals were held weekly.
With videos of each dance available online, participants also were encouraged to practice on their own, she said.
"At first," said Duperre, an East Hamilton High School student, "I was kind of discouraged because I'm not a dancer. But once I learned it, I had a lot of fun with it."
In addition to the salsa, in which each member of the group will be attired in lime green T-shirts and tri-colored skirts, girls from other stakes in the three states will present "a lot of fun-looking" dances from different
eras such as the Charleston from the 1920s and a boogie-woogie number from the 1940s, she said.
Wolfe said the Revolutionary War dance - in which participants will be dressed in white shirts, green vests and royal blue knee breeches - also has "a bit of choreography" and requires participants to march, rotate in place and maneuver faux guns in time with the steps.
"It was a new experience," he said. "I hadn't gotten into a dance like this before. It was difficult in the beginning. But continuing to come to the Wednesday night practices, eventually you learn the dance."
Mormon temples, according to the website for the Atlanta-area edifice, are used "solely for the performance of sacred ordinances and religious instruction aimed at strengthening members' relationships with God, their family and others around them."
The temple, located in suburban Sandy Springs and the first temple in the Southeast, was originally dedicated in 1983.
Both students said they had visited the Atlanta temple, which had been closed for two years for the renovation.
"Out of all our buildings, [the temples] are more sacred," said Duperre. "We believe they're the house of the Lord.
Contact Clint Cooper at email@example.com or 423-757-6497.