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South Jordan Journal

American Heritage of South Jordan student-dancers to perform at Pearl Harbor 80th anniversary

Sep 09, 2021 11:18AM ● By Julie Slama

Students from American Heritage of South Jordan will perform at the 80th anniversary memorial parade of Pearl Harbor Dec. 7 in Oahu. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama|[email protected]

This December marks the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the turning point when the United States was thrust into World War II.

It’s not a day that is taken lightly, as Americans and other people worldwide will pay tribute to those who served and sacrificed for freedom and liberties, said American Heritage of South Jordan Director Elsha Yorgason, whose brother, father and both grandfathers serve in the armed forces, including one who served in the Pacific.

That’s why she accepted an invitation for her student-dancers to perform at the Dec. 7 memorial parade on the island of Oahu, Hawaii as well as the Dec. 6 opening ceremonies on the deck of the USS Missouri.

“This is [likely] the last big event that will happen at Pearl Harbor; we just don’t have the World War II veterans anymore,” she said. “I feel like this is something that these kids will never forget, something that most would never have the opportunity to attend yet be able to perform in an environment like this. It’s a historic opportunity. I think it’s really important for our students to learn and to understand the sacrifices that have been made for them.”

Yorgason said that a couple World War II veterans from Utah plan to make the journey and she plans to have her students make connections beforehand with them.

Already this summer, the two dance auditioned companies—the Union Dance Crew, made up of seven boys and girls, and the B Troop, comprising five boys, were practicing. The student-dancers also will practice during a class period as well as after school.

“They’re amazing; they already are practicing and gearing up,” she said. “They have had dance camp this week where they are working hard on new stuff for Pearl Harbor. They’ve performed at Disney twice; they performed at Lagoon and the Festival of Trees. They were supposed to perform at Disney World, but then it didn’t open (because of COVID-19). They have to be the very top. Our dance teacher, she’s very particular, and she won’t put them on stage unless they are pristine.”

In addition to being part of the Pearl Harbor commemoration, the students also will tour the USS Arizona memorial, go on an island circle tour and visit the Polynesian Cultural Center.

The experience is not only open to the dance students, but to all American Heritage of South Jordan students and their families. Before school began, 67 people already had booked the trip.

This opportunity comes about six months after Yorgason arranged for 25 students and their families to tour the greater Washington, D.C., area where the group visited the National Mall, Gettysburg, Fort McHenry, Mt. Vernon, Jamestown, Yorktown and Colonial Willamsburg.

“It was very history oriented,” Yorgason said. “We had arranged for guides everywhere we went; a lot of these places you can go, you can do a self-tour or an audio tour or listen to some guides there. [The hired guides], a lot of the times were in time period clothing, and it makes it much more personable. It helps the history come alive, which is what we want when we travel with the kids; we really want them to get a feel for what was happening at the time and why.”

The group wasn’t able to tour some places that weren’t open yet to the public in early June because of COVID-19 restrictions and other reasons, but Yorgason feels like the group got a taste of American history. It was an optional trip, not required for a class or grade.

“It’s educational learning,” Yorgason said. “I really feel like getting outside of the classroom makes a huge difference for kids. Anytime that they can get out and see life as it really is, if they can see history—how it really happened, if they can experience things in their natural environment, it really makes learning come alive, and it allows that education to really be experiential moment for them that they’ll remember forever.”