Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Return Missionaries "Ball Dance 2010"


Mongolia is the land of throat-singing, traditional line dancing, high-kicking partner dances, and oriental sounding music.  So, imagine my surprise as Richard and I walked down a red carpet into a beautifully decorated multi-purpose room in the Central Church building in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. We had been invited to attend the annual Returned Missionaries Ball Dance and we were in for a royal treat.  Cinderella could not have experienced any better music or more polished dancing at her royal ball than the music and dancing we witnessed at the Ball Dance 2010 in Mongolia.  As returned- missionaries, who dressed in their finest attire, poured into the hall for a 5:00 p.m. beginning time, we heard laughter and saw friendly smiles from young people as greeted each other and enjoyed renewing old acquaintances. 

The Ball Dance started with a royal fanfare and a professional-sounding MC couple who enthusiastically welcomed every one to a wonderful evening of dancing and entertainment.  A spirited couple doing a ballroom-dance floorshow number got the evening off to a rousing beginning.  As they finished their number, they led out in a snowball dance, which pulled people off the sidelines and onto the dance floor.  From there the dancers didn’t need any encouragement.  Couples and friends, looking like a Fred Astaire dance team, danced professionally to classic waltzes, Latin-beat rhythms and modernized Mongolian folksongs.  I found myself mesmerized by their excellent dancing ability and the fun they were having as they danced.  I thought to myself, “If I didn’t know I was in Mongolia, I wouldn’t know I was in Mongolia.”

I thought of one of my daughters telling me that in her high school, students went to dances to talk and to concerts to dance.  “Wow!”  I thought, “I wish the young people at home could see these young people dancing and having a ball!” 

Another wonderful floorshow number was followed by dance music from a rousing local band. The lead singer of the band is currently bishop of one of the new wards in Ulaanbaatar.  The young people loved dancing to the band’s music and occasionally even joined in the singing with the band.
After two hours of dancing, a delicious chicken dinner was served to everyone and then they were on to another round of dancing.  I heard such melodies as the “Viennese Waltz” and many other classic ballroom dancing numbers.  They were followed by delicious refreshments of ice cream and baked desserts.  Following dessert, a dance competition started.  First, came a medley of classic waltz numbers.  The floor filled with dancers demonstrating their best waltz skills, showing polished form and amazing poise.  Judges made their final decisions and one breathless young lady and one young man were given awards for being the best waltzers of the evening.  Then together they displayed their skill.  This was followed by a medley of Latin numbers during which the returned missionaries showed their rhythm and style as they danced the cha-cha, the marimba, etc.  Excited with anticipation, the dancers waited while the announcer pronounced the winners to uproarious applause.  After receiving their awards, the best Latin dancers danced together as everyone marveled at their talent. 

Following the awards, the MC organized a photo shoot for all of the ladies to join together to pose for a photo session in the middle of the dance floor.   Benches were brought in and cameras flashed as the ladies posed and smiled for the enthusiastic photographers.  Then all the ladies disbursed and the men gathered together to pose for the ladies turn at snapping photographs.  

Following the photo shoots, a ukulele duet to brought the crowd back to order and was followed by another hour of dancing, laughing and enjoying being together.  Following the closing prayer at 10:00 p.m., like Cinderella when the clock stuck twelve, the reality of life in Mongolia hit. Still chattering and laughing, dance participants disbursed into the dark, -15 below zero temperatures to take a bus, meeker, or taxi or to walk down a long frozen lane to their apartment or ger. The Ball Dance 2010 was over, but its memory will warm many hearts for many nights to come.

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