SIOUX CITY | A Norfolk, Nebraska native, Karlysue Castillo-Pereyra sometimes felt out-of-place with family members who were born in Mexico.

She also felt ill-at-ease with many of her Caucasian friends.

"I didn't feel Mexican or American," Castillo-Pereyra admitted. "I was between two cultures without really belonging to either."

That's why she wanted to become involved with Living Legends, a song and dance performing group made up of students attending Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

"Living Legends has performers of Native American, Polynesian, Hispanic and Latino origin," Castillo-Pereyra, an April 2017 Brigham Young University Spanish translation graduate, said. "We perform dances from all of these cultures."

Living Legends, a company of nearly 100 singers, dancers and technicians, will present a concert at 7 p.m. Saturday at North High School, 4200 Cheyenne Blvd.

"The show has such a wonderfully positive message," local concert promoter Perla Alarcon-Flory said. "It revolves around a young man who is overwhelmed by the distractions of modern-day life. Suddenly, he is guided by his ancestors who invite him to discover who he really is."

"That sense of self-discovery is so important," Alarcon-Flory, a local businesswoman and member of the Sioux City School Board, added. "It's a dynamic many people can relate to."

This was certainly the case for Castillo-Pereyra, who became a Living Legends cast member two years ago.

"When I was growing up in Norfolk, Nebraska I was in a mariachi band," she recalled. "That's how I connected with my Mexican heritage."

In addition, Castillo-Pereyra took singing lessons and learned to play the violin.

"By the time I got to college, I knew about music but I didn't know how to dance," she said. "For Living Legends, I was fortunate because I auditioned with my husband (and fellow Brigham Young student Sam Pereyra). He was able to do everything."

Castillo-Pereyra was immediately captivated by Living Legend's authentic choreography, intricate costuming and heart-pounding music. Her eyes were also opened by unexpected culture and folklore surrounding the show.

"I already knew about Latin and Native American culture," she said. "However, I knew next to nothing about Polynesian culture since you don't see very many Polynesian people around Norfolk."

Castillo-Pereyra's interest in Polynesia increased when Living Legends toured New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga in 2016.

"We even performed for the Royal Family of Tonga," she recalled. "That was fun."

Since graduating in April, Castillo-Pereyra will be leaving Living Legends at the conclusion of it's current tour. She admitted the troupe's Sioux City engagement will be more than a little bittersweet.

"I'll be sad that I'm leaving," she said, "but I'm also excited that all of my family will see me perform."

For a girl who grew not feeling a part of either the Mexican or the American culture, Castillo-Pereyra is now connected to both.

"You need to know about your heritage," she said. "It shows you where you came from and provides a map to where you will want to be." 

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Food and Lifestyles reporter

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