Danes invade desert with good will as objective
February 8, 2013
Fort Huachuca, AZ. - They came. They saw. They conquered.
Although it was neither a territorial battle nor raid for plunder, a group of Danish gymnastics warriors captured the attention and stole the hearts of the spectators during a live performance at Barnes Field House on Wednesday evening.
In front of a packed house, the members of the National Danish Performance Team, 28 men and women, 20 to 26, representing all regions of Denmark, combined a variety of modern gymnastics, dance, cheer, artistic vaulting, tumbling and high-energy acrobatics into a 90-minute performance that seemed to amaze the entire audience.
The NDPT's visit to Fort Huachuca lasted from Monday through Thursday afternoons with Wednesday's performance as the highlight. It was part of the group's 2012/13 world tour which included 20 countries and an almost a month-long visit to the United States. It was their eighth U.S. tour and their second visit to Fort Huachuca.
As ambassadors of good will, the team's goal is to encourage active lifestyles, to promote sports for all and to encourage an international understanding, according to the group's website, http://www.ndpt.dk/. The athletes danced, jumped, tumbled and acted during the course of their performance. Based on the level of the crowd's clapping, cheering and screaming, the NDPT dazzled the audience.
One of the most popular numbers seemed to be a tumbling routine, set to tribal music, during the second half of the show. During this segment, each male performer took individual turns tumbling several times increasing the level of difficulty as the act went on. It almost felt as though the temperature in Barnes gym rose several degrees as gymnasts ramped up their individual performance levels during the musical score. As the volume of the cheering intensified, each performer seemed to strive to increase the height of his jumps every time he ran and tumbled down the runway of padded mats spread across the gymnasium floor. Each turn culminated with an airborne jump or tumble.
Eli Wolfington, 6, summed up what many of the audience felt.
"I liked the boys when they jumped and spun."
During a break after the first half of the evening presentation, Sierra Vista resident Raymond Townsend said, "The performance was great. I really liked the gymnastics where the teams crossed the mats and the guys jumped and tumbled."
Jill Sollington, 14, an out-of-town visitor, was enthralled by the girls.
The budding dancer, who has aspirations of her own, sighed, "I wish I could dance like that and go around the world performing for people."
During their travels, the NDPT presents many workshops for both youth and adults.
While here, the group presented several workshops at Fort Huachuca schools, enthralling students, post-wide. Their Buena High School performance, scheduled for Tuesday afternoon and their only off-post performance, was cancelled when the school was evacuated due to the smell of smoke in a portion of the building.
Besides spreading their message about healthful living during their world tour, team members learn about different cultures while exposing people of other nations to aspects of the Danish culture.
Team member Louise Knudsen described one experience which will impact her for the rest of her life.
After visiting the northern part of Africa, Knudsen explained how she learned to appreciate all she had, especially the plentiful food. In Africa, while she ate what she was given which was the best of what the people had to offer, she often did not feel full at the end of most meals. At home, she could eat until full and would sometimes leave food behind or throw it away. "It made me much more appreciative about what I had [at home], "she said.
Two members of the NDPT and a manager were interviewed on Tuesday afternoon. At that time, after fewer than 24 hours on the installation, the visitors already had several activities under their belt -- a horseback ride, a simulated rifle firing experience and workshops presented to youth on post.
When asked if there are any similarities between U.S. and Danish students, Knudsen explained.
"They are happy to see new people and to have fun, the same as in Denmark. They enjoy doing different things. Even when they play the same games [they normally play but with visitors from outside of school], the [students] get a different point of view."
The female gymnast said that no matter what activity they are involved in -- performances, workshops or meetings -- the DNPT shares its philosophy and vision of healthful living. She stated that no matter what their fitness level, everyone can share and participate in healthful activities.
Being part of the elite NDPT does not come without a price; in addition to a strong commitment to gymnastics and ethical athletics, each member must audition for the team, successfully complete an interview to determine their level of commitment to being a Danish goodwill ambassador, and each must pay about $6,000 to be part of the organization above and beyond sponsor donations. Members of the NDPT only get to participate on the team for one cycle, and the group tours only once every two years.
Volunteers, such as families who host members of the team, and sponsors, who provide financial backing, make it possible for the team to exist and tour, according to team manager Mette Mogensen. A local sponsor working in concert with Fort Huachuca's Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, helped bring the NDPT to the installation for a second time.
Members of the team usually begin their athletic careers when they are very young.
"I started gymnastics when I was 5," Knudsen stated. The 22-year-old woman, who admitted to working intensely for 1.5 years in order to be part of the group, auditioned because, as part of the team, she could do what she loved best (gymnastics) for a long period of time.
Jeppe Nehr, 21, began gymnastics when he was 3, "about the time I could walk," he joked.
On Tuesday afternoon, the group spent time in the dance studio, dined on international food at the Thunder Mountain Activity Centre and went bowling at Fort Huachuca's Desert Lanes.
"It's great, how many facilities are here, and we have been lucky to get to use them," said Mogensen during the interview. "There's the fitness facilities, the gym, the bowling alley." She expressed these sentiments again when speaking before the audience during their Wednesday night performance at Barnes Field House.
The NDPT ended their tour on the fort Thursday by engaging in a paintball contest with Fort Huachuca Soldiers and by taking part in the obstacle course, also known as the Warrior Skills Course.
The Danish team enjoyed the time spent on Fort Huachuca, according to their manager.
"Everyone gave us a very warm welcome, and we [were] glad to visit," Mogensen added.
The NDPT has been in the United States for about three-and-a-half weeks. Fort Huachuca is the group's last stop; from here, they will travel to Mexico and South America spreading their message of 'health' while serving as Danish ambassadors of good will before returning the Denmark. After that, they will conclude their performances with a European tour.