The Up With People tradition continues to dance vibrantly in the Freedman family.
Marc Freedman traveled with the show back in 1986. If you recall Super Bowl XX, when the Chicago Bears mauled the Patriots 46-10 at the Louisiana Superdome, he was the young man playing the keyboard on the 50-yard line during the halftime show. He wore a yellow sweat shirt.
Freedman’s daughter Mindy, 16, about to start her junior year at North Andover High School, recently attended Camp Up With People in Harrisonburg, Va. She’s not quite old enough to take part in the full-fledged show that travels the world promoting peace and service to others, but she hopes her chance will come after graduating from high school.
Mindy described Up with People, started in 1965, as “an international performance group that focuses on community impact and leadership.” The organization’s goal, she said, is “bringing the world together.” Marc Freedman said he watched an Up with People performance in Haverhill at the suggestion of a music teacher at Peabody High School.
“I loved the show,” he said, and decided he wanted to be a part of it. He was among 10,000 applicants for 600 spots and was selected, he said. While the Up with People performance is well-known for its energetic choreography, Freedman didn’t dance.
He contributed his talent at the keyboard. His daughter, however, who has been dancing for 14 of her 16 years . She’s a student at North Andover School of Dance and will most likely offer her stepping skills to the cause.
While the Up with People show gets most of the attention, that’s only a part of the commitment, Freedman said. When the cast visits a particular area, the members stay with host families and perform community service.
Last week, when Up with People visited Lowell, the cast painted a mural. Someone sprayed graffiti on it, so the cast went right back and painted over it, Freedman said.
“It was a great lesson,” he said, because the incident reminded the young people that for all of their positive energy – that’s what they’re all about, after all – there are still others in the world who don’t share their optimistic, hopeful outlook.
While one must be between the ages of 17 and 28 to participate in Up with People, 14- to 17-year-olders can attend Camp Up with People. The camp produces a “smaller-type show,” Mindy explained.
“I like the way everybody comes together,” she said. “We all respect each other.”
During her time at the camp, Mindy sang, danced, dined and had fun with young people from Japan, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Mexico, South Africa and the Ivory Coast. Many of her fellow campers were learning English, so she had to speak slowly and especially clearly, she said.
Mindy studies German at North Andover High, but her ability in that language didn’t come in handy, she said. At any rate, she made many friends and “it was really hard to say goodbye to everybody,” she said.
She connected very well with a girl from New Hampshire, whom she has already visited. Her new friend will soon return the favor, she said. As for the other friends from all over the world, they keep in touch through Skype.
Freedman and his wife Laura have five children, of whom Mindy is the oldest. The others are Ilana, 14; Jerry, 12; Noah, 10; and Corey, 9. All of the Freedman children take dancing lessons and play sports, their father said.
He predicted that all of them will take part in Up with People. While the show was performing in Lowell, the Freedmans hosted two cast members from Belgium and one from Arizona.
Their guests made a positive impression on the younger Freedmans, he said.
The current show, called “Voices,” is new, Freedman said. It is performed like a Broadway production and features a cast of 100, from 20 different countries.
Up with People has been performing and serving on Cape Cod this week. From Monday until Sept. 3, they’ll be in Newburyport. The show will take place Wednesday and Thursday at 7 p.m. at Rupert Nock Middle School.
The following week they’ll visit Hamilton and Wenham; then they’ll head for Concord and Plymouth.
The group will begin its overseas tour Sept. 24, when they are scheduled to fly to Taiwan.
After tours in the Philippines and Mexico, the cast will sign off in December. While the Up with People show has changed with the times, the theme song is the same as it was in 1965, according to Freedman, beginning with, “Up, up with people, you meet them wherever you go.”
By Paul Tennant