BYU performance groups bring cheers at dance assembly

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BYU’s dance performance groups combined in the Marriott Center for a special dance assembly Tuesday, Nov. 8.

BYU's Living Legends built audience energy with tribal screams. Charles Tu'ua (center) and other dancers sat, clapped and used sticks in their energetic performance. (Ryan Turner)

Matthew Richardson, BYU advancement vice president, said BYU has one of the largest and most diverse dance departments in the United States. The groups within that department have performed nationwide and internationally in the past 50 years.

BYUSA President Avery Harding made a brief speech encouraging students to be involved outside of just academic activities,

“Do not press ‘snooze’ on your BYU involvement experience,” Harding said. “Whether you’re a first semester freshman or a last semester senior, open your eyes, be curious.”

Then the stage was cleared and the lights dimmed.

“Dance celebrates who we are and who we want to become,” a voice stated over the loudspeaker as the stage darkened.

Dancers from the International Folk Dance Ensemble streamed onstage with red and green feathered fans. They performed a Chinese fan dance full of spins and coordinated group movement to cheers from the audience.

The Chinese fan dancers left the stage and were replaced by a single dancer in island garb, representing Living Legends. He yelled and catcalled, ordering in the rest of the dancers, and the audience’s cheers increased in intensity.

Living Legends dancers held sticks in one hand and incorporated energetic yells, claps and a sitting dance into their performance.

The mood changed as Theatre Ballet came onstage in white tutus to slow, Romantic-era music from the 1832 ballet “La Sylphide.” The controlled, almost doll-like movements of the ballerinas stood in sharp contrast to Living Legends’ energy and yells.

When the stage cleared, a single dancer entered, carrying a gigantic rug over his shoulder. Other dancers unrolled it, and soon Contemporary Dance Theatre was jumping up and down, running around and doing flips across it. The performance brought smiles and laughs from the crowd.

The BYU Ballroom Company waltzed onto stage next in tuxedos and flowing blue gowns. The music changed as they performed complicated lifts and spins. “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Miserables” became “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and four dancers spun onto the stage with colored flags. The melody then changed to “The Impossible Dream” from “Man of La Mancha.”

Living Legends’ Michael Goedel, who formerly performed in the Cirque du Soleil Totem Show, ended the show with a Native American hoop dance. He lost one of his five hoops at the beginning of the dance but seemed unphased and went on without it. Goedel picked up the hoop just before the grand finale and finished smoothly. The cheers from the audience were loudest as he struck his final pose.

International Folk Dance Ensemble director Jeanette Geslison said the performance was good for both dancers and audience members.

“What is so great about this particular assembly is that the students get to perform for their own friends and the student body here at the university,” Geslison said. “We are always out and about on the road, performing for other people, and it’s such a great feeling, I think, for the students performers to dance for their own peers.”