BYU Folk Dance introduces couples

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By Whitney Evans

PRAGUE, Czech Republic — A team known for routinely producing performances for packed audiences worldwide has also produced rather unorthodox by-products: dating and marriage relationships.

BYU’s International Folk Dance Ensemble, which just completed a nearly month-long tour of central Europe, boasts at least 10 couples, married and dating, who met through the ensemble. This number includes artistic director Edwin G. Austin Jr., associate artistic director Jeannette Geslison and Mountain Strings director Mark Geslison and artist manager Jonathan Wood, all of whom met their spouses through their work with the ensemble in their college years.

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Brian and Lindsey Watson hold hands on their way into a workshop in Prague with the International Folk Dance Ensemble. The Watsons are one of several couples on the team.
Nine class hours spent together per week in the fall semester make the ensemble an easy place to meet and maintain a relationship. Add to that rehearsals and almost weekly out-of-town tours during Winter Semester and it becomes apparent why relationships come so easily among this group.

This is not surprising to Lynette Yorgason, one of the dancers and for a large portion of last year one of two single dancers on the team. She said she understands how things can develop since so many of their class hours and weekends are spent together.

Folk dancer Ion Cervinschi offered another solution to why so many on the team end up together — those who ultimately make the team are generally attractive in order to appeal to audiences, he said, and as a result they are also appealing to each other.

A handful of the folk ensemble are married to people who are not on the team, including Liahona Walus, who said she envies those who are able to be with their spouses on these trips.

“They’re super lucky because they get to bring their spouse to these amazing experiences and we don’t,” she said. “It looks really nice to have your husband there.”

The single members of the team have mixed reactions to being around so many married couples. Cervinschi, for instance, said he is more aware of his relationship status.

“It subconsciously puts more pressure on me for being single, I think,” Cervinschi said. “It makes me think more about marriage when I see that.”

On the flip side, dancer Scott Johnson said he prefers being around the couples especially because they tend to have less drama.

“They just seem more mature and grown up,” Johnson said. “I guess marriage kind of forces you to be that way. I feel like it’s down to business instead of childish stuff.”

Katrina Lewis and Tanner Pearson met through the team just a few days after Pearson got back from his mission. They hit it off quickly but made an effort to keep their dating relationship under wraps initially.

“I think it worked out really well for us because we’re not PDA,” Pearson said. “It wasn’t hard — we were just really cautious that if something didn’t work out it wouldn’t be awkward.”

Things worked out well for Lewis and Pearson whose wedding is next week, just days after returning from the European tour. During Winter Semester, members of the folk ensemble traveled extensively and were only home for three or four weekends out of the semester, Lewis said. So while it was nice to be around the person she is now engaged to, Lewis said she and Pearson had to be creative in their dates in order to see each other in different lights and ensure they would be able to get along once their time with the folk ensemble was through.  On the plus side, she said it gave them an opportunity to get to know each other well.

“Folk dance [allows] you [to] see a lot of people in their true colors,” Lewis said.

For those who might be tempted to wait outside the folk ensemble’s next practice in hopes of finding their next date, Yorgason cautions them to be selective in their timing.

“It’s a con for singles because you can’t date because your life is taken up,” Yorgason said. “So if anyone wants to date me, they have to start in the fall.”

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