For Lindsay, dancing ballroom is a passion. So getting to miss a little school and travel to California to compete with the BYU Youth DanceSport Team was all but a dream come true — especially for a 15-year-old.
After settling in at her hotel, Lindsay takes her time getting ready for her event. She smoothes her hair back into a tight, slick bun, lathered in gel for extra hold, pulls on her fishnet tights and slips into her dress, bathed in white jewels, before meeting her partner downstairs to warm up.
As she waits in line with 17 other couples her age, she jumps up and down in an attempt to stay warm before the announcer calls her heat to the floor. When he does, Lindsay’s partner takes her hand and escorts her onto the brightly-lit dance floor, surrounded by family, friends and strangers.
Her white dress sparkles as she and her partner find their place on the floor and position themselves for their first dance. Tonight, she competes in the Amateur Youth Latin Scholarship event, dancing five dances: cha cha, samba, rumba, paso doble and jive.
As the music begins, her persona changes: she is flirtatious, enticing, rejecting and flirtatious again. With each dance her expression changes, only adding to her performance on the floor. Although her coach is hundreds of miles away in Utah, she does what he taught her to do: dance with all her heart.
What many people don’t know is there are a lot of kids like Lindsay Barney who are on the BYU ballroom dance teams — some even as young as 9.
“I have been dancing ballroom for six years,” Lindsay said. “Four of which have been on the BYU team.”
She started young, joining her elementary school program when she was in fourth grade. After about a year and a half, auditioning for the BYU team caught her interest.
“Some of my dance friends had joined the year before,” Barney said. “I really liked dance, so I auditioned at the end of fifth grade and made the team.”
[pullquote]”Competing at a team [event] takes a lot more teamwork … and you have to trust them that they will get the job done,”[/pullquote]
Lindsay said she practices, on average, about 14 hours a week: four with her team — eight with her partner and two with her coach — and said her time and effort are well worth it.
“The feeling of getting into a final is really exciting because you know you’ve performed and danced your hardest and it’s paid off,” Lindsay said. “But there’s no better feeling than when my coach is proud of me. It’s worth more than winning any award.”
Lindsay’s partner, Cameron Jewkes, 16, from Lindon, has been dancing for seven years and also started in his elementary school program.
“I started in fourth grade … not really expecting to keep going with it after elementary,” Jewkes said. “But I grew to love dance quickly and tried out for the BYU preteen team [the following] year. That started my six years in the BYU youth program.”
Lindsay and Jewkes have been dancing together for almost five months and said their favorite part of dancing is the freedom of expression and the opportunity to make new friends.
“I love that I have something that I can work hard for and that I’m passionate about,” Lindsay said.
Her mom, Marin Barney, said while there is certainly a lot of time spent on the dancer’s part, a lot of money is spent as well, on things like costumes, shoes, lessons, travel expenses, concert and performance tickets and entry fees. However, for her, the cost is well worth watching her daughter dance.
“The best part of watching Lindsay dance is seeing the happiness and exhilaration that performing brings her, whether at a competition or performance,” Marin Barney said. “For her, it’s a fun payoff for all her hard work and discipline.”
Lindsay’s friend, Kaila Bradley, 15, from Cedar Hills, who is also on the BYU Youth team, said being on the team now is helping her reach her long-term goals.
“I became a part of the BYU team in fifth grade because I have always wanted to be on the BYU tour team in college,” Bradley said. “I knew in order to do that I would need to join the youth team.”
While dancing on the team is different than dancing individually in an open competition, both Lindsay and Bradley said they enjoy both equally.
“I don’t prefer competing open over team, or team over open. I enjoy them both,” Bradley said. “The main difference is when I am dancing with my team, I have to be a part of the team. When I am competing open it is all about me and my performance.”
Ciara McCurdy, 15, from Lindon, has been on the BYU team for seven years and was also with Bradley and Lindsay in California last month to compete. She said while there are benefits to team and open competitions, she prefers dancing individually.
“Competing at a team [event] takes a lot more teamwork … and you have to trust them that they will get the job done,” McCurdy said. “Doing open is more of your own style you only have to depend on one other person. I prefer open because I am more of an independent person so I am able to handle one other person dancing with me.”
After a long weekend in California with new experiences and new understanding, it’s back to practicing. Regardless of Lindsay’s success or failure in past competitions, there are more to prepare for.
She gets back into her routine: wake up, go to school, come home, go to practice, do homework, go to bed. Before her next competition she’ll make sure to get a tan, all the better for contrast with her dresses, get her nails done and mentally prepare for what lies ahead.
With her first out-of-state competition behind her, Lindsay looks forward to many more years doing what she loves most: dancing.
Lindsay, Bradley, McCurdy and the rest of the BYU teams will compete this weekend at the U.S. National Amateur DanceSport Championships. Events will be held in the Marriott Center from March 7 through 10. Tickets can be purchased online at www.byudancesport.com.