BYU DanceMakers to perform ‘Tell Me a Story’ this week

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In order to get a better story for their small-town newspaper, newsies-turned-ninjas will fight a war against the transformer-like inhabitants of an alien planet. There’s no need to be scared, though; the fighters in the battle are the dancers of the BYU Young DanceMaker group and will perform “Tell Me a Story” as part of BYU’s “Evening of Dance.”

The Young DanceMakers are part of the BYU Department of Dance; more than 150 dancers ages 7-18 will perform in the show.

“Tell me a Story” is a dance concert inspired by the children and teens performing in it. At the beginning of the process, choreographers played music for the dancers and let their creativity build the routine. In the routine, “Shh, Quiet Please,” which is based on a scene in a library, choreographer Katelyn Sheffield played music and watched the children play with books.

Julianna Scheffield and Mariah Shurtleff perform in a piece focusing on the Civil War called 'Hallowed Ground.' (Courtesy)
Julianna Scheffield and Mariah Shurtleff perform in a piece focusing on the Civil War called ‘Hallowed Ground.’ (Courtesy BYU Photo)

“The children danced with the books and … improvised with some of the movement. (I) took the movement and put it in the dance,” Katelyn Sheffield said.

Kathleen Sheffield, the director of the BYU Young DanceMakers, also talked about the dancers’ input for the choreography.

“The kids are a huge part of the process,” Kathleen said. “It’s like you are working together to create it.”

The opportunity for the dancers and choreographers to work together allows the dancers to feel more invested and attached to the routine. They learn more about how to move and be creative with their bodies when they are partly in charge of what they perform, the Sheffields said.

“Sometimes children that aren’t successful in some more regimented forms of either athletic events, or it could be dancing. They do well because they have that creative outlet,” Kathleen Sheffield said. “And they can give a part of themselves to their ideas rather than following directions.”

The Young DanceMakers aren’t just about exercising their creativity, but also about being very dedicated to their program. They come to dance practice twice a week, some students coming from as far away as Nephi or Sandy. Once at practice, they focus on training their bodies up to the level of movement that is perfect for them.

“They learn to focus their bodies,” Kathleen Sheffield said. “They learn movement that is age appropriate, developmentally appropriate; it’s kind of like dance play. As they get older, they work on more technical things.”

Hannah McFarland, an 11-year-old participant from American Fork, has been in the BYU Young DanceMakers for seven years. She said she loves performing, and creating the dances is a big part of that because she is more connected to the dance.

McFarland is performing in one of the more serious pieces of the night, called “Deliverance.” It is about how sharing burdens with others lightens the load. Other serious pieces center around the Civil War (“Hallowed Ground”) and the falling of the Berlin Wall (“The Wall”).

The performances will be May 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the DeJong Concert Hall. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the Harris Fine Arts Center ticket office, and will also be available at the door

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