EviDANCE fuses dance with live music

Ballroom Dance Company couple dances in BYU's annual dance concert eviDANCE.
Ballroom Dance Company couple dances in BYU’s annual dance concert eviDANCE. (Universe Archives)

Everything from ballet slippers to ballroom heels ran onto the de Jong Concert Hall stage at the conclusion of this year’s opening night performance of eviDANCE.

The show starred BYU’s five touring dance companies. This year’s production included live musicians. Guest artists included Mountain Strings, pianist Robin Hancock and Vocal Point.

Living Legends dancers felt the live music added to the production’s quality. Senior English major Jaz Emerson performed a Tahitian dance to live drumming, which helped her perform.

“It gives me more energy,” Emerson said.

Sophomore Ruben Zendejas said the prelude Native American flute music set the tone for the dance.

The music and dance integration created a special experience for Vocal Point singer Cody Phillips, who used to dance for International Folk Dance Ensemble and participated in eviDANCE three times previous.

“When I joined Vocal Point I never thought I’d be in eviDANCE again,” Phillips said. “It’s really cool for me.”

Artistic Director Ed Austin said live music was a huge part of his vision for this year’s production. He wanted the music to create flow and a sense of unity.

“We want people to feel this is one concert,” Austin said.

Live music accompanied each dance company at least one time during the show. The musicians joined the dancing twice. One of the Mountain Strings’ violinists clogged with a Folk Dance performer to a traditional Irish melody. Vocal Point sang while dancing beside Contemporary Dance Theater members. They learned the choreography together over just two weeks of rehearsal previous to the performance.

Senior dance major Eliza Summerhays said it was a unique and challenging experience dancing with the a cappella group.

“We had to experiment with partnering moves they could do while singing with a microphone in hand,” Summerhays said.

Business management major Devin Flake said the dance number’s choreographer Nathan Balser was super talented.

“He was so good about coming down to our level, not making us feel like we’re incompetent,” Flake said.

Living Legends also had to cram rehearsal time into two weeks since they hold auditions the first week of Fall semester. Since the company is divided into Polynesian, Native American and Latin dances, the company had to master three types of dances in time for the performance. This year, Polynesian dancers met the first Saturday of the semester as early as 6 a.m.

Many dancers from the other companies came back from summer vacation early to begin rehearsing for the show, according to eviDANCE producer Marilyn Berrett.

“They are generous and excellent at what they do,” Berrett said.

Ballroom Dance Company member Kristina Tieken injured her neck during rehearsal days before opening night. She worked with a dance trainer who helped her prepare for the performance.

“You just have to push past the pain,” Tieken said.

This year’s eviDANCE included dance majors not currently in the touring companies. They danced in the show’s upbeat hip-hop opening number. Dancers bounced up and down as the front end of the stage rose up.

eviDANCE produces department camaraderie each year, according to Berrett, the chair of the department of dance.

“Unity is both a goal and a byproduct,” Berrett said. “We are united because we do this.”

Zendejas said it was fun to see the different personalities backstage and the different styles. Fellow Living Legends dancer and senior student Kamalu Kaluhiokalani agreed and said it was cool because “they do a lot of things we can’t do.”

“They feel the same way about us,” Zendejas said. “There’s mutual respect.”

Contemporary dancer Summerhays said everyone cheers each other on during rehearsals.

“Knowing that we all want each other to succeed helps us unite in one purpose and perform to the best of our abilities,” Summerhays said.

Junior exercise and wellness major Celeste Contreras got to share her culture with a new friend in Folk Dance Ensemble and she got to learn hers — a valuable learning experience. She said the performers met together in the break rooms and shared a spiritual thought.

“It reminds us why we are performing,” Contreras said.

Berrett hopes everyone who attended eviDANCE becomes a life long lover of the arts.

“It trains us to see truth and beauty,” Berrett said.

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