BYU’s annual show “Christmas around the world” focuses on “the gift”

Jaren Wilkey/BYU
International Folk Dance Ensemble doing a Ukrainian dance in Christmas Around the World. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU)

The International Folk Dance Ensemble gives the gift of BYU’s longest standing show, “Christmas Around the World,” on Dec. 4 and 5 at 7:30pm, with a matinée show Saturday at 2 p.m.

This year’s theme, “The Gift,” comes from the story of the wise men, according to artistic director Jeanette Geslison. She said she collaborated with the show’s scriptwriter how the wise men likely encountered various cultures on their way to Bethlehem. The show represents a journey through different cultures, but does not re-enact the wise men’s journey, since no one knows exactly where they traveled.

Geslison said the show is divided into three main culture sections: Asia, the Americas and Europe. It starts in the East because that is where the Bible said the wise men came from; it ends in the Holy Land where the wise men gave gifts to the Christ child.

“Christmas Around the World” is a gift solely given by the folk dancers and the Mountain Strings folk music ensemble this year.

Geslison said many families give the gift of traveling long distances just to see the students perform. Some families make seeing “Christmas Around the World” a holiday tradition.

Being a part of the folk dance ensemble is a gift for Rebecca Kiser and Sean Nicholes, both senior exercise science majors. They are grateful to the ones who introduced them to the ensemble. Kiser said she joined the ensemble because her mother encouraged it. Her mom participated in the ensemble when she attended BYU as a studentKiser said she now knows multiple folk dance styles, whereas before she just knew ballet.

“I’m so grateful to her for telling me about it and pushing me to go for it,” Kiser said. “She’s an amazing mom.”

Nicholes said his older sister, who participated in the ensemble as a BYU Freshman, encouraged him to join the folk dance program. He has enjoyed sharing his talent with others and learning about different cultures through folk dances.

Hussam Eddin Qutob, an international BYU student, gave the gift of his culture by teaching the folk dancers a Palestinian dance called debka. He said it is traditionally danced at weddings. He said sharing his culture was literally a dream come true. His parents sent costumes from overseas for the dance number.

Faculty member Jiamin Huang shared her culture by choreographing the new Chinese dance piece the ensemble will feature in the show, according to junior pre-med student Julianna Bateman.

The founder of BYU’s International Folk Dance Ensemble, Mary Bee Jensen, gives the gift of her support to the students each year. She comes and speaks to the dancers and musicians before the Friday evening show. Geslison said Jensen tells the students she loves them and wishes them luck.

“It is fun for the students to know this lady who started the program is still behind them and supporting them,” Geslison said.

Tickets for “Christmas Around the World” are on sale at Harris Fine Arts Center and Marriott Center box offices, by phone 801.422.2981, or online at

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