BYU Young DanceMakers’ 160 students will take to the de Jong Concert Hall stage this weekend for their annual “Evening of Dance” performances.
BYU Young DanceMakers is the performing arm of the Children and Teens Creative Dance Program located in Utah County. The program focuses on creative influences from the children themselves in addition to technique. As part of the program, teachers spend time in each class developing improvisation and composition skills.
The theme for the concert this year is “Utah: A Really Great State.” Kathleen Sheffield, the artistic director for BYU Young DanceMakers, chose the theme by paying attention to what the children choreographed over the course of the year.
“I’ve seen, in the last three or four years, (the students) choreographing about places they’re familiar with or a family vacation or an experience in Utah, and so that’s kind of how this theme developed,” Sheffield said.
There are the young girls making snow angels and throwing snowballs in “The Greatest Snow on Earth,” and railroad workers pounding the golden spike in “Crossroads of the West.” Sheffield said the dancers show “impossible things are possible.”
“You’ll see the humanness of the art,” Sheffield said. “You’ll see the beauty of the children. You’ll see their uniqueness.”
That uniqueness comes from the student’s involvement in developing their pieces. Kathy McFarland talked to her students about their experiences and feelings about their homes in preparation for their piece “Homeward Bound.” Each student created movement based around those thoughts which developed into patterns performed during the concert.
Breesa Gardner, age 10, said she enjoys the creative process.
“Sometimes you have to do things and other times you get to make it up and it’s what you want to do so then it’s really fun,” Breesa said.
Breesa and her classmates Grace Stemmons and Sophie Gardner are part of a piece called “Road Work Ahead.” The piece is filled with orange cones and stop signs as the girls move around the stage to describe what Sheffield called Utah’s “fifth season.”
Sophie, age 9, said she enjoys performing.
“I like that we get to perform what we’ve learned for other people and share our fun and our talents with everybody,” Sophie said.
The creative performances allow the dancers to explore who they are and experience growth. McFarland hopes the dancers will use the creative dance to “gain confidence in their self.”
“I think I would like the dancers to get a sense of identity, and be able to develop that sense of self-worth.” McFarland said.
Ten-year-old Stemmons noticed the unique atmosphere the DanceMakers provide.
“You feel like you’re in a big happy family and you have a warm feeling inside,” Stemmons said.
There are 18 dance pieces in the concert. Each piece is distinct and uses the children’s ideas to convey why they believe Utah is a great state. There are bees and pioneers, paleontologists and choir members, all representing Utah’s past and present.
The performance runs Friday, May 12 and Saturday, May 13 at the de Jong Concert Hall in the Harris Fine Arts Center. Go to arts.byu.edu for more information.