The start of fall semester marks the beginning of classes on campus, but for some dancers at BYU, the beginning of a new school year is filled with dress rehearsal for the annual World of Dance concert.
World of Dance is a special tradition on campus that has been held for decades. BYU has one of the most diverse dance departments in the United States, and all five highly acclaimed dance programs prepare for this performance to showcase the talent they have developed.
“There’s so much … that goes into these dances,” Erin McClellan, the BYU Department of Dance’s public relations coordinator, said. “If students didn’t go (to World of Dance), it would be a missed opportunity to experience some of the amazing talent that is here. It’s such a culturally diverse experience … it is just phenomenal.”
Jeanette Geslison, one of the artistic directors for World of Dance and the director of Folk Dance Ensemble, said that audiences can learn about other cultures and be uplifted during the World of Dance concert.
Geslison told of the Folk Dance Ensemble’s experience performing cultural dances in China earlier this year. One performance involved a traditional Chinese dance, which was shown at the concert.
“The Chinese people we met were ecstatic,” Geslison said. “Having met the Chinese people on tour, it makes it more personal to share this kind of dance with the audiences here at BYU.”
Keely Song, a first-year artistic director for World of Dance, said there is something for everybody at this concert, as there is a wealth of diversity and talent among BYU dancers.
“We want something that is visually interesting which sparks the inner child,” Song said. “It’s a chance to bring your whole family, to be entertained and maybe feel something.”
Song mentioned some of the dances she helped direct, one of which emphasizes the importance of light — both spiritual and physical.
“The light of Christ is a gift for both the performer and the viewer,” Song said. “You can see that light in the eyes of our performers here at BYU … we try to dedicate these performances to God.”
BYU dancers practiced over the course of several weeks to prepare for the four shows they performed last week. Audiences consisted of students, dance alumni, family and fans of BYU’s art programs.
BYU alumnus Liz Kazandzhy said she enjoys coming to World of Dance because of the consistent quality in the pieces from the various groups.
“My husband is from the Ukraine, so we really appreciate the international dancing,” Kazandzhy said. “I’m really grateful that BYU puts this on and that the teachers and students work hard to make this happen.”
The concert started out with a video entitled “On Top of the World,” which emphasized the idea that dancing can unify the world. Shots from the Department of Dance’s various tours were played to illustrate this idea, and it remained a theme throughout the night.
The performance featured energetic numbers like competitive clogging pieces coming from Folk Dance, but also reflective, peaceful numbers coming from Theatre Ballet and Contemporary Dance.
At the end of the night, the dancers gathered for a finale, to which the audience responded with a standing ovation.
Andrew James, a freshman who is taking a social dance class at BYU, said he loved all of the evening’s performances, particularly the Latin Medley performed by the Ballroom Dance Company.
“I thought it was interesting to see the way that … culture influences the way (the performers) danced,” James said. “You can see similarities in different cultures, but (there are) some differences in how they move.”
When asked what his favorite part of performing in this concert was, Benjamin Raymant, a member of contemporary dance theatre, said that World of Dance promotes unity between the different dance departments, similar to promoting cultural unity throughout the world.
“I love the community and wholeness of dance that is cultivated here at BYU,” Raymant said. “Being able to work with the other companies — seeing the different styles of dance and the personality they bring to the concert … creates a greater spirit of unity, providing a better environment for all of us.”