Behind the scenes of International Folk Dance Ensemble’s production ‘Journey: Reflections’


The International Folk Dance Ensemble’s upcoming production “Journey: Reflections” will be held in the Dance Performance Theatre in the Richards Building, with performances on Feb. 10-11. 

The International Folk Dance Ensemble is made up of a select group of dancers and is accompanied by the well-known acoustic band Mountain Strings.

The team has worked on their numbers for the upcoming production titled “Reflections: Journey.” Team artistic director Jeanette Geslison said this production invites everyone in attendance to reflect on the role that culture can and has played in their own lives.

Geslison has been the artistic director for the team since 2011, and prior to her position as director worked as an assistant rehearsal specialist from 1995-2011. She has directed several productions for this team and said her hope with every production is to expand the cultural understanding of the dancers and the audience. 

Geslison said the show is about “reflecting on the differences and similarities we celebrate through the cultural variety that exists in the world. The similarities in our value systems, our traditions and our beliefs.”

She said as students reflect on the core values of other cultures, they can come to better understand and love other ways of life, especially when they are different from their own.

“The wonderful thing about cultural dance is that it tells the stories of people,” Geslison said. “The cultural climates and traditions that they grew up in, or live amongst.”

As dancers and audience members work together to understand and appreciate the aspects of other cultures, Geslison said she believes they find a way to cure the judgment and hatred in their lives. 

Geslison said she is diligent in making sure that all cultural presentations are accurate and authentic. This is evident in their costumes, props and choreography. The ensemble flies in choreographers from around the world from countries such as Hungary and India, she said.

“It is such a more meaningful and deeper experience for the students to be able to learn directly from these cultural dance experts,” Geslison said.

She commented on the change that happens in students — specifically how student dancers come to understand and gain a deeper gratitude for other cultures and the impact and power of their performances.

Ensemble member Jillian Iverson said she has loved the opportunity to perform and learn about other cultures. 

Iverson said learning about them has given her a sense of pride and respect for other cultures. “I respect these countries, I respect these people, I respect their religions, and doing their dances creates an overall feeling of unity and support for our own and other cultures,” she said.

Iverson commented on the personal impact the team has had on her as a dancer and as an individual. Dancing on this team has helped her to develop an open mind and better understand her own culture. 

“I love heritage, but these cultures are different for me,” she said. “So getting to learn about them has been really special because I don’t really have roots in these specific cultures but I still love and respect them.” 

Ensemble member Janelle Wilson said she was impressed with the focus and approach of the team. 

Wilson said sometimes people might have an idea or perspective in their minds that they believe is right and correct but is not universal. “We need to take time to listen to each other’s perspectives and just really focus on being kind to one another,” she said.

Cultural dance has helped Wilson to expand her understanding and love for other cultures, she said. Where one might judge, she extends the invitation to be educated first. 

She said her hope for their production is that all in attendance leave with a new found devotion to be kind to all people no matter their race, past, culture or opinions. Wilson believes that kindness can and will “make the world a better place.”

“For BYU to have this cultural dance program and this specific performing group is a very unique and unusual opportunity (for dancers and audience members) to be able to come see all these cultural dance styles on one stage,” Geslison said.

Geslison said at its core the ensemble’s purpose is to help everyone to gain and develop a greater understanding of other cultures as well as love one another and cure any cultural ignorance that hinders unity.

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