English Major and Theatre Ballet Dancer Alex Marshall Hatch Shares Experiences From BYU’s Italy Ballet Study Abroad
“Oh, they are so nice!” A mother of a younger dancer whispered to DeAnn Sanders, one of our program directors, as we poured out of the La Scala Academy Ballet School studios. We, members of BYU Theatre Ballet and Theatre Ballet Showcase Company, were all exhausted from our first day of classes on the Italy Ballet 2023 study abroad. Despite this, we were all still smiling with a glow that the woman identified as something more than just the glisten of sweat. In a text message sent to us that night, Sanders reminded us that the glow the woman had noticed was the light of Christ.
This study abroad was my last experience as a BYU student before my graduation in August. This particular moment stands out in my mind as a reflection of what I have learned as a dancer with Theatre Ballet. As a performer, I have spent the majority of my life trying to connect with an audience. As a performer for BYU, I have experienced firsthand the unique way members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can connect with people through the light of Christ. I’ve come to view my dancing as an important gift from God; it’s a way to bring happiness into people’s lives and celebrate God’s creation of the human body.
Dancing with my friends and enjoying the art and history of Italy helped me gain a greater understanding of God’s power and the light that shines through His children. We attended an inspiring performance of “Romeo and Juliet” by the Ballet Company of Teatro alla Scala. I sat in awe of the talent of every dancer on the stage and every musician in the pit. I looked around in amazement at the historical Teatro alla Scala in which I sat, surrounded by the epitome of European architecture and craftsmanship. My mind was blown further by the intelligence and expertise of generations of human beings when we visited the Colosseum and Roman Forum and studied Leonardo da Vinci’s original sketches in the Ambrosian Library.
By the end of the study abroad, I was convinced, more so than ever before, that there are Heavenly Parents who created every good thing this world has to offer and bestowed the gift of creativity and intellect on Their children. I became convinced that these things—art, literature, invention, science—are important to our Heavenly Parents, too. I had a new understanding of our role as creators and our divine nature that prompts us to create beauty and joy in this world. I have a new determination to take on this role.
The light that the woman identified in us doesn’t just shine through our faces. It is visible in the art we produce. Spending time in Italy, where art oozes out of every cracked cobblestone and illuminates every vaulted ceiling, I saw God’s hand and the hands of His creative children. I gained a new appreciation for the role art has in His plan and feel inspired to continue to share the light that I have fostered during my time dancing for BYU.
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