BYU sports fans are used to seeing their heroes on the field or court, but BYU dancers helped athletes experience a whole new world on the dance floor.
Ballroom dancers Jai Knighton, Nichole Udall and Brodie Wray teamed up with athletes to compete in a two-part ballroom dance battle competition that aired on BYU Sports Nation as part of “Between the LYnes.” Each ballroom dancer was paired with an athlete and tasked with coming up with a 30-second routine.
For the athletes it was their first real experience with ballroom dancing. For the dancers it was a step outside of their normal routine.
“Usually I just dance with people who know how to dance,” said Nichole Udall, a member of the Ballroom Dance Team. “It’s fun to work with people who have never danced.”
However, teaching people with no prior experience presented a few difficulties.
The challenge for Udall was choreographing a routine in the 30 or so minutes they were given. Despite being a dancer, Udall said that her lack of experience choreographing made the task “a little stressful.” However, she said the fact they got to make it fun made it a lot easier.
Both Udall and Knighton agreed that despite a lack of formal training, all the athletes involved were up to the task.
“My favorite part was seeing how dance made the athletes excited. They were so invested,” said Knighton.
“The athletes are already motivated and dedicated people, so it’s easy to work with them,” said Udall. “They get down to business and they’re ready to learn and do well.”
Knighton said teaching the athletes was easy once he figured out how they moved naturally. “You would connect the steps to how they move. You wouldn’t want to conform their movements to the dance, instead you fit the routine to them,” he said.
For example, basketball player Luke Worthington faked a basketball shot during his routine and football defensive linebacker Corbin Kaufusi worked in a moonwalk. Meanwhile Sabrina Davis, a member of the Women’s Soccer Team, related the samba routine she learned to the salsa music she is used to listening to.
“Dance is something everyone can relate to,” said Knighton as he explained why this segment was important. He said that compared to other genres of dance, ballroom hasn’t had a lot of mainstream exposure and for a lot of people it is still ‘“new.”
Knighton said even though BYU has one of the best ballroom dance programs in the country, most students here don’t know anything about the team or ballroom dance.
“It was a good opportunity for people to be exposed to ballroom dancing,” said Knighton. He hopes this will lead to more people getting involved in it.
“Most people know about BYU sports, but often exposure to the arts is minimal,” said Knighton. “Those who want to experience the arts will discover them because they go after it, but this was a good opportunity to mesh something that is really mainstream, like athletics, with the arts.”
It turns out meshing dance with other interests is something both Knighton and Udall excel at. They’ve found a way to incorporate their love for dancing into the college experience, despite having completely unrelated majors.
Knighton, an exercise science major, said most of the other members of the Ballroom Dance Team are not dance majors either. Luckily, none of them let that stop them from participating in dance.
“We each decided that we wanted to have dance be apart of our lives, that it wasn’t just going to be on the side.”
“You just do it,” said Knighton. “If you really have a passion and a drive there shouldn’t be anything to stop you. For me, dance is the thing that helps me get away from it all.”
Udall said when she started out in the nursing major she was worried she would not be able to balance dance and the demands of her major. She said the key was planning ahead with both her professors and her coaches.
“Usually when you have conflicts, it’s either due to not planning well or conflicts you can’t avoid,” said Udall. “However, if you just work with your coaches, directors and teachers ahead of time, it’s attainable.”
Both dancers agree that if a student is interested in the arts, they should explore the options BYU provides.
“You don’t need to strictly be just one thing,” said Knighton. “If you want to find other things to do outside of your major then you can, BYU has provided so many opportunities to be involved in the arts.”
Udall says you just have to go for it. “Always do something that you love,” said Udall.