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“Journey” with International Folk Dance Ensemble in Its Pre Tour Performance

February 15, 2022 12:00 AM
International Folk Dance Ensemble dances through a range of cultures, celebrating through its artistic talents
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Guest Professors Bring Balinese Music and Dance to BYU

April 21, 2020 12:00 AM
Visiting professors I Nyoman Windha and I Gusti Agung Ayu Warsiki bring Balinese music and dance to BYU classrooms
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Christmas Around the World Invites Students and Audiences to Go Beyond Themselves and Their Cultures This Holiday Season

November 16, 2018 12:00 AM
One of BYU’s longest-standing Christmas traditions returns with new choreography, a pre-concert market and lots of Christmas spirit. Christmas Around the World has become synonymous with the Christmas season on BYU campus. As Jeanette Geslison, artistic director of the concert, said, “It’s become a tradition, not just here at BYU, but in the community.” However, this year the concert is encouraging students and audiences to reach beyond Brigham Young University. “This year our title, as always, is Christmas Around the World, but our subtitle is Beyond,” said Geslison. “One of my initial ideas was to teach the students who are part of this production that there is more to the program than what happens in the Marriott Center that weekend.” In an increasingly global world, Christmas takes on new meaning. “We seem to be looking more outwards at this time of year and to be looking more globally in this world that we’re living in,” Geslison said. “Nowadays, we all know someone from a different culture. What a wonderful opportunity this is to get to know more about this world we live in.” Christmas Around the World is introducing multiple new pieces this year in the pursuit of helping dancers go “beyond” in new ways. One dance, “Veracruz,” was set just a few weeks ago by guest choreographer Miguel Pena and introduces Mexican dance to the mix. Another dance, “Bucheachum,” adds Korean fan dancing to the concert and gives student Cassidy Brown the chance to “go beyond” in a new way. “She’s an anthropology major and that’s what led her to Korea in the first place,” said Geslison. “She's a beautiful dancer, so she combined her interest in anthropology and dance by doing research in traditional dance. We’re really excited for her to share what she’s learned.” Christmas Around the World will also continue to host a christmas market in the Marriott Center before the concert. This way, audience members are given the opportunity to go beyond being passive in their interaction with the cultures being represented. They can eat and participate too. The market will also include a photo backdrop, complete with dancers dressed in the traditional clothes they’ll be wearing during the concert. “We will have a few different vendors that will be there selling roasted nuts, crepes and some Christmasy things,” said Geslison. “We’ll also have some activities for audience members. We try to have different ones each year. For example, last year we had some Philippine tinikling poles up in the concourse. Audiences were not only able to see it onstage in the performance, they were also able to actually try it.” One other way Geslison hopes the concert will reach above and beyond this year is in the scope and variety of its audience. “I would hope that people on the other side of the point of the mountain would find it worth it to drive down for the concert,” she said. “We have a lot of people from Utah Valley coming to the concert, but I want to invite people from the Salt Lake Valley and beyond to make the trek to the Marriott Center.” Christmas Around the World will take place at the Marriott Center on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. Tickets to the concert are available at the ticket offices in the Harris Fine Arts Center and the Marriott Center, as well as at arts.byu.edu.
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American and Chinese Students Join Together for Dance Cultural Exchange

December 15, 2017 12:00 AM
For the first time in its history, international guests from China joined the International Folk Dance Ensemble on stage for their annual Christmas concert and a life-changing cultural exchange Dancers and musicians from Minzu University of China (MUC) engaged in a cultural exchange with the BYU International Folk Dance Ensemble (IFDE), culminating in a collaborative dance work titled “Encounter.” Weeks before their arrival, the Chinese students were still in the visa approval process and the performance was at stake, but everything came together in time for the longest-running BYU Christmas concert, “Christmas Around the World.” Department of Dance professor Jiamin Huang had a preceding working relationship with the MUC College of Dance. Huang and IFDE artistic director, Jeanette Geslison, worked together to pursue the collaborative dance project and extended an invitation to MUC last year. The goal for “Encounter” was to bring the East and the West together. Geslison said, “This project not only brings East and West together in a display of traditional dance expression true to each ethnic identity, but also allows students and audience members to engage in discovering and bridging the aesthetic of the two.” In May 2017, Huang and Geslison traveled to Beijing and spent a week with the Minzu College of Dance. During that time, they worked with 20 of their dancers and two faculty members to collaborate and to set the choreography for “Encounter.” The IFDE has been rehearsing and preparing on their end throughout fall semester. IFDE and MUC finally met together during the last week of November to combine the Encounter piece. These final rehearsals were held during the week of performances. Before they arrived, however, the Chinese visitors encountered a stumbling block. In mid-October, the Minzu students were denied their applications for a United States B-Visa and were told to re-apply for P3-Visa status. “A few weeks ago we were scrambling,” said Geslison. “Time was our crucial competitor, and I hired an immigration service in Washington, DC to help expedite the P-Visa process. All previous visiting Chinese students to BYU campus came on B-Visas. Things have changed.” Dancer Alli Moon, a dance education major and two-year member of IFDE, shared her experience with the visa issue. “When Jeanette told us that there were some issues with the visas, our whole group became very somber and we decided to pray for them at the beginning of every single one of our practices, sometimes at the end too. We also decided to do a team fast to help the group by asking for Heavenly Father’s hand to help them come. Actually, it was around the time we fasted that they ended up getting approved. That was a testimony-builder for sure. They’re meant to be here.” This is dance major McCall McClellan’s first year in IFDE. She said the ensemble felt worried because the visa issue threatened the whole “East meets West” theme of the concert. “We had other teams start learning other dances. I know the Tier II team learned a Serbian piece just in case the Minzu students couldn’t make it, so we would have something to put in the show. But we would have had to change the theme and it would’ve been completely different. We were so worried. We really wanted them to come. When we found out their visas had been approved and when they actually came, it felt surreal.” The Minzu students arrived on Nov. 27 and were greeted with a welcome party. In addition to rehearsals, the Chinese students and faculty also traveled to Salt Lake City for some sightseeing and had some free time to explore Provo and Orem. The Chinese students and faculty also presented a lecture demonstration and masterclass on folk, modern and Chinese classical dance. “They showed us what their typical daily schedule is like,” said McClellan. “They explained to us that they are a university composed of students who are from minority China. That is what they represent. We’ve seen their performance material for the concert, but it was amazing to watch other performances. I especially loved seeing the class warm up — what they do to warm up their hands. It’s cool to see that they’re not as different from us as we think. They have technique classes just like we do.” Moon shared that the lecture demonstration blew her away. She admired how much the Chinese students knew about their culture and where they came from. She learned a lot from their knowledge of folk dance and the different ethnic backgrounds they represented, calling the dancers beautiful and stunning. “After the lecture demonstration, I ended up getting in a circle with a bunch of the Minzu girls,” said Moon. “The interpreter wandered over and I got to ask them so many questions. I got to actually have a conversation with them, which is something we haven't had in rehearsals because it’s so time sensitive. It was nice to have that chance to talk.” Dance major M. Ken Nukaya has been on IFDE for three years. He said, “Even though they can’t speak English and I can’t speak Chinese, we still have a fun time. Even though we come from completely different sides of the world and have completely different cultures, we still value dance and they value dance. It’s this beautiful art that connects people around the world.” Nukaya said he was impressed with the energy the Minzu dancers and musicians brought with them. He said he knew they were going to be good, but once he actually watched them perform, he thought to himself, “Oh my gosh, I actually get to dance with them.” “There is one part in the show when we are interacting with them on stage and we take a selfie,” said Nukaya. “Even though we can’t really understand each other's languages, we understood each other. I love that we could bond over a selfie. Sincerely, the theme of the show ‘East meets West’ is so accurate. This collaboration and conglomeration of these cultures coming together and sparking this interaction is so beautiful and amazing.” Moon said she has learned that there are many different ways other than talking to connect with another person. “You can connect through having fun, through dancing, through laughing and through teaching each other. We’re learning from and with each other. There are some moves my partner has to ask me to show him the footwork for, and I have to ask him how to do the Chinese moves correctly for other parts, and it all works out. I am so impressed with their choreography and how fast they have picked up the American choreography as well.” Carissa Moser has been a member for IFDE for three years and is currently the club president. As Geslison’s assistant, she had the unique opportunity to work behind the scenes in preparation for their Chinese visitors. “I enjoy seeing them showcase what they do,” said Moser. “There’s one part of ‘Encounter’ when we scoot to the side and look at our partner a couple of times and my partner and I always make faces at each other. It always brings a smile to my face.” “Encounter” is the final number of the concert and combines American clogging with Chinese Tibetan folk dance. The BYU and MUC dancers and musicians all join together to personify the theme of the concert. The two dance groups partner off with a member of the opposite gender and country to celebrate life, art and love during the dance number. Nukaya said this experience has made him grateful for the IFDE program. “Because of this program, I have the opportunity to be a part of a face of what this ensemble stands for,” said Nukaya. “And what we stand for is being an ambassador to other countries and keeping open arms towards them. I’m so glad to have met these people, to have formed relationships with them and to perform with them.” After months of rehearsing separately and leaving gaps in spaces and wait time during music, McClellan said it was incredible to finally bring “Encounter” together as a piece. The dancers from both ensembles did not know what the other ensemble would be doing during those gaps. “The piece has really been brought together amazingly and that has been a really neat experience,” said McClellan. “Anytime I have experiences like this, I’m always reminded that the world is a lot bigger than Provo, Utah, and that there are a lot of really talented people in the world. It’s inspiring to me that there is all this talent in the world and it makes me want to go see it and explore it.”
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Christmas Around the World

November 21, 2016 12:00 AM
Celebrate 'Festival!' with BYU’s Christmas Around the World Christmas Around the World, the longest running annual Christmas production on BYU campus, opens Friday, Dec. 2 and continues Saturday, Dec. 3 in the Marriott Center. Presented by BYU Department of Dance and the International Folk Dance Ensemble, this holiday tradition—themed “Festival!” for 2016—showcases the rich ethnic diversity of the world through music and dance, and features more than 200 dancers, singers and musicians, with colorful costumes and captivating choreography. “This year’s concert brings to the stage the international festival experience that has created countless meaningful impressions and lasting friendships over the last 60 years of touring,” said Jeanette Geslison, artistic director of the BYU International Folk Dance Ensemble. “We invite everyone to come, meet and interact with dancers in costume, live music, crafts, activities, jugglers, food vendors and a special alumni booth.” The International Folk Dance Ensemble will premiere new choreographies this year representing Ukraine, Mexico, Ireland, Hungary, Indonesia and Palestine. In addition, special guest musicians I-Shan Lai (Chinese Violin) and Kerry Christensen, yodeler and Alpine horn. The BYU Folk Music Ensemble will enhance the production with live music. Patrons should plan to arrive early to join the festival activities on the Marriott Center concourse for food and fun cultural activities. International Folk Dance festivals are held world-wide to promote the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO. At festivals the students share traditional American dance and music as they serve as ambassadors of BYU, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and the U.S. Folk dance festivals encourage people from around the world to gather despite cultural, political, social, or religious differences. Geographical boundaries dissipate which motivates dancers, musicians, and audience members to become united one with another. The program is sponsored by BYU College of Fine Arts and Communications, Department of Dance and World Dance faculty.
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Celebrate 'The Gift' with BYU’s Christmas Around the World

December 02, 2015 12:00 AM
This year’s “Christmas Around the World” celebration at Brigham Young University–featuring the International Folk Dance Ensemble and sponsored by the BYU Department of Dance–will take place in the Marriott Center Friday and Saturday, Dec. 4 and 5, at 7:30 p.m., with a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee. Tickets are $10-20, with discounts available for alumni, students, employees, senior citizens and groups. Tickets can be purchased in person at the BYU Ticket Office in the Harris Fine Arts Center or Marriott Center, by phone at 801-422-2981 or online at byuarts.com. This year’s theme, “The Gift,” will be demonstrated in a performance of more than 150 student dancers, singers and musicians in colorful costumes who bring their talents to share the world’s Christmas traditions. The program will feature dances and music from dozens of countries across the globe including China, Croatia, Haiti, Mexico and Palestine. In her fifth year as artistic director, Jeanette Geslison cites the students as the heart and soul of this annual tradition. “In this production we journey, as the Wise Men of old, through different areas of the world as we eventually end in the Holy Land,” said Geslison. “We celebrate and honor cultural diversity through principles of love and goodwill. These cultural presentations are truly gifts at this time of year.” This performance will feature International Folk Dance Ensemble and guest musical performers will include Mountain Strings, BYU Men’s Chorus and the Intermountain Symphony Orchestra.
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