We are looking forward to the upcoming 2015 tour season, which will include BYU Singers’ first visit to China and the Wind Symphony’s return to Japan and South Korea. We’ve also added Mongolia to the Wind Symphony itinerary.
This will be my last tour season working at Performing Arts Management. Little did I think when I toured with the Program Bureau and BYU choirs as a student that I would end up managing off-campus touring for so many years. Since Performing Arts Management was founded in 1971, BYU ensembles have performed more than 10,000 concerts in a hundred countries—made possible by our friends the world over. I never imagined when I traveled to Beijing in early 1979 looking for a way to book a BYU ensemble that we’d send our 27th tour to China in 2014. I am fortunate to have worked with the best colleagues one could ask for. We’ve had a great team over the many years.
The Lord has poured out his blessings on all who have taken part, opening doors, lifting spirits, and changing lives through the incredible gift of the arts. Truly, audiences have noticed “something different” about the performers and have opened their hearts to them.
I am personally grateful for the chance I have had to work with this program and be inspired by so many students and leaders willing to sacrifice. Each group entertains the audience in a different way, but they all win the hearts of thousands by emulating the spirit of light.
As their reputations spread to leaders of the world, BYU performers continue to change individual hearts. They proclaim their message in song, dance, and example, showing their audiences that life’s most important messages are often better felt than spoken.
Performing Arts Management
Ed and Lynne Blaser on an early BYU tour to Europe.
Ballroom Dance Company From Arizona to Nauvoo
Living one’s dream is amazing. Sharing one’s dream is even better.
This is what the BYU Ballroom Dance Company got to do as they toured Arizona in October. With its strong LDS and alumni population, Arizona has become a popular place for BYU performing groups to travel to, allowing many students to perform for family and friends who reside there.
“We never get to see our families that much,” says dancer Joaquin Harris. “On the tour they were able to see us and see us in action.” Joaquin’s wife, Marissa, who is also in the company, related how great it was to bring what they love to the people they love. “Being a ballroom dancer has always been a dream of mine,” she says. “This time I was able to share it with my family there in Arizona, which made it very special.”
With 32 dancers on board, the tour began October 17, 2014, in Flagstaff and then continued on to Snowflake, St. Johns, Tucson, Mesa, Queen Creek, and Camp Verde—with many performances, workshops, and devotionals throughout. The Ballroom Dance Company interacted with more than 6,000 people on the 10-day tour.
Of course, it’s not the numbers that matter but rather the experiences the dancers bring to the audiences and to each other. “The purpose of the tour is to spread the light of BYU,” says first-year member Camille Butler, who lived in Arizona and still has family there. With the opportunity to perform for family, she planned to make it special for them. “There are meaningful messages in ballroom dance,” she says. “I wanted them to walk away with a feeling of joy, light, and love for living.”
The company benefits along with their audiences. Tour manager Brent Keck noticed each member of the group progress as both a dancer and a person during the trip. “[Touring] allows students the opportunity to take what they [have] learned and display it to the world,” he says. “Giving them something outside of the classroom to craft and showcase their material is a learning experience for everyone.”
The Ballroom Dance Company is now looking forward to their next tour. On June 15 they will begin their 13 nights of performing in Nauvoo, Illinois. The group last visited Nauvoo in 2012, and they are excited to go back. “Combining my love for ballroom dance with our historical city is very special to me and the group,” says Marissa.
Ballroom Dance Company members Karoline Fisher and AJ Heaps pose with students at Coronado Elementary School in St. Johns, Arizona, after their blacklight “MicTendo” dance.
During an assembly at Coronado Elementary School, the Ballroom Dance Company performs a West Coast swing for the students.
The company poses together before the last show of their October tour, in Camp Verde, Arizona.
BYU Contemporary Dance Theatre First Encounters with Europe
It is a season of firsts for Contemporary Dance Theatre. This summer the team will take its first tour of Europe and participate in its first contemporary dance festival. It is a chance for new sights, new friends, and new levels of learning, especially at the New Prague Dance Festival.
Dance festivals are different from performing tours, which the team has done since 1976. Performing tours are a chance to showcase the team’s skills; festivals provide additional learning opportunities from master class teachers and fellow participants. According to artistic director Nathan Balser, the preparation is different as well. “Often they ask for only one or two of our best numbers, or sometimes they do ask for an entire show with a theme,” he says. “So we have to prepare according to different
According to its website, the New Prague Dance Festival was created in 1997 with the purpose to “join all the people who love the art of dance.” The festival is hosted at the New Stage of the National Theatre of Prague, in the heart of the old city, and includes workshop master classes in addition to gala, competition, and finale performances.
Contemporary dance is about new and evolving dance. “This is a chance for Contemporary Dance Theatre to learn as much as possible and also share our art with others,” says team president Cayel Tregeagle.
According to dancer Demi Eastman, festivals serve to show the group its potential. “This is a chance to show us how others are pushing boundaries that every contemporary dancer faces,” she says. “We see what other people bring and watch the newest movements as they are being created.”
After the festival, Contemporary Dance Theatre will tour in Hungary, Austria, and Germany. Whether at a festival or at a scheduled venue, the purpose is the same for the dancers, says Balser: “We perform for the sake of art.”
Contemporary Dance Theatre’s show Encounters tells how we may be unexpectedly captivated by people, places, and ideas in our lives. Often these encounters change us forever. The program includes many fresh, innovative dances that explore relationships in their many forms.
One team favorite is “Heartlines,” by European choreographer Ihsan Rustem. It follows the experience of young people as they encounter light, beauty, and truth and are influenced by one another. “It is the story of how people meet, have an impact in another’s life, and leave,” Tregeagle says. “It feels so fitting, since that is what we do on these tours.” It is a small moment of time, yet the experience resonates with the dancers and those they meet.
“I Was Here,” also by Rustem, is a commentary on the force of friendship. It expresses people’s desire to leave their personal mark on the world and leaves the audience to ponder the question “What is my legacy?”
Loni Landon’s “The Thought of You Is Fading” explores how as time goes by, people go their separate ways. But even as the memories fade, the influence they had never will. For Heidi Jorgensen, the dance became especially personal when she performed her final duet with a graduating teammate. “It helps you remember people in your past,” she says. “Although you move on, you never forget how they have shaped you.”
For Eastman those relationships, new and old, in rehearsal or on tour, make every dance a new experience. “Being able to dance with the people I love most,” she says, “I think that is why I enjoy it so much.”
Colin Holbrook acts as a guardian angel to Heidi Jorgensen in “Psalom,” supporting and carrying her unseen throughout the dance. The Contemporary Dance Theatre show Encounters invites all to be transformed by connections and exchanges.
Performed here by Contemporary Dance Theatre member Demi Eastman, Ihsan Rustem’s “I Was Here” is as athletic and technical as it is meaningful, using precision and skill to show the influence of one life.
BYU Singers Breaking New Ground
These are the words Ronald Staheli used to describe the upcoming BYU Singers tour to China in May.
As conductor of BYU’s top choir, Staheli is excited to take the Singers to perform in China—a destination the choir has yet to visit. “We’ve never been to Asia,” he says, “so I’m very happy that we finally get our chance to go.” But the reason this tour is timed perfectly is because, after 30 years as director, Staheli will conduct the choir for the final time. “I’ve had a great opportunity with BYU Singers,” he says. “It’s perfect to be able to end it with a tour in China.”
Staheli intends to make this a memorable tour not just for him but for the students and the people they’ll visit in China. “We’ve been blessed with an excellent choir this year,” he says. “They can sing with clarity and precision, and I want them to reach the highest mark they can on this trip.”
Eric Fonnesbeck, a senior and a baritone, says that the choir has a responsibility to make a good and lasting impression on the people there. “Although we can’t communicate through speaking, we can communicate through singing,” he says. “We’re not going to impress but rather express—express ourselves by transcending language barriers.”
The BYU Singers intend to perform many well-known Western works as well as a few Chinese folk songs. Staheli, who has been working on the song selections since the end of their last tour in summer 2014, says he wants to appeal to the general Chinese audience while also showcasing Western choral music. “Renaissance, classical, romantic, and so on will be a part of our performance, with Chinese pieces woven throughout,” he says.
The students are excited to share their talents and passions with other people. “Being able to do what I love and share it with the world is very important to me,” says Ariana Fonnesbeck, a senior alto in the choir. “We have three weeks to take our music to a new level and impart that passion with others around the world.”
During their time in China the BYU Singers will visit nine cities over a 21-day period. “This will be a challenging tour for the choir,” says Staheli, “but as we work hard and dedicate ourselves, we will [have] an inspiring experience.”
BYU Singers has performed at many prominent venues, including St. Mary’s Cathedral in Portland, Oregon.
Ron Staheli (facing the choir) has been with the BYU Singers for more than 30 years. Now in his last year as director, he is excited to take the choir to tour China for the first time.
“We’re not going to impress but rather express—express ourselves by transcending language barriers.” —Eric Fonnesbeck
International Folk Dance Ensemble A European Stage
This July the International Folk Dance Ensemble will return to Europe, where they will perform at the International Folklore Festival in Karlovac, Croatia. “This is an internationally renowned dance festival,” says Colleen West, the ensemble’s artistic director. “It’s a big deal, with really high-caliber dance ensembles from all over the world.” The festival features several diverse groups from around the world, which will provide a rich dance experience.
The tour doesn’t stop in Croatia. The dancers will also travel to Spain and represent BYU at the Festival Internacional de Folclore Ciudad de Burgos and the Festival Folklórico Internacional de Extremadura in Badajoz.
Throughout the tour the group will showcase a variety of traditional American styles, including Southern, pioneer, waltz, clog, square dance, and Western line dance. Bringing such a diverse selection demonstrates the versatility of the team and their ability to tap into the cultural aspects of a country. That versatility goes a long way in making a name for the ensemble, according to West. “After other counties see our folk dancing they want us to come and perform for them,” she says. “It really makes an impact.”
The group will also participate in dance exchanges, which provide invaluable opportunities for the ensemble to learn authentic folk dances from authentic folk dancers. “Learning a dance by seeing it in its native form is important so that you don’t miss out on the cultural details that truly make the dance what it is,” says West. “This contact with other folk dance groups is essential in understanding the dance of other cultures.”
For some in the group this tour will be their last experience as members of the International Folk Dance Ensemble. Jason Checketts, a senior and a group leader on the team, is looking forward to ending his BYU career on such a good note. “It will be an emotional ride when this tour comes to end,” he says. “Dancing with the folk dance ensemble is something I will tell my kids about for the rest of my life.”
“Footin’ and Fiddlin’ ” lives up to its name as International Folk Dance Ensemble dancers and musicians perform this traditional clogging dance.
Living Legends Native Dances to Native Cultures
During Living Legends’ last tour to Alaska, a young boy watched a Latin dancer perform a fast-stepping number in the lobby. The boy started tapping his own feet as if to say, “Look, I can do it too!” The ensemble finds such enthusiasm for their cultural representations among the young and old wherever they go.
The ensemble’s upcoming tours will place the dancers within each of the three cultures they represent: Native American, Polynesian, and Latin American. It is a pleasure for Living Legends to perform for every audience, but presenting a dance for members of its native culture is a special privilege.
Beginning in late February, Living Legends will tour for 10 days in New Mexico and Texas. Then the group will head to Montana, British Columbia, and Alaska at the end of April. The ensemble will return to previous performance sites as well as perform in Prince George, Prince Rupert, Ketchikan, and Juneau for the first time.
The first stop will be New Mexico, where the population is estimated to be 10 percent Native American and nearly 50 percent Latin American. This stop is particularly special to performer Shanoah Ulibarri, who is from the Pueblo tribe and will be returning home on the tour. Ulibarri didn’t grow up on the reservation, but her grandma did, so Ulibarri participated in ceremonies and cultural activities there as a child. Participating in events from her Native American heritage did not become important to her until much later. “I realized that knowing who you are comes from knowing your ancestors—their trials and belief systems,” she says. “Living Legends helped me learn about my own heritage.”
As a member of Living Legends, Ulibarri now shares that knowledge by performing dances, such as the hoop dance, in which she arranges 17 hoops into symbolic representations of animals, plants, baskets, and globes to honor the creations of Mother Earth. “These performances can help remind people who they are, where they came from, and where they have the potential to go,” she says.
Tara Lucio, a former member of Living Legends who resides in Gallup, New Mexico, now organizes shows in the area—but not just for the nostalgia of seeing her former group perform. “As a mom, I want [my kids] to remember where they came from and to learn,” she told a local paper concerning her Polynesian and Native American family. “I want them to be proud of who they are and share their culture with others.”
Native American dances in the Living Legends show Seasons include “Eagle,” “Bow and Arrow,” “Hoop Dance,” and “Go My Son.”
Sharing a dance from one’s own culture evokes memories and a sense of community. “Those from the native cultures know what we are saying when we dance,” says Telli Arce, a Living Legends performer from Mexico. “They know what it feels like to dance and what it means to have a piece of your country brought to you.” The Latin section of the show includes “Aztec” and “La Negra” from Mexico. “I get to share with the audience that pride of being part of a rich culture that is alive and constantly growing,” she says. “I have to admit that it puts a little bit of pressure to do our very best, but I think all those feelings are worth what we are putting into it.”
Touring Alaska will provide the group the chance to meet various native tribes, among them the Yup’ik and Haida. The ensemble will perform a native Alaskan dance, “Yup’ik,” which expresses through the hands of the dancers fishing exploits and the building of friendships.
Stephanie Thompson, from the board of directors of the Alaska Federation of Natives, praises the influence of Living Legends. “Our youth find role models when they see the performers take pride in their people and their heritage,” she says. “And our youth aren’t the only ones affected—even adults really make a connection and see that they are part of a larger native world.” In recent years traditional dance has seen a resurgence among Native Alaskans, and local groups are working to retain their rich heritage of performing arts. Living Legends is proud to be part of such a movement. According to Thompson, seeing native dance performed at such a high caliber is an important part of motivating these groups.
While in Alaska, Living Legends will be in contact with both Native Alaskans and, interestingly, a significant Polynesian population. The history of Polynesians in Alaska is a long one, and an estimated 6,000 Polynesians live there today. The ensemble is thrilled to present a show that will include numbers from such richly diverse cultures. Seasons contains dances that span the Pacific—from Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, New Zealand, and Tonga.
Theatre Ballet Dancing to Spark a Dream
Theatre Ballet involves its audience from before the opening “once upon a time” till beyond the “happily ever after” in their show Fairy Tales and Fantasy, a family-friendly show the dancers will perform in their upcoming tour to Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.
Before the curtain opens on Fairy Tales and Fantasy, the young and young-at-heart are invited to come dressed up in full costume to meet the dancers. Children are encouraged to attend as their favorite fairy-tale character. Guests at this preshow Prince and Princess Party number up to half the audience members on any given performance. It is a chance not only for children to meet fairy-tale idols but also for hopeful young dancers to meet role models—which director Shani Robison says is an important part of the tour. “We want the children to have a friend when the dancers come out and to see [that] their dreams can also come true if they want to be onstage,” she says, allowing the younger audience members to be not only spectators but also engaged participants.
For dancer Hannah Brown, the best part of the tour is interacting with the kids. Dancers from Theatre Ballet are often the first ballerinas these children get to meet in person, and the team loves the children’s reactions. “For these kids, to see a real ballerina in a tutu up close is just so exciting,” Brown says. The dancers know that this interaction could be the spark to encourage the next generation of performers, so they work to make the meeting as personal as possible.
During intermission, dancers invite all the kids who dressed up to join them for a dance onstage. “I love to see parents taking pictures of the kids onstage,” Brown says. “It is their moment in the spotlight, and they feel so special.” Then at the end of the evening, the dancers again meet the audience in the lobby to help attendees of all ages reflect on their dreams.
In addition to formal shows, Theatre Ballet also connects with community members in schools, where Robison and some dancers explain costumes and techniques with demonstrations from the show. The ensemble members especially enjoy when Robison invites a group of boys up to learn a dance, complete with jumps and kicks.
Tours also include master classes with local studios, where sometimes more than 50 students will be onstage receiving instruction at once. Robison even takes more-advanced students through a warm-up designed for the Theatre Ballet team. Each class gives students the opportunity to experience high-caliber dance and interact personally with the dancers.
“It is a really good chance for the students to feel the energy and professionalism of the dancers,” Robison says. “They begin to realize it is hard work but that it can be done. It helps them recognize a dream that may have been nonexistent in their lives before.”
Hannah Brown, as Aurora, and other members of Theatre Ballet represent characters from ballet classics Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Cinderella, and Snow White.
Children are invited to attend Theatre Ballet’s Prince and Princess Party dressed as their favorite character and to interact with the dancers portraying classic fairy-tale characters.
With the help of an underwater beam, Theatre Ballet performer Charis Dexter embodies the princess of Swan Lake.
Wind Symphony A Lasting Impression
Back by popular demand, the BYU Wind Symphony will once again tour in Asia—and this time Mongolia is on the ticket as well. The group’s last trip to Asia, in 2009, included stops in South Korea and Japan. “Asia has a lot to offer, and we have a lot to offer back,” says Don Peterson, director of Wind Symphony since 2008.
Peterson hopes to repeat many of the great experiences from that tour. “They have wonderful audiences
and gracious people in Asia,” he says. “They have highly competitive bands—some of the best in the world. They don’t perform unless they do [the works] unbelievably well, and we were able to have great joint concerts with some of [the ensembles].”
At the beginning of May the symphony will tour for 23 days, visiting a total of nine cities and performing for hundreds of thousands of people in Mongolia, South Korea, and Japan.
Having been a part of Wind Symphony during their 2012 tour to Europe, percussionist Nate Haines is thrilled to be back on the road with the band again. “Being able to take your talents across the world is an exciting opportunity,” he says. “Going to other places, sharing, and seeing other cultures is absolutely amazing. . . . Knowing that we’ll be representing BYU to many people in the world really makes us hone and perfect our technique as a symphony. We’ll be playing our best music yet.”
In anticipation for the tour, Peterson and the symphony are preparing a diverse repertoire that will include traditional American jazz, dance, and march pieces—such as the ever-famous “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” The band is also preparing to perform Mongolian and other Asian folk music in an effort to relate to audiences. Peterson knows the benefit of having the band perform a wide array of music. “It’s a wonderful way to combine the two cultures,” he says. “It will be well received because our performance will have roots in their folk music.”
French horn player William Loveless is looking forward to learning more about Asian wind music. “It’s a different musical style and helps me understand different musical tastes,” he says. “They’re very into wind bands over there, and [the concerts] are well attended. It gives us a lot of energy and makes the tour exciting. It will be fun to play some of their own music for them.”
One goal Peterson is emphasizing for this tour is student learning. “The musicality in Asia is at a high level of training and musicianship,” he says. “I’m excited for the students to experience and take away something.” Haines also understands the opportunity to better himself as a musician on the tour. “Branching out and expanding your experiences are important to an instrumentalist,” he says. “I plan on going to school for conducting and eventually want to teach too. Being a part of this tour gives me essential knowledge and practice as a musician.”
Wind Symphony members know this tour is special because music provides a way to cross cultural boundaries and connect with people on a different level. “They may not be able to understand us in speaking, but they understand the music being played,” says Loveless. “Even though I can’t talk to them, I can still be expressive with my beliefs and emotions as I play. That feeling through music connects with people naturally.”
After this tour it will be another few years before Wind Symphony hits the international stage again, so Peterson and the band hope to make the most of it. “This is our chance to go out and represent in areas that probably won’t get to see BYU for a long time afterward,” Peterson says. “Now is our time to make a lasting impression.”
The clarinet section of Wind Symphony is led by principal clarinetist Csaba Jevtic-Somlai.
Wind Symphony director Don Peterson is not unfamiliar with performing abroad; he has worked as a musician in 21 states and 12 countries.
The Wind Symphony comprises a variety of instruments, including the contrabass clarinet, played here by Josh Tsai.
Jordan Christensen leads a group of talented trombone players.
“The musicality in Asia is at a high level of training and musicianship. I’m excited for the students to experience and take away something.” —Don Peterson
Young Ambassadors Taking Home a New Love
It will be a homecoming to remember for two members of Young Ambassadors. On January 23 the group will start their tour in Reno, Nevada, before heading to California, where they will perform in Oakland, Santa Rosa, San Jose, Lakeport, and Paradise before ending in Folsom on Saturday,January 31.
For performers Jordan Bromley and Heather McDonald, this tour will be a chance to dance and sing for friends and family. While performing abroad is a thrill in its own right, there is nothing quite like bringing home an ensemble of world-famous performers.
Bromley’s first memory of the Young Ambassadors is from when the team toured in Santa Rosa during his childhood. But his connection with the ensemble far precedes watching his first show: his parents met while performing as Young Ambassadors, and they are currently chapter chairs of the BYU Young Ambassadors Alumni Association. Following the tradition of his parents and two older brothers, Bromley will have the chance to take center stage with the group—during his solo in “Just Haven’t Met You Yet.”
McDonald began attending a Young Ambassadors youth workshop when she was 14 years old and continued every year until the end of high school. After making the team and touring Southeast Asia last year, McDonald stayed when she heard the team would be headed to California. “I don’t think I could get more excited about going to California,” McDonald says. “I loved the idea that I could go back so many years later and show my friends what attracted me when I was 14.” It’s fitting for McDonald to share her feelings through a show that takes a look into the many facets of love.
The Young Ambassadors’ production Heartsongs: Melodies of Love highlights some of the world’s all-time favorite love songs in a vibrant musical journey through the rollercoaster of life. It is packed with numbers from award-winning Broadway musicals, such as How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Cinderella, Singin’ in the Rain, and Thoroughly Modern Millie, as well as international hits by the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Michael Bublé, Adele, and Michael Jackson.
Bromley and McDonald both look forward to sharing Heartsongs. According to Bromley, his hope is the same as every other performer’s on the team: “We want the audience to come and enjoy the show.”
The Young Ambassadors show Heartsongs: Melodies of Love includes Broadway numbers like “Singin’ in the Rain,” alongside hits from the Beatles and Michael Bublé.