Encore Fall 2006

Ballroom Dance Company

Ballroom Dance Company Travels to Ukraine

After an 11-year absence from eastern Europe, the world-champion BYU Ballroom Dance Company took its Light Up the Night program to Ukraine in May. During the three-week tour, the dancers performed in eight cities for sold-out audiences and connected with people in an area of the world known to revere ballroom dancing.“There’s a lot of ballroom dancing that goes on in eastern Europe,” said artistic director Lee Wakefield. “They know it, they seem to really appreciate it, and they were very enthusiastic everywhere we went.”

Ballroom Dancers get to know a young girl outside an orphanage in Lviv, Ukraine.

The dancers stayed an extra day in each performance city in order to associate longer with the friends made in the area. Julie Davis, a first-year tour member from Draper, Utah, said interacting with those she met in special firesides was a highlight.“Talking to the people who came—that was when we could really see the difference we were making,” Davis said. “We got a lot of compliments on our dancing, but one thing in particular that they said was that we brought happiness wherever we went. They said they could just see the light from us.”The Ballroom Dance Company performed for nearly 9,000 people at various venues throughout Ukraine. The group also participated in a television taping in Kyiv, which was shown to 19 million viewers.Aside from performing, the company was involved in more outreach events than normal. Shantelle Ericson, a recent BYU graduate from Sandy, Utah, said the experience was eye-opening for her.“It was a good reminder of the conditions that exist around the world and that despite those conditions people have faith,” Ericson said.In Lviv the company was able to be on the receiving end of a special performance given by young children at an orphanage. After being treated to several songs, the dancers paired up with the children and played at a park. The company also delivered blankets made by a Utah elementary school class to the children. The blankets were brought as gifts of friendship for the orphans.Joe Larsen, a second-year member from Draper, Utah, said the orphanage visit was a great experience, and it was difficult to leave behind the young friends he made there.“I remember leaving and being a little depressed thinking about the future of all those kids,” Larsen said. “They are all young, and they are still just fun and happy, and they don’t realize the difficulties that will face them in the future without parents.”Wakefield said that by giving back to the community the dancers fulfilled the mission of the tour.“The dancers learned that it’s not always about them; it’s about what they can do for others,” Wakefield said. “I think they probably knew that, but it was reinforced in a positive way that that’s what we are about when we go out on tour.”