Although traveled to another hemisphere this summer, the group felt right at home in the dancing cultures of Chile and Argentina. Full of visits to ornate theaters and of workshops with talented dancers, this tour was the perfect welcome for the group’s first time in South America. With help from many sponsors and dance schools, the Ballroom Dance Company performed ten full shows and did five workshops with dancers of all skill levels.
Wherever they went, members of the Ballroom Dance Company found others who had their same love for dance. In Santiago, Chile, the group joined the dancers of La Academia de Danza de José Luis Tejo and the children of Colegio Liahona at the Gimnasio Municipal de Macul for a workshop. “They were all great, and we got to work with people from all ages and see how excited they were that we came,” says BYU dancer Helen Brimley.
The group also held a workshop with Antulaf, a school where young girls do formation ballroom dancing without partners, at a recreation center nestled in the hills around Hualqui, Chile. Dancing with the Ballroom Dance Company men provided a first-time opportunity for them to dance with a partner. “It was really good to see these girls enjoying their time even though they didn’t have a partner, which is really hard for ballroom dance,” says BYU dancer Ciara Transtrum. “And it reminded me how fortunate I am to have men willing to dance.”
The Ballroom Dance Company visited and performed in beautiful theaters that were evidence of the rich culture of performing arts in these countries. “They were so old—monuments really—and to see how well they have been kept was amazing,” says Brimley. In Argentina the group performed in the historical Teatro del Libertador General San Martín and visited Teatro Colón, which National Geographic highlighted as one of the best concert venues in the world.
In Buenos Aires, Argentina, the group experienced the tango straight from its origins. They spent the evening at Tango Porteño, a former Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie theater filled with refined architecture reminiscent of the era when the Argentine tango was at its peak. While there, enjoyed a tango lesson, dinner, and a show focused on the evolution of the tango.
In addition to sharing the tango’s origins, the people of Argentina shared other local dances with the BYU group—in workshops and also in the streets. “In Argentina, everyone knows the cultural dances, and they were all over the streets performing, and that’s what we love,” says Holden. “We even started dancing on a bridge, and it was incredible to be in a country where dance is so socially acceptable in public.”
The members of the Ballroom Dance Company were impressed that the people they met had not only a powerful love for dance but also a powerful love for one another. “It was a rewarding experience,” says BYU dancer Brandon Hemsley. “Going to a different country, seeing locals in their culture, and seeing how much compassion they have made me realize that it’s more than going there to perform.”
Mirroring both this passion for dance and this compassion for others, the group donated all proceeds from its performances in Chile to the charity COANIQUEM Burned Children Foundation (BCF).
While in Santiago, the group toured one of three COANIQUEM BCF rehabilitation centers in Chile and interacted with patients and employees who utilize the school and worship services provided for burn victims and their families. The BYU students also performed excerpts of their show and distributed toys to the children. “It was really special that we got to give our proceeds to them, but when we visited and walked through the facility and were able to interact with the children, it made it more personal,” says Holden. “It gave us more of a perspective of what we were doing, and I think that showed in our performances.”
Brimley adds, “Being able to participate and dance for a purpose was a win because we got to express our love for dance while helping people.”