The BYU Ballroom Dance Company danced their way through England, France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Spain this spring. And at the Blackpool Dance Festival in England, the Ballroom Dance Company won the British Latin Formation Championship and took second place in the British Ballroom Formation Championship.
“I will never forget how I felt as the music began to thunder through the building and my sparkly ballroom heel hit the dance floor,” says BYU Latin dancer Autumn Hawkes. “The best part was feeling so fulfilled coming off the floor, knowing I’d just danced my best.”
The greatest competition for BYU came from the Beijing Dance Academy from China. They presented a technically challenging routine with traditional Chinese discipline. In the Latin competition, BYU was the crowd favorite and also the judges’ choice for the top prize. In the Ballroom competition, the results were reversed, with Beijing Dance Academy taking the majority of first-place marks.
“Our team focused on building more than just a dance routine. We did our best to create an amazing story,” says BYU Latin dancer Jaren Hopkin. “We put in the blood, sweat, and tears together as a team, which unified us.”
United they won and united they enjoyed touring Europe. Dancing, eating gelato, more dancing, sightseeing, and more dancing filled the rest of the tour. The Ballroom Dance Company enjoyed their remaining time in the United Kingdom, which included a walking tour of Downham, a boating trip in the Lake District National Park, a tour of Warwick Castle, a stop at the Preston England Temple, and sightseeing in London.
They left the United Kingdom by ferry and arrived in France, where they jived in front of the Eiffel Tower. Also in Paris, the group taught dance lessons to locals and performed at the Cirque d’Hiver Bouglione. The BYU Ballroom Dance Company members used horse stalls as dressing rooms at the venue because the Cirque d’Hiver Bouglione is a circus ring.
“It was magical!” and “One word: amazing!” said audience members Melissa Cruz and Sara Laurent. Proceeds from the performances in both Paris and Le Chesnay, France, were given to refugees.
The following performances were just as notable. In Brussels, Belgium, the Ballroom Dance Company performed for European Union officials and ambassadors from all over the world. In Geneva, Switzerland, the Ballroom Dance Company performed for their largest audience on tour. The group also took the opportunity to ride a cable car to the top of Aiguille du Midi in the French Alps.
“Not only was this a breathtaking experience to see the landscape on the way up, but it was also a very spiritual experience,” says Hopkin. “I was very blessed to see some of God’s most amazing creations.”
The group then returned to France and visited the ruins of a Roman amphitheater and the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière in Lyon.
At the Lyon Cathedral, bystanders savored an impromptu dance number by the Ballroom Dance Company, who were accompanied by a local accordion player, Michael Chobatar. He was gifted a BYU Dance shirt to show the company’s appreciation.
Another memorable impromptu street performance happened at the Miroir d’Eau, a reflecting pool and fountain in Bordeaux, France. Dancers looked picturesque as their movements were reflected in the water. One woman passing by even joined the dancers. “Dancing in the plaza inspired this older woman to join in the dance, without a care in the world. Pure joy lit up her face as she danced and twirled about,” says Hawkes. “I always love it when people find joy from watching us dance. It makes me smile to inspire them to dance as well.”
The tour closed in Barcelona, Spain, with a performance, devotional, beach trip, and visit to the Basílica de la Sagrada Familia. At night, the Ballroom Dance Company took a turn as the audience by attending an authentic flamenco show. “I feel like the tour was a complete success and will be something that all team members reflect back on with a smile,” says Hawkes.