American Folk Dance Ensemble

From Vienna to Strážnice

Spencer Waddell and Kelsey Christensen dance during a parade through the streets of Strážnice, Czech Republic.

On Monday, June 19, members of the American Folk Dance Ensemble awoke early and traveled to the Czech Republic for the third stop of their tour—the Strážnice International Folklore Festival. This renowned celebration of both traditional Czech folk dance and Czech musical heritage is the country’s second-oldest folklore festival.

The Folk Dance Ensemble spent Tuesday through Thursday participating in community outreach performances for schools and senior centers alongside dance and music groups from South Korea, Hungary, and the Netherlands. During this time, the group also got their first look at performance venues as they rehearsed for the festival’s opening ceremony.

The American Folk Dance Ensemble poses for a group picture at the entrance to Strážnice.

From Friday to Sunday the town of Strážnice, normally home to 6,000 residents, was completely transformed as locals welcomed more than 15,000 enthusiastic guests. The BYU Folk Dance Ensemble and Mountain Strings were met with thunderous applause as they presented their entire repertoire of American folk dances and songs throughout the festival.

One particularly memorable experience came when the international groups were invited to participate in a Catholic Mass on Sunday morning. The BYU ensemble sang an arrangement of “Our Savior’s Love” and “I Feel My Savior’s Love” during communion. The day ended with the international groups attending an evening reception, where they sang and danced together before parting ways as friends.

Jade Madison, Braden Duke, and other members of the Folk Dance Ensemble enter the Church of the Assumption to sing at Mass.

Monday was the ensemble’s final day in Europe. They arrived in Prague in the morning and spent the afternoon taking a three-hour walking tour through the most iconic parts of the city. They crossed Charles Bridge and made their way through the castle district, where they learned about the effects of the Nazi invasion and communist takeover following World War II and then enjoyed a beautiful view over the city while appreciating Prague’s rich history. The group awoke early Tuesday morning, traveled for 24 hours, and landed in Salt Lake City just before midnight on Tuesday, bringing to a close a successful and rewarding tour.

Dancers Daniel Owen and Abby Whipple teach American folk dance to a group of festival attendees in Strážnice.

Remington Comp and Janelle Wilson perform “Boot Kickin’” for an audience of elementary students in the Czech Republic.