Ballroom Dance Company

Service, Safaris, and the Spirit

The BYU Ballroom Dance Company and local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pose for a picture with the US ambassador to Botswana, Howard A. Van Vranken, after lunch at Mokolodi Nature Reserve.

Week two for the Ballroom Dance Company commenced with a visit to the Bahurutshe Cultural Village near Gaborone, Botswana. After an enlightening morning, the group had the unique opportunity to share lunch with and be addressed by Howard A. Van Vranken, US ambassador to Botswana. A highlight of the busy day was a cultural exchange and dinner with traditional dance group Mafitlhakgosi from Old Naledi, one of the oldest townships in Gaborone. The company later gathered for an uplifting home evening with missionaries and members of the Gaborone Botswana Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

After completing a radio interview the next morning, the BYU group teamed up with volunteers from Duma FM, missionaries from the Church, and community members to clean up litter in Bokaa, a small village on the outskirts of Gaborone. The Ballroom Dance Company then put on a VIP reception and breathtaking performance for 1,500 people at the University of Botswana’s Indoor Sports Arena. Connie Rapoo, associate professor of visual and performing arts at the University of Botswana, shared thoughts that an audience member expressed to her: “Magnificent, marvelous, magical! I was transfixed the entire show and transferred into another world! I was moved to tears more than once and overwhelmed by the beauty that came alive before us.”

BYU Ballroom Dancer Ashlyn Burnside embraces an audience member after a performance at the University of Botswana’s Indoor Sports Arena on May 7.

After journeying to Pilanesberg National Park, the BYU dancers found themselves amidst the breathtaking beauty of the South African wilderness. An evening game drive offered glimpses of Africa’s majestic wildlife, igniting a sense of awe among the company. The next day they went on a morning game drive, where they spotted wildlife of all kinds and enjoyed the landscape before they headed to Johannesburg, South Africa.

While in Johannesburg, the company attended the temple, which provided moments of reflection and spiritual renewal. Following the temple, they gave an informal performance at Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton. A highlight of their stay in Johannesburg was spending time reading aloud some of their favorite books, which they donated to the children of the Windybrow Arts Centre. Windybrow hosts an after-school program devoted to the betterment and enrichment of children’s lives in the neighborhood of Hillbrow.

Ballroom Dance Company members Zara Mina Brunson and Noah Horlacher read books they donated to children at the Windybrow Arts Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The company also paid a visit to Mandela House in nearby Soweto—a former home of Nelson Mandela that has been turned into a public heritage site and museum. Their time in South Africa finished with two electrifying performances that afternoon and evening at Gibson Kente Theatre.

As the week drew to a close, the company made the long journey to majestic Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, where they immersed themselves in the splendor of one of the world’s greatest natural wonders and explored the astonishing beauty of Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. During their final week abroad, the Ballroom Dance Company will continue to weave their magic throughout southern Africa as they perform three more times and engage in meaningful experiences to come.

The BYU Ballroom Dance Company participates in a welcome ceremony at the Bahurutshe Cultural Village near Gaborone, Botswana.

Members of the Ballroom Dance Company spot a crocodile at Pilanesberg National Park in South Africa.