American Folk Dance Ensemble

Mountain Strings

Stepping into the South

Tanner Birtcher (left) and Anthony Xanthos warm up the crowd at a school in Beaufort, South Carolina, before the Folk Dancers perform.

BYU’s Folk Dance Ensemble and Mountain Strings bid farewell to the beautiful city of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and departed for Salt Lake City on Monday, May 6. At the airport in Utah, the tech crew joined the ensemble before they took off together for the southern United States. 

The ensemble landed in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Tuesday morning, where they enjoyed a big meal and a peaceful, scenic drive to Greensboro before their busy week. 

BYU Folk Dance Ensemble and BYU Mountain Strings pose with members of the Uhuru Dancers in Atlanta, Georgia, after receiving two hours of instruction on music and social dance from the African country of Guinea.

To kick off their tour of the South, the ensemble held a meaningful outreach performance at Mineral Springs Middle School, sharing their passion for dance with the next generation of artists. Later that evening, Folk Dance Ensemble took to the stage at the historic Carolina Theatre. 

Exploration awaited the group the next day in Charleston, South Carolina, where they toured the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens and immersed themselves in the rich history and natural beauty of the region. Afterward, they raced back to the hotel to change so they could shoot a new music video! The rest of the evening was left to students to explore or catch a few extra hours of sleep. 

The first show of Folk Dance Ensemble’s tour to the southern United States kicks off at Greensboro’s historic Carolina Theatre.

On May 10, the ensemble continued their community outreach efforts with visits to a local charter school and to Battery Creek High School. They were greeted by more than 500 students, who cheered and screamed when the dancers entertained them with flips and tricks. The BYU group enjoyed the enthusiasm of the students and saw several of them return to the performance that evening in Beaufort. Some members of the audience traveled more than two hours just to attend. 

The ensemble made it to Atlanta, Georgia, the following afternoon and participated in a workshop with the Uhuru Dancers, a nonprofit organization that shares African culture and performing arts with the community. The dance instruction further expanded the students’ exposure to unique cultural body movements that were challenging and exciting to learn. Musicians from BYU Mountain Strings also joined the dance class, except for BYU percussionist Tyler Anderson, who learned new drumming techniques from Guinea. 

BYU Folk Dancer Bailey Tucker hugs a new adoring fan at the school outreach in Beaufort, South Carolina.

Sunday morning, the ensemble attended a local church service and then grabbed lunch at the world’s largest Buc-ee’s, part of the famous gas station franchise, before continuing their journey to Nashville, Tennessee. That evening, the group attended a private question-and-answer session with one of the most popular country music songwriters in Nashville, BYU alumnus Tony Martin, who has written 16 number-one hits. 

Folk Dance Ensemble’s second week on tour was filled with unforgettable experiences. As they continue their journey through the southern United States, they look forward to sharing more enchanting performances and having more opportunities to reach out and minister to those they meet along the way! 

Folk Dance Ensemble and Mountain Strings learn a Guinean dance from members of the Uhuru Dancers in Atlanta, Georgia.

Lead djembe player Ibrahim provides music for the Uhuru Dancers and generously teaches Mountain Strings percussionist Tyler Anderson (right) to play the beats.