Sharing a passion for the arts brought dancers from Brigham Young University and China together in a unique cross-cultural experience.
BYU’s Contemporary Dance Theatre recently returned from a trip to China where they performed as invited guests in a prestigious dance festival showcasing China's top university dancers. BYU was the only group from outside China to perform.
The visit to China is the latest in a series of outreach efforts by performing arts groups and others at the BYU College of Fine Arts and Communications, designed to build relationships and connections around the world. The invitation marked the 28th time since 1979 that performing troupes from BYU have visited China.
“Despite our differences in language and geography, the value of the arts, including those human expressions of love, goodness, truth, beauty, and excellence unite us,” said Stephen Jones, dean of BYU's College of Fine Arts and Communications.
BYU dancers presented Encounters, a show that explores the meshing of both different styles and different cultures. They performed three times, including at the Chun Hua Qiu Shi festival in the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing.
The experience also served as an opportunity to collaborate with members of the Beijing Dance Academy, many of whom visited BYU last year to perform with students from the BYU Department of Dance.
“These excellent institutions are committed to the success of their students,” said Wang Wei, vice president of the Beijing Dance Academy. “We hope all of these student participants will use their gifts to express to the world their conviction that beauty and goodness will always overcome the challenges and difficulties of life, and that through our work together we can preserve the best fruits of our cultures and societies for future generations.”
Students from BYU and the Beijing Dance Academy had only three days to prepare for what would be the final dance of the program. Although only a handful of the dancers from either group spoke the others’ language, they were able to merge together to deliver a spectacular performance. Jiamin Huang, a former student of Beijing Dance Academy and now a BYU associate professor of Dance, choreographed the final number.
Nathan Balser, assistant professor of dance at BYU and artistic director for Encounters said the variety of dance styles performed by the Contemporary Dance Theatre ensemble presented a unique challenge.
“We were asked to represent ballroom, folk, and other entities,” Balser said. “In response we created and performed this concert wherein our dancers showcased all of these genres.”
Balser was quick to point out the talent he saw on display from his dancers, but he was just as impressed with their work ethic. Before the trip, the group rehearsed continually, putting in a lot of extra hours. In the end, they saw it pay off and the dancers from both sides shared some special moments.
“I found all of the dancers circled up behind the curtain, expressing their love and gratitude to each other,” Balser said. “While I didn’t get to join in the conversation, I could sense that it was a really special moment for all of them.”