For a recent performance, "The Gathering," a 44-year-old dance group from Utah's Brigham Young University decided to do extensive research into making the number as authentic as possible. They studied myriad photographs preserved by pioneers who traveled across America's plains to settle in the West and choreographed a dance using the photos.
The group, International Folk Dance Ensemble, is sending 46 members to perform "The Gathering" and other dances in Port Angeles at the end of February.
"An extraordinary amount of time, talent and resources go into a production of this size," said artistic director Edwin G. Austin Jr. "Hundreds of hours are used in planning, researching and dance training to create a repertoire portraying so many international cultures."
The university involves more than 200 students in its world dance program, each of whom dedicatedly trains each year; only the elite are invited to represent the IFDE worldwide.
True to the name, the ensemble performs dances from every corner of the world, from Eastern Europe to the Middle East. Members often perform the "Hopak," a traditional Ukrainian dance as well as the "Elk Ridge Clog," which originated in the Appalachian Mountain area of the United States.
The group, which originated in the Department of Dance in the College of Health and Human Performance at BYU, not only performs international numbers, it performs in international venues. This past summer, the group represented the United States in several international folk festivals in Italy and France and 20 years ago members were the only performing group invited to represent the United States at the opening ceremonies of the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. The group travels with its own band, folk music ensemble Mountain Strings, that performs live as the group dances.
Along with Austin, the group is supported by a production team of experienced professionals: world dance specialists and choreographers Delynne Peay and Jeanette Geslison, technical director Benjamin Sanders and wardrobe supervisor and costume designer Colleen West.
Austin emphasized that while they are proud of the dancers' technical abilities, they are more satisfied by the cultural aspect of the performances.
"Our students are proud of their program because it goes much deeper than pure entertainment," Austin said. "The production is steeped in tradition, a patchwork of mankind's finest expression, an attempt to preserve fragments of diversity that might otherwise be forgotten."
From around the world to the peninsula
What: "Reflections," a variety of dances from around the world by International Folk Dance Ensemble from Brigham Young University
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28
Where: Port Angeles High School, 304 E. Park Ave., Port Angeles
Tickets: $10 to $18, available at Pacific Mist Books in Sequim and Port Book and News in Port Angeles
Contact: Pat Downie, 417-5640
The Sequim Gazette is located at 147 W. Washington Street in Sequim.
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