The UVU Ballroom Dance Company, directed by Chris Witt and Tara Boyd, put on a dazzling virtual spring concert featuring many ballroom dance styles on April 23 and 24.
The ballroom company tour team is widely recognized and has competed and won the championship Mirror Ball trophy at the Dancing with the Stars first-ever collegiate competition. They have performed in China and taken home four world titles at the Open British Championships in Blackpool, England. They are well known for their versatility and skill in ballroom styles such as Latin, Standard Ballroom, Smooth and Rhythm. The company, with their expertise and flexibility, were well-equipped to deal with COVID-imposed restrictions and created an exciting production to celebrate these dances and dance as an art form.
“Our dancers have learned to adapt to dancing by themselves, without a partner, in masks, and learning in cohorts with occasionally half of their team members dancing online from a remote location and half in the studio,” wrote Tara Boyd and Chris Witt in a director’s note found in the concert program. “It has certainly been a learning experience that our students have handled with maturity and resilience.”
Involved in the show were the Tour Team, Back-Up Tour Team, Advanced Back-Up Team and the Beginning Team. To ensure social distancing, pieces with fewer dancers were performed and recorded in either the Smith Theater onstage, the UVU campus dance studios, or on outdoor grounds. The dancers performed large group numbers in the Rebecca Lockhart Arena.
Ballroom is primarily a type of partnering dance, but dancers were masked and unable to touch each other throughout the duration of the concert. Concerned with maintaining a sense of connection between dancers in the ballroom choreography, company directors and choreographers had to be innovative. In some numbers, such as “Clap Snap,” a bolero, tango, cha-cha, dancers held up their arms and mimicked a proper closed dance position without ever coming in contact with a partner. In several other numbers, choreographers and dancers incorporated props to cultivate a feeling of togetherness.
There were two different pieces, a quickstep/charleston entitled “That Man” and a cha-cha entitled “Dynamite,” where many of the dancers partnered with life-sized mannequins that were dressed to complement their costumes and flopped around like marionettes. There was a lovely, floating waltz routine with a live piano accompaniment called “Leaves on the Seine,” in which dancers used hula hoops to connect to one another.
One fun number, a mambo choreographed by director Boyd, was called “Dancing in 2020–2021” and dancers connected using ribbons/ropes that seemed to be six feet long. The piece represented the six-foot social distancing guideline — not only dancing in a pandemic but living and seeking to find connection and joy during trying times. The performance ended with an explosive finale that was danced by the Tour Team to the song “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd.
Despite certain limitations and restrictions such as the virtual setting and physical distancing requirements, the concert was lively and exciting. The dancers stretched themselves to create an engaging performance. They seemed to share the message that nothing can stop them from sharing their passion for dance, and it was palpable through the screen.
“I am so grateful that our dancers were willing to continue their ballroom education during these trying times,” said Boyd. “I am truly inspired by their beautiful personalities, work ethic, empathy, and love of dance!”
What’s next for UVU’s Ballroom Dance Company? Now that dancers won’t have to social distance, they are gearing up to prepare for competition at the Open British Championships in Blackpool, England Spring 2022! Auditions for the UVU Ballroom Dance Company Tour Team will be held Saturday, May 1, 8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., located on UVU campus, studios RL 154 and 153h.