UVU Ballroom team returns from China

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The Utah Valley University Ballroom Dance Company spent two weeks representing the United States at China’s Ninth International Folk Art Festival.

The UVU Ballroom Dance Company was chosen to be the sole representative for the US at the festival. China Federation of Literacy and Art Circle holds the festival once every three years. Thirteen countries chose a representative to travel and perform.

The CIFAF “is not a competition, but a collaborative, cooperative sharing of culture,” said Paul Winkelman, director of the Ballroom Dance Company.

The team has been practicing for this event since the beginning of June. Donations were made to cover the cost so the dancers only had to contribute their time and talents.

One of Beijing’s top-ranked universities combined with the Ballroom Dance Company to do a joint performance. The UVU students also were able to tour the facility and meet with the faculty and dance students there.

The collaboration of two universities at the festival was done by request of China’s government. It was not originally part of the festival.

After performing at one university, Bradley Thomsen, a freshman who has been a part of the team for two years, was amazed at how many people would be interested in watching them dance.

The dancers had the chance to see many sights while they were not performing. Among these was the Forbidden City in Beijing, the Great Wall, and the Three Gorges Dam.

The team performed a western hoedown at the opening ceremonies that featured tricks and high-energy dancing. The other numbers featured a variety of dances including the cha-cha, disco, ballroom, and the festival organizers special interest of dances originating in the US such as the Charleston and the Lindy.

Thomsen says that this opportunity to represent our country in the CIFAF is “absolutely incredible. It’s an honor that out of all the possible choices they had that they chose us.”

The Ballroom Dance Company danced not only for nobles in the country, but in parks for locals, general public performances and for school children at their school.

In addition to the US and China, Russia, Mexico, Egypt, Senegal, Ethiopia, Czech Republic, Poland, Australia, Trinidad and Tobago, Pakistan and Mongolia were present at the CIFAF.

The festival began in 1990 and has become the largest national folk cultural event in China.

The CIFAF website says that the purpose of this event is “to develop and exchange folk art of various countries, to enliven and enrich the cultural life of the masses, to show the image of the reform and opening-up in our country, to promote the friendship and peace among the countries of the world and to develop folk art and to promote the friendship and peace.”

The UVU Ballroom Dance Company is a nationally recognized top collegiate dance group in the country. In 2010, they participated in and won ABC’s Dancing With the Stars College Dance Championship against three other top collegiate teams. They have also performed in England four times and took the world title at Blackpool’s Open British Championships.

Prior to their departure to China, the team had a send off concert in the Ragan Theater to share their talents with UVU and the public.

Thomsen said, “I wish more people could have experiences like this.” He could not find the words to describe how wonderful the experience was.