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BYU dancers to showcase favorites

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Brigham Young University's performing groups are accustomed to taking their shows to the world. But in February, the world will be coming to their back yard for the Olympics, and these organizations are getting ready.

Wednesday through Saturday at the Harris Fine Arts Center at the Provo campus, BYU's various dance companies will present their annual "World of Dance" concert. The groups will present favorite selections that they'll perform during the 2002 Winter Games.

The Olympics are nothing new for the International Folk Dance Ensemble. The group was a part of the opening ceremonies at the Summer Games in Seoul, Korea, in 1988.

Folk dance director Ed Austin said the Olympic experience is something special. "We were excited to be a part of the ceremony, but I don't think any of us imagined the feelings we'd have," Austin said. "We want all the students to have the opportunity to feel that impact . . . the feelings of patriotism you have when you're really there."

Rex Barrington, assistant director of performing arts management, said they are still trying sort out their Olympic schedules, but it looks as if BYU's groups will be very involved. He also said it's possible that some will perform in the opening ceremonies.

The folk dance troupe, as well as a variety of other BYU performing organizations, will be featured during the Olympics at the "Light of the World" show at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Conference Center.

Austin said the folk dancers are getting close to their maximum Olympic bookings.

"We've had many phone calls. Some with requests for performances preceding the Games, some for during the Games. Lately when I get a call I just have to say 'no' because we're already doing so much."

The groups believe they have a lot to give. "We bring a style and form of dance that is recognized by many countries all over the world," said Ballroom Dance Company director Lee Wakefield. "When they recognize the dancing, it's a connection, a link."

Austin said he thinks the dancers will be able to reach the audiences in ways beyond dancing.

"Many of the kids have traveled and lived all over the world, and this gives them an awareness of world cultures," Austin said. "They will be able to really mix and befriend visitors from diverse areas."

For many of the dancers, some of that world experience comes from the many tours the dance companies have undertaken.

This summer the folk dancers went on a seven-week tour that started in Quebec, moved to Belgium and then went all across the United Kingdom. The summer of 2002 will have the group heading to Spain, Belgium, France and Armenia.

The Ballroom Dance Company hit different parts of Europe this summer, with performances in Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

BYU's Dancers' Company also was abroad this summer, performing in India.

At the "World of Dance" concert, two of the pieces the Folk Dance Ensemble will perform are a Celtic number, "Keltatak," and its signature piece, the athletic "Hopak."

The Ballroom Dance Company will perform "Miami Medley," the dance that won first place in the Latin American division at the 2001 British Open Championship.

The Dancers' Company will present "Except ye Become" with 14 dancers and the award-winning solo "Place of No Tears."

Theatre Ballet will perform three numbers, including "Bach to Bach," choreographed by Ballet West's Peter Christie.

The Cougarettes, which this year won its fourth national title at the National College Dance Team Championships, will perform its winning dance "Sweet Dreams," as well as two other numbers.

"World of Dance" runs Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the de Jong Concert Hall in the Harris Fine Arts Center, with a matinee Saturday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10, $8 for students.

E-mail: pthunell@desnews.com