UVU Ballroom Dance Team Builds Bridges During China Tour
August 22, 2014
For Immediate Release
University Marketing & Communications: Melinda Colton | 801-863-6807
Written by: Kellene Ricks Adams | 801-863-8504
Utah Valley University’s Ballroom Dance Team recently returned from a 10-day tour in Beijing and Kaiyuan, China, where team members performed at the 2014 “Meet in Beijing” Youth Dance Festival and represented the University in a whirlwind of both formal and informal performances and cultural exchange opportunities.
The team was invited to participate in the tour by special invitation from the Beijing Federation of Literary and Art Circles.
“This is the second time we’ve been invited to China,” said Paul Winkelman, UVU assistant professor of dance and adviser to the Ballroom Dance Team. “It’s a huge honor for us to receive these invitations. We’ve established a great relationship with members of the federation, and they know the caliber of performance they can expect from our students.”
The 14 members of the Ballroom Dance Team performed 10 times during the tour, with more than 5,000 audience members in attendance at the various performances. Performance venues included the Great Wall of China, the Summer Palace, the Beijing Olympic sites and the Yuanmingyuan Lotus Festival. The team also received the Outstanding Performance Award for its exhibition performance at the youth dance festival, enjoyed extensive media coverage throughout the tour and performed several numbers as special guests during “Er Ren Zhuan,” the region’s most popular professional comedy/dance show.
In addition, team members participated in numerous cultural exchange activities, including touring schools, visiting with officials and distinguished guests, and interacting with locals.
“We carry postcards with us that introduce the Ballroom Dance Team and talk about Utah Valley University, and we pass them out wherever we go,” Winkelman said. “Everywhere we went people were eager to talk to us. This was a great opportunity to be ambassadors of both the United States and the University.”
During visits to an elementary school and junior high school in Kaiyuan, team members watched students and faculty perform, performed themselves and taught faculty members the waltz and cha-cha.
“At the elementary school, we watched all 700 students perform an exercise with red handkerchiefs traditional to this area of China,” said Winkelman. “The students danced in synchrony, and partway through, the faculty joined them. When I asked how long it had taken them to prepare this ‘special number’ for us, I was told that it wasn’t special; it was the regular exercise that the students and faculty participate in every morning. It was the most fascinating thing I’ve ever seen.”
Winkelman noted that the tour left deep impressions on the students as they participated in engaged learning on an international level, gaining an invaluable exposure to the people, culture, history and sites in China. The tour also allowed both the dance program and the University to strengthen its influence abroad. The tour was covered by the China Daily and then picked up quickly by other media outlets. By the end of the tour, photos of the team and its name were posted on dozens of Chinese websites and mentioned in news reports. The team was also featured in a lengthy news story on the evening news.
“The tour represented many marvelous opportunities for performances, cultural exchanges and building robust international relationships,” said Winkelman. “Many aspects of the tour were evidence of the strengthening relationship between the Chinese and our American organizations. While we were thrilled with the chance to participate so often in performances and to tour culturally important sites, a less obvious but very powerful element of the tour was the friendship being built.”
“We are looking at future opportunities to strengthen this relationship, including a possible workshop here for both teachers and students to visit and participate in dance and vocal instruction,” Winkelman continued. “The trip had a life-changing effect on all who went, and we are confident that the impressions made on our friends in China were likewise powerful and enduring.”
For more information, visit www.uvu.edu/dance/ballroom.