The summer of 2014 was incredible for the BYU Department of Dance, in part because of an amazing opportunity provided for dancers in all disciplines.
About 20 students from all dance disciplines spent six weeks in Italy learning from some world-class talents in some of the world’s finest facilities. Shani Robison, the director of the BYU Theatre Ballet, and Shayla Bott, an assistant professor in the Department of Dance, accompanied the students on their adventure.
“I think the experience pushed the dancers in new ways, whether it was the baroque workshop or the contemporary classics,” Robison said. “It was a real growth opportunity for the dancers, no matter the genre.”
Dancers from ballet, contemporary, international folk and ballroom companies received instruction from famous dancers, and some were taught in the Cecchetti style. They were able to be taught in notable venues, like La Scala Ballet Academy, one of the oldest ballet schools in the world.
Kristina Murri, a math education major from Parker, Colorado, spent most of her life learning folk dance. She spent time on the folk dance team a couple of years ago, and when this opportunity came she jumped on it. Murri said her life is different now thanks to the lessons that only time abroad can offer.
“I learned to take advantage of my experiences and to learn how important making connections are,” Murri said. “I learned about myself, increased my testimony and I learned how to be a leader. I have confidence that I can do hard things.”
While the BYU students and faculty were greatly affected by their trip both culturally and technically, they reciprocated their own influence in a different way.
“Although we didn’t proselyte in any way, shape or form, people asked so much about what we believed in and why we went to church on Sunday,” Bott said.
Jennifer Cowley, an exercise and wellness major from Orem, UT, is getting a minor in contemporary dance. She, like Bott, agreed that many who crossed paths with theirs felt their influence as BYU students.
“Everywhere we went, people noticed us,” Cowley said. “Even the choreographers said things like, ‘There is something really special about you girls,’ or, ‘You have an amazing light about you.’”
Robison looks forward to the future, when more BYU dancers will have similar international experiences that will change their lives.
“We really wanted to foster those relationships created in Italy in some way,” Robison said. “Hopefully for the next study abroad we’ll continue these relationships to grow deeper and stronger so eventually we can start doing exchanges in the future.”
Assistant professor Shayla Bott was recently interviewed about the BYU Dance Department trip to the World Dance Movement Italy this summer. Read about it here.