Students and alumni share their memories of BYU’s nationally acclaimed Ballroom Dance Company
Founded in 1960 by professor Benjamin F. de Hoyos and his wife Joesphine, BYU’s Ballroom Dance Company has been dazzling audiences across the globe for 60 years. In that time, the company has performed for audiences throughout Asia, Europe, South America and Oceania, earning numerous championship titles and awards.
Despite humble beginnings, BYU now has one of the largest and most influential ballroom dance programs in the country and hosts the U.S. amateur championships annually. Company alumni have gone on to become master teachers, national and world champions and participants on the popular TV shows “Dancing With the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance.”
But the company does more than produce champion dancers. It instills lessons of hard work, generosity and lifelong learning in its members, leaving them with values that last a lifetime.
“My experience with the Ballroom Dance Company has taught me the most important lessons that I could have acquired in my time at BYU,” said Autumn Hawkes, a member of the company since 2017. “I have learned how to more effectively communicate with others, even those I just met, and how to take criticism in a healthy way. I’ve learned to be adaptive and open to trying new things, and how to collaborate in creating something beautiful.”
Melonie Mullen, who toured with the company from 1983-85, credits the ballroom dance program with shaping her young adult years.
“I feel like I became a different human being because of the ballroom dance team,” said Mullen. “It was so rewarding to grow as an individual and learn from a team experience how to get along with people, how to work and how to be disciplined.”
In addition to its individual, local and regional influence, BYU’s Ballroom Dance Company has played a significant role in the rise of the dance form’s popularity across the nation. Since its beginning, the company has passed under the direction of ballrooms greats Roy and June Mavor, Emerson and LeGene Lyman, Lee and Linda Wakefield, and Curt and Sharon Holman. Each new artistic director has set a higher standard of excellence, bringing BYU further and further into the national global spotlight.
“We in America would be at a terrible loss if we did not have the involvement of Brigham Young University and the standards and curriculum they have set for ballroom dance. They’re an example to the whole country.”
In 1971, the Mavors took the Ballroom Dance Company to compete in the renowned British Formation Championships. The company became the first American team in history to win the competition, a title they have claimed 25 times since.
In 1993, the Wakefields helped bring the U.S. Amateur National Dancesport Championships — which had been hosted in New York City for over 40 years — to BYU, now considered the growing capital of ballroom dance. The move revitalized the competition and brought a renewed interest in ballroom dance to Utah County.
“It’s not only fun to have been a part of the team experience, but to also be a part of the legacy of the ballroom dance team, and what it’s done and become,” said Mullen. “They have done really well at keeping that legacy going and recognizing its importance.”
The program works to bring together students and alumni often, hosting reunions and even inviting alumni to participate in their concert. This relationship has helped students gain a greater appreciation of the rich history of the program and the dancers that paved the way before them.
“It is absolutely incredible to be a part of the BYU Ballroom legacy,” said Hawkes. “So many alumni give so much to the program and I feel blessed to be a recipient of their love and care. I hope to be able to give back to the program someday, as it has given so much to me.”