Feb 2, 2012 - By Randy Tucker and Emily Etheredge Staff WritersFlamboyant costumes, flawless choreography and impressive organization thrilled a lower-level capacity audience Jan. 21 at the Robert A. Peck Arts Center Theater.
"The Gathering," performed by the Brigham Young University International Folk Ensemble, brought rhythms, costumes and dance techniques from Europe, Asia and the Americas to Riverton.
Although folk dance is unique in the aspect of exploring other cultures, dancer Tyler Walker explained that the performance is "all about bringing people from different backgrounds and coming together to perform."
Walker has been a performer in the group for two years and spent time touring Eastern Europe in 2011.
"I have always loved the arts, and once in college, I wanted to pursue Irish dance," Walker said. "I met a couple of gorgeous girls that invited me to audition, which didn't hurt at all, so I auditioned, and I haven't regretted it since."
The internationally acclaimed musical group performed thanks to the efforts of Arts in Action and the Central Wyoming College Music Department.
Musical accompaniment was provided by Western Strings, another group from BYU. The seven-person group featured six string players -- mandolin, guitar, fiddle, string bass and electric guitar -- and a single percussionist.
The numbers dedicated to American and European dance were largely performed by Western Strings while the Asian and some of the Eastern European numbers were set to recorded music.
Dancers on stage ranged from single performers to the entire cast of 26 dancers.
"I think what is unique about our group is we are bringing different people together and representing different cultures," Walker said. "Although we might have similar ideas, they are manifested differently, and performing something that is unified is a really great experience for anyone involved in the group."
The choreography was seamless, and in one performance, a female dancer didn't get her costume assembled in time, but she arrived on stage, stepped into the number and her transition was barely noticed.
The variety, color and style of the costumes, particularly those of the female dancers, spoke well of the organization and vast array of behind-the-scenes personnel working to deliver a performance at such a high level.
"The costumes are a lot of the performance and are almost as important as the dancing itself to show the culture," Walker said. "Every dance we perform is different, which requires a different costume change each time."
Irish, American Scottish, Hungarian, Romanian, Slovakian and Ukrainian dance joined with performances dedicated to "Bollywood" in modern India and the "Sixteen Hospitalities" from Indian antiquity that were melded with Puerto Rican and American performances.
When asked what his favorite dance to perform was, Walker explained that it varies on what mood he finds himself in before the curtain goes up.
"Typically I enjoy the gypsy dance, because it is very free and soulful with a lot of intricate footwork," he said. "It is mostly men, so you get to be a little more macho."
In one dazzling spectacle, eight female dancers spun in a circle during a Romanian-themed dance. The choreography was so perfect that the eight differently colored pleated skirts created a chromatic spectrum with perfect gradients from the red end of the infra-red spectrum to the violet of the ultra-violet wavelength.
In another, five male dancers were spaced with a female dancer in between in a whirling circle of color. The young women interlocked their extended arms, and the young men lifted the five women above their heads while continuing to spin, in effect creating a human Chinese lantern.
"I think a lot of people hear folk dance and picture old people shuffling around when in reality, there are acrobatics, cute numbers, sass, educational aspects, uplifting dances, and you leave the auditorium having no regrets over what you just watched," Walker said.
The International Folk Dance Ensemble has performed in more than 60 countries since its inception 56 years ago at BYU.
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