“BYU Group Performs Worldwide,” Ensign, Aug. 1981, 78–79
Within the past season, BYU’s Modern Dance Team has toured the southern United States and Puerto Rico. The Ballroom Dance Team has come back from England. One group of Young Ambassadors visited Scandinavia and a second toured Romania, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia. And the BYU Folk Dancers received enormous coverage in their five-city tour of the People’s Republic of China, not only performing for large audiences but being televised for an estimated 150 million people.
The Folk Dancers were accompanied by BYU President Jeffrey Holland and Elder Boyd K. Packer and their wives. According to Susan Hall of the BYU Daily Universe, Chinese officials “repeatedly told us that in the length and breadth of China, BYU is the most famous university.”
Three BYU groups have toured that nation and several groups of Chinese government officials have visited BYU campus. President Holland commented that the performers and accompanying officials were “very open about the Church’s sponsorship of the university.”
The six week tour was sponsored in China by the All-China Youth Federation, a government organization. The dancers also performed in Hawaii, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Even before the tour was finished, officials from the People’s Republic of China invited BYU to send “another performing group to their country next year,” according to tour director Bruce L. Olsen.
The Modern Dance Team, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, taught classes, workshops, and gave concerts throughout a tour that included Texas, Louisiana, and a two-week stay in Miami. They also performed at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaquez.
The Ballroom Dance Team went to Blackpool, England, to compete in the world’s most prestigious ballroom dance competition. They placed first in both modern dance and Latin American categories, the third time that American teams have garnered such honors in the past fifty-six years. Lee Wakefield, director of BYU’s Ballroom Dance Team, had directed the two California teams that had previously won the awards. He and his wife placed second as a couples team. The dancers also performed for thousands of Latter-day Saints between London and Blackpool as part of the tour.
One group of Young Ambassadors toured Scandinavia for five and a half weeks. The tour included Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo, Helsinki, and Reykjavik, the first time the Young Ambassadors had gone to Iceland. The group also performed on Finnish National Television, visited hospitals, and took its show to factories and schools.
The second group toured Romania, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia for five weeks. They were accompanied by Elder and Sister Gordon B. Hinckley, with Jae R. Ballif, BYU provost and academic vice president, and former BYU basketball star Kresimir Cosic of Yugoslavia.
BYU’s Folk Dancers also toured the Orient for a month in June and July, performing in Korea, the Philippines, Japan, and Hawaii. In addition to twenty-four folk dancers, the troupe also included two Indian dancers and a five-piece western band. For the first time, the dancers performed in USO shows in Korea; they also performed five times in Manila’s largest auditorium under the personal sponsorship of Imelda Marcos, first lady of the Philippines, and represented the United States at “Portopia 81,” an event similar to a world’s fair in Kobe, Japan. In each show, they included a folk dance from the country in which they were performing.