byu_christmasspectacularThe annual “Christmas Around the World” celebration at Brigham Young University featuring the International Folk Dance Ensemble with special guests Voice of Africa will take place Friday and Saturday, Dec. 2-3, at 7:30 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday in the Marriott Center.

Tickets are available through the Marriott Center Ticket Office, (801) 422-2981, or at byutickets.com. Tickets cost $12, $15, $25 or $9 with a student ID (limit two for students).

The performance has been celebrated by thousands of young dancers since 1960, and this year’s theme, “A Journey through Time,” will feature more than 200 talented dancers, singers and musicians in colorful costumes. The group will perform dances and music from 13 countries across the globe, including Hungary, Israel, Scandinavia, Africa and Ukraine.

After 27 years at the helm, director Ed Austin has handed the baton this year to Jeanette Geslison, who has taken the production to a new level. Nearly half the program will be brand new numbers and the rest have been newly restaged for this year’s performance. 

The new program has not come together without a lot of hard work, however.

“To take the reins by myself has definitely been a challenge,” said Geslison. “It’s been exciting, but definitely a challenge.”

BYU_christmasspectacular2“I’ve been a little overwhelmed with all the decisions to be made, but it is exciting and I’m really thrilled to be involved in this. Our program keeps me moving forward,” she said

This is the first year the BYU folk dance teams will be joined by Voice of Africa, a local group founded in 2008 that performs in order to express the struggles, beauty and passion of Africa. Geslison is excited to welcome African dance to “Christmas Around the World.”

“We’ve never had an African dance group perform in ‘Christmas Around the World’,” said Geslison. “And even though they are not a huge group, they will add a cultural flare to our concert that has been unheard for many years, so I’m excited that we get to represent their culture this year.”

The students will highlight the diversity of the countries they are representing and encourage the audience to be more understanding of those who are different than ourselves.

“Almost everyone has some kind of international connection,” said Geslison. “As the students are producing these cultural dance forms, they express a wish and a hope that we can be more understanding in our world today and enjoy each other’s uniqueness.”