When someone says “American style of dance”, the first thing that pops to mind is probably something along the lines of country line dancing, hip-hop, Michael Jackson, or scenes from Footloose.
From a country spanning no less than six different time zones filled with people from, presently or ancestrally, every corner of the world, it’s fair to say there’s a little more to expect.
Hailing from Rexburg, Idaho, the American Rhythm Dance Company is out to show just how much Americans have to offer the world of dance at this year’s International Summerfest.
A team of twenty elite young dancers, including Pro Male and Jr. Female grand champions, American Rhythm covers the basic hip hop, tap, and jazz styles, and then explodes into a fantastic array of other dance forms.
Keeping in touch all the while with the historical and cultural roots of the American Melting Pot, other dance styles to keep an eye out for include World War II-era swing and tap, Frontier dances, the Charleston Medley and Southern Waltz, Hula, and traditional Native American dances.
American Rhythm was founded by directors Twilla Mann and Gary and Mindy Larsen in 2010. Previously having participated in international dance festivals, they’re well aware of the unique experiences that these events present. Members of the dance company travel, perform, and make friends with fellow performers and people from the world over.
According to Mindy Larsen, “In some of the festivals we visit the dancers from all the different nations live in one big hostel or boarding school. We eat, dance, and socialize with each other all day and sometimes late into the night.” At the festival, often teams will swap dance styles as well as culture. Leaping the language barrier, the host team during American Rhythm’s three week trip to Portugal last year taught their guests traditional Portuguese folk dances. The year previous, American Rhythm taught the Czech and French teams games without being able to speak each other’s languages.
The team, mostly members of the LDS Church, has also broken preconceived notions about their religion while traveling. Homestay families in France, expecting something closer to the Amish of Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County, were quite surprised to meet their t-shirts and jeans, cell phone and iPod sporting guests.
The group became the host team of Rexburg’s Summerfest in 2011. Since then, the team has been to France and Portugal, and will be going to France and Germany next year. They’ve shared the stage with Brazilian, Chinese, Russian, Egyptian, Mexican, and many other teams.