By Jonathan Schroeder
Grace, poise, attention to detail….and all while wearing two-inch heels under what feels like a pound of facial makeup and blazing 100-degree stage lights. Ever since she was 10 years old, that’s been Janica Holden’s world, as a competitive dancer and now as a member of BYU’s prestigious Ballroom Dance Company.
Over the past two years, Holden has graced the dancefloors of the National Dancesport competition in Provo, performed in front of thousands in Argentina and Chile, and has appeared in viral videos alongside BYU Vocal Point and Studio C.
“I’ve done ballroom since I was so little that sometimes I just think that that’s just how life is, Holden says. “I mean, doesn’t everyone go to practice after school? I forget that that’s not always normal.”
Holden started dancing competitively in 4th grade as part of her school’s ballroom program. Eventually, she joined BYU’s Youth Program and began competing in the annual Dancesport competitions at the BYU Marriott Center.
“As a kid, I think my favorite thing about dancing was practicing,” Holden recalls. “Most people like the competitions, but I just liked being able to practice, work hard, and feeel like I was improving. I felt like an Olympic athlete who was constantly training. I enjoyed driving myself to be better.”
Holden’s practice paid off. During high-school, she was granted a scholarship to be on the back-up tour team for the BYU Ballroom Dance Company where she excelled in the smooth and standard dance genres. Now two years later, Holden has become one of the stars of the Ballroom Dance Company tour team. This past summer, the team dazzled South American audiences during a tour of Chile and Argentina.
“I love all the people we get to meet on tour,” Holden remarks. “While we were in Chile and Argentina, we had a lot of opportunities to interact with other dance groups. Even though I didn’t speak Spanish, it was cool to be able to dance with them and experience the culture through dance.”
Life on the tour team is no cakewalk. Each show contains around 13 specific dance numbers; each one requiring extraordinary amounts of grace and technical skill. Before the tour even begins, team members devote countless hours to practicing and perfecting their routine. Once on tour, the focus then turns to setting up lights and sound, applying make-up and elaborate costumes, and engaging with the audience. By the end of the tour the dance team will have repeated this process nearly 12 times.
“For me, dancing is a way of expressing yourself without using words,” Holden reflects. “I love being able to dance on the floor and perform, but at the same time still be in my own little world. I don’t like telling people how I feel; I prefer to show them.”
As if her life didn’t seem busy enough, Holden also finds ways to express herself off the dance floor by practicing the Healer’s Art. A second-semester nursing student, Holden loves actively helping people and is thinking about working in an ICU after graduation.
“As much as I love dancing, it’s kind of a crazy world to get into,” Holden says. “I knew if I wanted to have a family someday, I’d have to find something else.”
So during her senior year of high-school, Holden decided to do an internship on a hospital Coronary Care Unit (CCU). She absolutely loved the experience, and made the decision to pursue a career in nursing; at about the same time that she was offered the Ballroom Dance Company scholarship.
On any given weekday, Holden will spend two to four hours practicing with the team and separately with her dance partner. This is on top of her rigorous nursing course-load, clinicals, and a part-time job working at a tax office. When asked how she manages to find time to get everything done, she says the secret is in the planning.
“My calendar is my best friend,” she explains. “I have to have things very planned out; I can’t just “go with the flow”. I have to know when I’m going to do things; homework time, dance time, etc. because if I don’t plan it out, time escapes so quickly. When I take the time to plan things out, it’s amazing how everything just fits in.”
Sadly, Holden says her competitive dancing days are probably coming to an end once she and her husband (and Ballroom dance partner), Matt, graduate from BYU. However, until then, she says she plans enjoy the time she has with BYU’s diverse dance program.
“One thing I love about BYU’s Ballroom program is that there are so many different levels and options available. You can do anything from taking basic 100-level dance classes to trying out for upper level tour teams. Whatever you feel like you can do, there are options for it.”
Janica and Matt will be performing in the BYU Dance in Concert Showcase at the BYU Marriott Center on April 6 and 7.