Free Speech Plaza  is known as a place with no regulations, where students can express themselves as they wish. 

Agriculture education junior Zachary Wright took it upon himself to exercise his First Amendment rights Monday afternoon through dance. Wright represents Louisiana in the nationwide photography project, Dance Across the U.S.A. 

Created by photographer Jonathan Givens, the project aims to showcase the “variety and beauty” of the United States and the dancers who live here,according to the Dance Across the U.S.A. website. 

Wright applied as a dancer in May. He submitted an online application after seeing a Facebook advertisement. More than 2,800 people submitted applications, according to the project’s website.

“Frankly, I didn’t think I stood out compared to some of the other dancers selected,” Wright said. “But I think because I’m an Eagle Scout, my application shined because this project benefits the national parks.”

With an almost 20 percent drop in national park visitation per capita since 1993, Dance Across the U.S.A. hopes to spark an increased interest in dance and, subsequently, national parks. 

Givens plans to photograph dancers at national parks, national historic locations and state parks in all 50 states. The images will then be compiled into a book, which will be sold to benefit America’s national parks and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Dancers will be photographed near glaciers, lakes, canyons, the White House and everything in between, the project’s website explains.

Having danced since he was three years old, Wright has dabbled in ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary and hip hop. As he pursues a minor in dance, he said he hopes to become a choreographer later in life. 

After being selected as a finalist, Wright sent in a picture of himself dressed in form-fitting clothing from head-to-toe, along with a video showcasing his dancing skills. 

Wright, along with the two other Louisiana dancers, Kaylie Wood and Darrian Callais, met Givens in New Orleans’ Jackson Square in early July for the shoot. They were also photographed at the Washington Artillery Monument on Bourbon Street and in Pirate’s Alley next to St. Louis Cathedral. 

Most of his poses for the photoshoot were hip-hop moves.

“A number of people stopped and watched us,” Wright said. “They wondered what we were doing. Some people seemed surprised and kept walking, but others stayed around for a while and took their own photos.” 

Describing the project as “mind-blowing,” Wright  said Dance Across the U.S.A. displays the beauty of the U.S.’ national parks along with the beauty of the dancers, representing different ages and backgrounds.

“It’s an honor to represent Louisiana, especially with everything that’s been going on with the recent flooding,” Wright said.

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