In March 2016, 11 BFA and MFA dancers traveled to Salvador, Brazil, under the direction of Chair Susan Hadley, to perform in six community sites including schools, community dance centers and theaters. The narrated performances addressed a history shared by the U.S. and Brazil -- the presence of indigenous peoples, the arrival of colonizing Europeans and the forced migration of African cultures through the slave trade. This history created new dance and music forms throughout the Americas; thus the repertory included modern dance, street dance, body percussion, tap and the Charleston performed to jazz, hip-hop, bluegrass, folk, rock and contemporary music. Most of the performances ended in an impromptu dance party, with students, teachers and audience members young and old dancing with the Ohio State students, sharing the latest popular dances.
Ohio State dancers also studied with Brazilian dance masters in Capoeira, Afro-Brazilian, Orisha dances, Samba, Forro and other social dances. They took historical, panoramic tours of the city and attended many cultural events, museums and concerts.
Preparation for this Education Abroad experience included six months of rehearsals to create and learn 12 dances, eight of which were choreographed by students. They practiced the show for excited audiences in the Barnett Theatre and three Columbus Public Schools. A required course in Brazilian history and culture, deepened understandings of race, class, religion and difference, and heightened sensitivities around visiting new countries. The students applied for (and received) grants and scholarships to fund their trip and creative research projects that included choreography, videography, arts administration and teaching.
Students describe this experience: “the most important learning experience I have ever had…… transformative….. I will never be the same….. I learned so much about myself, my country, and the world……. I have changed what I want to do with my dance training……. I need to give back to my community….. dance transcends language barriers…..cultural exchange makes a difference.” Certainly this confirms OSU Dance’s mission to reach out to local, national and international communities through initiatives like the Brazil Dance Tour Group.
The Brazil Tour Group included Quilan Arnold, Erica Jackson, Callie Lacinski, Chloe Napoletano, Mary Chase Pierson, Charlotte Stickles, Cyrah Ward, Calder White, Asha Whitfield, Gabriela Wiltz, with Joshua Manculich, assistant director and Fernando Morato, interpreter.
For more check out Gabriella Wiltz’s blog, BFA Dance and Video Arts Minor, or check out the video created by Gabriella below.