Undergraduate Student Spotlight: Asha Whitfield

Dance Student’s Senior Project Centered on Brazil Dance Tour

By Molly Kime (BA Strategic Communication ’16)

Over spring break, a group of 11 dance majors—nine undergraduates and two graduate students—traveled to Salvador, Brazil to perform and engage with the rich Brazilian culture. One company member was Asha Whitfield, a senior dance major and the trip’s production manager.

She used the Brazil Dance Tour Group as her senior project, exploring her role in a dance company as an arts administrator, social media manager, music technician and choreographer. She worked alongside company members, studying the cultural and historical intersection between the United States and Brazil in relation to the works being produced.

“I wanted to find the material that people used to inspire themselves and see how history affects us all differently—sparking that creative juice in different ways,” said Whitfield. “My project was hands on: what’s it like to be an arts administrator, managing people, getting times set up, the music and, of course, the bigger picture of actually dancing!”

Organized by Susan Hadley, chair of the Department of Dance, the study abroad trip was part of the Global Gateways program and was funded by Hadley’s Ratner Award, as well as College of Arts and Sciences awards including the Keith and Linda Monda International Scholarship Awards.

“None of us spoke Portuguese at all and because of that language barrier, it provided a unique opportunity for dance to flourish,” said Whitfield. “When our words failed us, dance was our language. It became our connecting point, which in turn added so much value and depth to our art form.”

Twelve pieces were developed in total. While the dancers expected to host performances once they arrived, they weren’t expecting the trip to have such a large impact.

“The trip itself was way more than I could have ever expected,” said Whitfield. “For a lot of us I don’t think we realized how service-oriented it was going to be. We thought we would just be performing like a company would, but it turned out to be so much more.

“All in all, it’s the people that make the place,” said Whitfield. “Everyone we met in Brazil was so giving of themselves, and to see how much they cared about us after such a short period of time was incredible. Since dance was a large part of the culture already, you could just see on their faces the pure joy that dancing gives them, which made us happy too. We all love to dance and it was beautiful to be a part of that exchange.”