The 2018 Ohio State University Brazil Dance Tour is a unique study abroad experience that was specifically created for Ohio State dance majors with a desire to reach beyond American dance education and experience movement in the context of global diversity. This unparalleled experience allowed twelve hand-picked students to tour internationally, gain first-hand experience with Afro-Brazilian culture, and grow in a new and exciting environment. For nearly six months, we worked to learn and rehearse ten repertory pieces that were performed all throughout the Brazilian state of Bahia. Each piece was crafted to reflect the substantial impact that the African Diaspora has left on American dance. Led by assistant professor Daniel Roberts, the tour kicked off on March 3rd, 2018. Together, we left Columbus, Ohio to explore Salvador de Bahia, Brazil for two weeks.
I found that performing as a member of the 2018 Brazil Tour Group allowed me to gain a better understanding of the way things culturally operate outside of the United States. Based on all that I saw and experienced, my views on dance, religion, and communication have expanded immensely. One thing that will forever ring through my bones and provide inspiration is how deeply woven dance is in Brazilian culture. It doesn’t matter if you’re praying in church, eating lunch at a restaurant, or even walking down the street – these are all moments to dance. In Crystal Michelle Perkins’ piece for our tour, The Amen Corner, we explore how the line between church and celebration was blurred by Africans through dance. People would groove all night at parties that bled into mass the following morning. In Brazil, I saw this concept come to life as people found opportunities to dance wherever they were. In our culture, this idea is non-existent, so I am grateful for being able to experience it first hand in Brazil.
Over the course of our tour, we were able to take a variety of classes from Brazilian dance masters that focused in everything from samba to capoeira. Although my body struggled to pickup the polyrhythms behind each technique, I was able to celebrate movement alongside my peers without getting caught up in “looking good”. The culture in Brazil seems to emphasize this idea – the idea that dance is a celebratory device for feeling good and appreciating what we have. Each instructor fed us movement with very little words and huge, contagious smiles. I found that in spite of the language barrier, we were able to communicate through movement and music alone. This is something I experienced after our performances as well whenever we had the chance to engage with the audience. Most of our “gigs” were held at local schools, and the children always went crazy! I’ve never seen young people find the kind of excitement in dance that they did after watching us. We’d leave the stage and immediately get attacked with hugs, kisses, and autograph books. Even though my Portuguese isn’t too sharp, I was able to hold conversations with them through movement alone.
Seeing the notion that “dance is a universal language” come to life was such a blessing. Coming back to the US, I have started to ask fewer questions and rely more on my eye to pickup choreography when working in the studio. By actively listening, using eye contact, and mapping the bodies of my peers and instructors, I have formed deeper connections with those around me. I’ve also been able to understand, interpret, and pick up movement more efficiently! Without the experience of communicating with the children in Brazil, my toolbox would lack this approach.
All that I experienced in Brazil might have been fed to me in just two short weeks, however I know that every moment will ring through my bones for a lifetime. I grew up as a dancer, however I’ve never really been able to experience dance outside of Ohio. Traveling to Salvador has opened my eyes to possibilities that movement can bring, especially on a global level. Down the road, I aspire to teach dance as a way for me to give back to the community while fulfilling my desire to work with children and help them find growth in exciting and healthy ways. I know that once my future career as an educator kicks off, I’ll bring pieces of Brazil with me to share with my students. My goal will to create environments where people can safely explore and celebrate their unique architectures without feeling pressure to do anything other have a blast.
To read more about my trip, visit www.osudancebrazil.wordpress.com. I created and managed the site myself, so I hope you enjoy!