The Dance Brazil study abroad program was a two-week dance tour led by professor Daniel Roberts in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. Prior to the trip itself, our group of twelve dancers learned ten dance works and researched the history, culture, and language of Brazil. Once in Brazil, the program introduced us to Brazilian art and culture with the experiences of performing around Brazil, studying with Brazilian dance masters, learning first-hand about Afro-Brazilian culture, and engaging in cultural exchange with Brazilian dancers.
While in Brazil, I actually learned more about myself as a person. Throughout school, I have always been asked if I want to be a dance teacher and teach children. My answer has always been, “I want to work with children, but I’m not sure if that is what I am meant to do.” However, after working with children at Ohio State and performing for children in Brazil, my views on that have changed. When we performed dance for the children, they were ecstatically happy. They were so grateful to watch us dance, more grateful than any audience I have ever performed for before. They wanted to ask us questions about everything, learn from us, and show us their own dance moves! I also saw children who learned dance and music in impoverished schools. These children were so invested and passionate about their arts, even though they were living in poverty. I realized that art was such an important outlet for them.
Thus, my time with these children made me sure that my future lies in working with children. I connected with these children, and I wanted to teach them and learn from them. The trip and my experiences assuaged my earlier fears if children would like me and if they would want to appreciate dance and art. These passionate kids assured me that I should be working with children, and they convinced me that I can use art to make an impact on them.
During my STEP project, we performed for a variety of elementary and middle schools in Brazil. The interactions with these school children had a huge impact on me.
On one particular day, we performed at Escola Horácio de Matos, the largest public school in Brazil, located in Lencois. We performed on half of an outdoor basketball court with children watching us on three sides. This was a very small space, so we had to be professional and flexible, modifying our dances to fit the space. During each dance, the children cheered and yelled exuberantly! After the performance, the children swarmed us! They gave us big hugs, asked to take photos with us, and asked for our autographs. They were so loving and grateful.
Another day, we performed at a small elementary school in a favela in Salvador. The children watched us with so much admiration, and when we were finished dancing, they ran up to us and hugged us and asked us lots and lots of questions. Then, they preceded to show us the dancing they knew! One child even came up to me and asked (with gesturing since we did not speak the same language) for me to teach him part of our dances. Using rhythm and body language, I taught this boy a small part of one of our dances. He was so excited and worked over and over to get the steps correctly. After a little bit, he had the steps correct, and we danced them together. It was so amazing that even though we could not speak to each other, we could really connect on a dance level. Another child approached me and wanted to show me that she could do a split. Then, she gestured for me to join her.
At another place in Salvador, we visited a school where children living in impoverished favelas learned to play music. We performed for them, and then they performed for us. They were so talented, and we could not believe how well they played for their age. However, even more striking was how happy they looked when they were performing. They seemed to love performing and were so proud of themselves for what they were accomplishing.
I felt so much joy meeting these children and sharing a love of dance and art with them. They just wanted to dance and learn. It was so wonderful and human.
This connection I experienced in Brazil with these children is important to my future. I want to spend my career working with children. My dream career is to be an occupational therapist who utilizes dance as a form of therapy to help children with motor goals. I saw that we could connect with children so much on a level of rhythm and movement, in a way that words just can not communicate. I saw the joy that dance brings children, and I want to continue bringing that love of movement and art to children in my career.