Dance Faculty, Students Get in Step with Brazil

A group of Dance students and faculty from the University of Wisconsin–Madison traveled to Brazil this summer, to study dance alongside Brazilian peers and to perform at two-day festival in Rio de Janeiro.

This experience stems from an international exchange project that began in June 2010, explains Jin-Wen Yu, professor and chair of the Dance Department.

“I invited professors Leda Muhana and David Iannitelli from UFBA (Universidade Federal of Bahia), to teach a three-week workshop and choreograph a dance for students from UW–Madison and two other universities from Australia and Taiwan. The dance was performed in New York City in mid-July 2010 at the opening concert of World Dance Alliance Global Dance Events. “

Muhana, who directs the School of Dance at UFBA, arranged for 15 UW–Madison students, accompanied by Yu and two other faculty members (Chris Walker and Kate Corby), to spend three weeks in June at UFBA, in Salvador, Brazil. There, they took classes, rehearsed and learned about the culture.

Yu says: “Their faculty and students are thrilled to take classes and dance with our faculty and students. Our faculty and students are amazed how much they can offer and enrich our dancing education and experiences. The cultural experiences for our faculty and students are extremely rich.

“This is my third trip to UFBA and I am very satisfied that my colleagues and students felt powerful and fruitful in this visit.”

Yu credits UW–Madison Dance alumna Nora Stephens (B.S. ’00 in dance) for arranging for the UW–Madison dancers to participate in Arte ao Vivo, a two-day live arts festival in Rio. Two years ago, Stephens moved to Rio two years ago and now co-directs this new festival.

The UW–Madison group spent July 1-5 in Rio, where they rehearsed, performed, and toured the city’s major landmarks and monuments. The performances included solos by Yu and Walker, and a group performance on a plaza above a major subway station.

Breann Woodruff, one of the participating students, talks about her experiences:

“My initial impression of Brazil was that it was a country full of welcoming people, who took it upon themselves to immerse us into their culture and introduce us to many new experiences that are important to them and their lives.

“My most interesting experience was being invited to a Candomble ceremony. This religion is practiced primarily in Brazil. At the public portion of the ritual, which we attended, the participants invoke the Orixas and fall into a trance-like state. It was amazing to witness this ritual and be a part of something so sacred to them. It is something that I would never be able to experience somewhere else, and something I will never forget.

“What I had hoped to gain from this experience was the ability to take advantage of all the opportunities set in front of me and also to make it my mission to discover new opportunities on my own. I think I have done a pretty good job on this trip.”

–by Kerry G. Hill