Dance and Visual Arts: A collaborative research between American and Brazilian art educators and students

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How identity may be explored, adapted, and changed through collaborative art making? To delve into this question in a practical yet reflective manner, this interdisciplinary study was conducted as a partnership between Brazil and the United States.



Alba Pedreira Vieira, Federal University of Vicosa, Brazil,; Claudio Jose Magalhaes, Federal University of Vicosa, Brazil,; Laurie Thompson Merriman,  Illinois State University, USA,; Sara Semonis, Illinois State University, USA,


How identity may be explored, adapted, and changed through collaborative art making? To delve into this question in a practical yet reflective manner, this interdisciplinary study was conducted as a partnership between Brazil and the United States. The investigation included two Brazilian and two American professors and seventy-five students in Dance and Architecture from the Federal University of Vicosa/FUV (Brazil) and Illinois State University (USA). The initial challenge in this collaborative effort was to assemble students from cross-disciplinary art forms and cultural backgrounds in the construction of new knowledge and development of collaborative work. American students, along with faculty, came to FUV in Brazil for two weeks sharing and exchanging artistic, academic and cultural works, knowledge and practices with their Brazilian counterparts. The study adopts a qualitative research paradigm and uses participant observation, individual and collective informal dialogues, students and professors’ journals, photos and videos taken throughout the field work processes, such as: 1) dance classes; 2) creative laboratories with all professors and students; and, 3) a structured improvisation performed at the theater. This collaborative research work remains in progress. After cycles of analysis, the findings from the fieldwork conducted suggests this kind of experience could be one possibility to explore the collaborative process between artists from different nationalities and disciplines within the fine arts in order to promote hybrid, dynamic and fluid constructions of identity that may challenge the maintenance of clearly demarcated identities in the face of transnational relations (Duffy, 2005). We also use Michelle Duffy’s (2010) and Risner and Stinson’s (2010) ideas of art and identity, which parallels our understanding of change; Vieira’s (2007) notion of “productive loss” in portraying how, we observed, students explored the sense of being between cultures and may have experienced ‘dislocation’ in a positive manner. The students’ meanings, in general, express how the project expanded their identities as ‘partner-beings’ throughout twinning experiences, and how they embodied art as one important process through which identity may be constituted.

Keywords: dance, identity, exchange, university, collaboration

brazilians and americans students

Brazilian and American students during the creative process

students and professors during the creative process

Professors and students during the creative process

Students during the dance creative process

Students during the dance creative process


i] Research funded by DaCi Across Borders Research Initiative, FAPEMIG and CNPq.


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© 2015, Alba Vieira, Claudio Magalhaes, Laurie Merriman, Sara Semonis.

VIEIRA, A. P. ; MAGALHAES, C. J. ; MERRIMAN, L. ; SEMONIS, S. . Dance and Visual Arts: A collaborative experience between American and Brazilian art educators and students. In: Proceedings of The 13th Dance and the Child International Congress “‘Twist and Twin’ Exploring Identities in Dance”. Copenhagen, Denmark: KL Grafik, 2015, p. 62-63.

Alba Vieira, Ph.D., is Associate Dance Professor at Federal University of Vicosa, Brazil, author of book chapters and papers in Brazil and abroad, the organizer of the digital book “Education for the Arts” (2010), and the co-writer of the Dance Report and Recommendations by the “Experts on Art Education in Latin America and the Caribbean – Unesco”. Her work has been presented in several venues including NDEO and CORD conferences, and published in several journals including Dance Therapy, Dance Current Selected Research, Possible Dialogues and Journal Scene. At the university level, she teaches undergraduate courses in composition, dance history and somatics.

Claudio Jose Magalhaes is a professor in the Department of Architecture at the Federal University of Vicosa, Brazil. He works professionally as an artist, especially in drawing and painting. Has a Master of Arts degree from the School of Fine Arts, Federal University of Bahia and a Ph.D. in Arts from the Faculty of Fine Arts at the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain. As a professor he teaches courses in design, and visual arts and Art History, and as a painter he produces works inspired by contemporary art, having held several solo and group exhibitions in Brazil and Spain.

Laurie Merriman, Professor of Dance/Assistant Dean of Research, College of Fine Arts at Illinois State University. She has choreographed well over 70 works (ballet and contemporary dance) performed nationally and internationally. She has served in several administrative positions, as a guest speaker at numerous conferences, and initiated and implemented collaborative grants/partnerships across the arts and arts education. She also currently serves as the Dance Chair for Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts, co-director of the Coleman Fellows, and grant writer for the College.

Sara Semonis is an Associate Professor and Head of the Dance Program at Illinois State University. She has served on the American College Dance Festival National Board (Central Region) and is currently a member of the National Dance Education Organization. She has created over 60 choreographic works that have been performed in both the United States and abroad. She teaches technique courses in modern and jazz, with additional courses in dance pedagogy, composition, and dance kinesiology. She is currently a member on the Council for Teacher Education and serves as dance faculty at the renowned Interlochen Summer Arts Institute.