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'Passport to Dance' series brings culture to UA through dance

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Cyrus Norcross | The Daily Wildcat

Dancers share the Colheita Dance on the University of Arizona Mall during Brazilian Independence Day on Sept. 7. Passport to Dance featured three different dance's from three separate cultures, including Egyptian Belly Dance, a traditional Cuban dance and Brazilian Capoeira.

The University of Arizona Office of Global Initiatives partnered with Campus Recreation to host three dance classes called Passport to Dance, with each highlighting a different culture. The last class, featuring Egyptian Belly Dance, was held Nov. 15.

The other classes covered Latin Dance and Brazilian Capoeira. Students attending all three classes got their “passport” stamped. Submerging students in culture through dance exposed them to the difficulties and curiosities that characterize the experience of living in a new country through UA Study Abroad.

The first class in the series featured Cuban Rueda de Casino, a traditional Latin American dance. The dance, a type of Salsa, is performed in a circle. The UA offers an opportunity to visit Cuba through Contemporary Cuba: Collective Visions, a study abroad program. 

This home-stay program immerses students in Cuba’s rich history while they study Spanish.

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Brazilian Capoeira is a popular Afro-Brazilian Martial art, combining dance, acrobatics and music. The class incorporated both martial art and dance elements, as students moved to the beat of a live drum.

“We learn about life, friendship and culture through the lens of Capoeira,” said Sean Arnold, the president of the UA Capoeira club.

Students joining the club have the opportunity to learn from teachers traveling to Arizona from around the world. The UA provides students with the opportunity to experience this art first-hand through the Arizona in Brazil Portuguese summer program.

Egyptian Belly Dance, a celebratory dance from the Middle East, was shared with students by Taruni Kancharla, an Eller College of Management MBA student. Kancharla began belly dance a year ago, crediting the dance as an outlet of personal development and cultural immersion.

“When I came to the U.S., I didn’t know anything — how to swim, ride a bike, cook. Because I never do anything crazy, I decided to belly dance,” Kancharla said.

Belly dance has connected Kancharla with a community here in the U.S. as well as cultures from around the world through her art. The Passport to Dance class gave her the first opportunity to share this art through teaching.

“I dance with Arabic women, Turkish women, Egyptian women,” Kancharla said. “Interacting with women from all over the world I have grown and seen how they move, entirely differently.”

The UA sends students to Egypt each year on a summer trip called Arizona in Ancient Egypt. This trip offers a brief but intensive look into archaeological fieldwork and museum research.

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UA student Mely Bohlman attended the three part series in preparation for her upcoming study abroad experience next summer in Brazil. Capoeira gave Bohlman a taste of a traditional Brazilian art form that she will get to learn more about during her studies with Global Initiatives.

“I was able to learn about other cultures while having fun,” Bohlman said. “Dancing is a beautiful art form that can be shared by many people.”

UA students have access to a variety of study abroad programs, which they can connect to through the Office of Global Initiatives search engine. Dance classes for Latin Dance, Brazilian Capoeira and Egyptian Belly Dance are all offered in the Tucson area.


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