Ross School - Senior Project 2008-09

Student: Paige Diner

Mentor: Debra McCall/Dale Scott

Title: Brazilian Fusion


For my project I choreographed two Brazilian/modern dances. I used inspiration from my M-Term trip last year to Bahia, Brazil where we studied Afro-Brazilian music and dance. I absolutely loved the culture and was able to express myself through the movements and rhythms we learned. Because the Brazilian culture meant so much to me I decided to fuse it with the concept of dance that my project already focused on. I chose modern Brazilian music and incorporated the style of dance I learned along with the style of dance I already knew and loved. I learned a lot of from choreographing an unknown and unfamiliar style of dance; it was a challenge and my body and my mind benefited from it. I practiced almost every day after school, either in the movement room, at Southampton Youth Services, or at my house. I also attended multiple ballet classes throughout the weeks that helped prepare my body for the strength and flexibility necessary for my product.


Video Clips (1, 2)


In May of Junior year I did not have any plan as to what I was going to do for my Senior Project. I knew that I wanted to dance, but I had no idea what theme to choose to tie my dances together. Also, I didn’t have a mentor until September of Senior year because there are no full-time dance teachers at Ross. So over the summer, I brainstormed on my own and continued taking ballet classes, but had no project to begin. Finally, after finding out who my mentors were and choosing Sheryl Hastalis as my Outside Consultant, I was able to brainstorm with them and come up with a concept for my project. By October I was ready to begin choreographing my dances.

I chose to incorporate Brazilian dance styles into my own personal dance background of lyrical, ballet, modern, and world because I went to Salvador da Bahia, Brazil last March with the school for M-Term. It was there that I discovered a culture so passionate about music and dance and it really inspired me to challenge myself as a dancer and learn foreign dance styles. I focused on the Afro-Brazilian dance styles, Samba and Capoeira, because Salvador da Bahia is actually closer to the coastline of Africa than other parts of Brazil. In the 1500s, the Portuguese brought slaves over from Africa and since then Brazil has had a huge African influence.

My goals throughout my project were to challenge myself as a dancer and a choreographer, and to not stray too far from the Afro-Brazilian theme. It was difficult to not fall into my own style that I am so used to. I also really wanted to expand this style that I call my own and become a more diverse and talented dancer. Another goal was to work on my stage presence and master the stage.

Of course, there were a few challenges along the way. First of all, not having a mentor until late September this year was frustrating, but finding the right music was also a challenge. I didn’t want a raw Afro-Brazilian beat because I wanted to stick to the “New Age Brazilian” theme and incorporate a more modern sound. But with the help of Sheryl’s CDs and iTunes, I was able to find two perfect songs. Another challenge was that I was “dancing in a vacuum” as Sheryl and my mentors pointed out to me—I was attempting to teach myself Samba rather than learning from a professional, so I took their advice and went into the city to take Afro-Brazilian and Samba classes at Djoniba Dance & Drum Centre. Dancing in two-inch heels was also difficult because they are slippery and pretty hard to dance in. The last challenge was finding someone to help me out with lighting for the performance and luckily Ryan Anderson, a sophomore at Ross, agreed to design the lighting for me. It was very helpful since lighting is a huge part of a dance performance.

Over the process I grew as a dancer and a choreographer and gained strength and poise. I developed my stage presence through exercises and practice, practice, practice. I also added so much style and personality to my own unique style. I am very happy with my project overall—I feel accomplished and proud of my work.

Works Consulted

"Atabaque Drum." Dicionário Cravo Albin da Música Popular Brasiliera. 15 Dec. 2008 <>.

"Candomblé." Religion and Ethics. 2 Feb. 2007. BBC News. 8 Dec. 2008 <>.

Dancing in the Light: Six Dances by African-American Choreographers. Prod. Jodee Nimerichter. Dir. Madison Davis Lacy. DVD. The American Dance Festival, 2007.

Fryer, Peter. Rhythms of Resistance: African Musical Heritage in Brazil. New York: Wesleyan UP, 2000.

Grupo Corpo. Dir. Fernando Velloso. Prod. Bernhard Pederneiras. Perf. Dance Theatre From Brazil. DVD. 2001.

"History of Carnival in Rio." IPACOM Travel. 10 Dec. 2008 <>.

Lewiston, David. "South America: Black Music in Praise of Oxalá and Other Gods |." Nonesuch Records. 2003. 04 Jan. 2009 <>.

Martha Graham: Dance on Film. Prod. Johanna Schiller. DVD. The Criterion Collection, 2007.

Murphy, John P. Music in Brazil: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. New York: Oxford UP, Incorporated, 2006.

Rosenberg, Dan. "History of Carnival in Brazil." AfroPop Worldwide. 10 Dec. 2008 <>.

Community Member (Details)

Sheryl Hastalis – Ross School dance and yoga teacher