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MFA student explores Black identities, communities through dance

Five women sitting together on a staircase.

Photography by Chloe Demarce

November 15, 2023

"Who are you?" "Who are we?"

Arizona State University MFA dance student Alecea Housworth is examining these questions in her graduate thesis project. She will be presenting her project, “Frameworks of Many into the Creation of One,” on Nov. 17 and 18.

The name of Housworth’s project came from wanting to focus on the many frameworks that go into who we are as people. Housworth began her dance education with a liturgical background before exploring the styles of Afro-Caribbean and contemporary modern as a graduate student in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre. Now, she’s ready to bring all of her identities and styles of dance together.

“All of these different styles have highlighted who I am, but also have impacted the way I see dance,” Housworth said. “So many people like to identify themselves with one particular thing, but I believe there are multiple things that go into the creation of a person.”

The show is approximately one hour long and contains four acts that feature not only Housworth but also the identities and communities of five other ASU dancers in the project: Jadah Neally, Morgan Mars, Morgan Mcneal, Kamilah Gamble and Ja’Ari Char’leea.

“Communities are a very strong reflection of who we are,” Housworth said.

Each dancer brings something only they can bring to the piece, said Housworth, to “highlight the difference in who a Black woman is.”

Housworth said she wanted the project to be a way to ask questions because she understands that dance can open the door to conversations. 

At last year’s Spring Dance Fest, Housworth premiered original choreography titled, “Now is the Time.” This piece sought to start conversations and encourage people to fight for equality, change and justice, which are themes in all of Housworth’s works.

“We are honored that we are able to show a piece of Alecea’s identity,” said Mars, a supporting dancer in "Frameworks of Many into the Creation of One.”

The question about identity and the idea for Housworth's thesis came from professors asking her to answer who she is and who she wants to be. Housworth said she started thinking about herself and discovering parts she didn’t know existed before.

“(Housworth) illuminates through her artistry while staying true to her narrative,” said Shola K. Roberts, assistant professor of dance.

Housworth recently traveled to Grenada to perform at Roberts’ international festival, Dance Grenada. Housworth is currently an artist-in-residence at Mirabella, where she teaches weekly dance classes to residents.

After graduation, Housworth said she will continue dancing, teaching dance and providing dance therapy to individuals. She hopes to keep creating works that start conversations and promote positive changes.

“There is a greatness we all hold in ourselves and each other,” Housworth said.

See “Emerging Artists II: Frameworks of Many into the Creation of One” on Nov. 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the Margaret Gisolo Dance Theatre.

Tickets must be purchased online at the Herberger Institute Box Office. 

Written by Benjamin Adelberg

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