Graduate student creates community, connects with dancers of all ages

A dancer poses on stairs

Photography by Emily Heath


Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2024 graduates.

For the last year, Arizona State University student Alecea Housworth has been living and teaching at Mirabella at ASU, a senior living center housed on the Tempe campus.

As an artist-in-residence, she lives and works in the community. Along with three other artists, she presents performances and works to increase the amount of artistic programming and events the residents participate in.

“I’ve loved helping them know that movement is a source of life,” Housworth said. “We breathe, and breathing is moving. It doesn’t have to be drastic movement. It can be a mindfulness practice to reengage with how they are feeling and what might need extra care.”

In addition to her residency responsibilities, Housworth teaches dance courses at ASU as well as dance classes to fifth through eighth grade students in Phoenix public schools.

She is graduating this spring with an MFA in dance from the School of Music, Dance and Theatre in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. It’s fitting that her research is focused on identity and community.

“This is important to me because of the community that I came from and the impact on my life,” Housworth said. “It takes a village, and I want to provide that for others, especially for students who might feel alone. Dance can be very competitive, but it can also be very spiritual and community-based.”

Housworth studied rhetoric and minored in dance as an undergraduate. She didn’t originally plan to attend graduate school, but she applied after one of her professors encouraged her to pursue a masters degree at ASU. 

“ASU has provided me with opportunities to create connections with individuals that otherwise I wouldn’t have,” Housworth said. “It has allowed me to build community, to learn new styles and meet new people as well as being part of different professors’ work, like Shola K. Roberts and LaTasha Barnes — working with people who are actively participating in the field while teaching.”

While at ASU, Housworth has received Graduate College scholarships, including ones that allowed her to travel to Grenada with Shola K. Roberts, assistant professor in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre. She’s also danced in the Super Bowl, presented original work in New York and performed at Tempe Center for the Arts.

“Dance has always been my passion, how I communicate thought and emotions while also connecting with others,” Housworth said. “I’ve had so many opportunities because of dance. I’ve been able to travel and create work that has created impact and conversations.” 

Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Question: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

Answer: Everything is a stepping stone. Don’t expect things to happen instantly or for you to be in a higher position. Don’t expect an instant result. Be patient with the small steps. Appreciate them because they add to the bigger picture. Take it easy on yourself.

God never gives you more than you can handle. Take what you have and know that you are enough. You’re here for a reason. That's what’s really brought me through this semester and this year. When I graduated with my undergraduate degree, I said to myself, “The best is yet to come.” Now I’m elevating and moving forward, I’m taking on a lot, but it’s for a reason. 

Q: What are some meaningful experiences you’ve had during your graduate studies?

A: There’s been quite a few. I was able to go to New York with DBR Lab and present work at National Sawdust. It allowed me not only to create a name for myself as an artist but also to showcase work that has impacted my experience as an adult. I’ve been able to travel to Grenada and to learn about the different styles within Grenadian folk dance and within Caribbean contemporary dance. I’ve built connections with people from all over the world. 

There have been a lot of opportunities to do community work, going into the high schools, going into middle schools, interacting with a lot of different individuals, different areas of life and seeing how movement is not only necessary for all age groups, but it's very impactful on spiritual, mental and emotional health.

Q: Which professors have made a difference in your graduate experience?

A: I’m very appreciative of the professors we have in the dance program. They’ve all made a huge impact on where I am now. Every single professor has poured into me, even if I didn’t take their class. They’ve provided some sort of insight and encouragement. I’m appreciative of their expertise and their presence. They’ve made this program what it is and have allowed me to grow as an individual. They all have expertise in different areas.

Karen Schupp in teaching, along with Shola K. Roberts and LaTasha Barnes; Robert Kaplan for helping me understand music and how to count; Becky Dyer with the teach outs; Stacy Welker, who is not here any more, as well as Naomi Jackson, Nicole Bradley Browning and Mary Fitzgerald. They’re all key. They all have areas in which they’re able to pour in so much information to help us in our journey.

Each of the graduate students have their own paths. We all have different ways they want to go. I’m also very appreciative of my cohort. They’ve been the rock in making sure that this program is a place where we all can grow and connect.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I want to continue to be an artist and create work with local artists and those outside Arizona and the United States. I want to continue to create and learn. I’m looking for teaching positions within the school systems, not only to give back but also to provide a space for younger students to learn more about dance. Dance saved my life, and I would love to provide that opportunity for others who want to express or communicate but can’t find the words. Dance is the perfect way to do that. 

Q: If you could solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: Right now, our society is becoming very lonely and isolated. I would want to create experiences that unify us as a whole and allow people to feel seen, heard and loved. I’m nothing without my community. I wouldn’t have gotten that far. I would love to provide that for others.

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