Visiting Instructor in Dance Raquel Cavalcanti came from Brazil to New York City in 1994 with the intention of spending a month and a half taking dance workshops on postmodern dance and somatic techniques. Now, she’s still living in New York City and is teaching dance courses at Knox this year.
The Knox Student: What was your specialization in New York?
Raquel Cavalcanti: I graduated as an Alexander Technique teacher back in 1999. The Alexander Technique is a method of finding balance and coordination by getting rid of unnecessary or harmful tension we carry on our bodies that most of the time we are not even aware of. I was interested in exploring different ways of using the body, and the technique was a wonderful vehicle that allowed me to do that. I also worked with some choreographers there, and later I started creating my own work, which was very exciting.
TKS: What is your educational and professional background?
RC: I started dancing very young—when I was 14, I was invited to join a professional dance company where I stayed for eight years. We toured South America, and Europe—it was pretty exciting for a young dancer like me. Then I went to New York and I did my education in dance in release technique, Alexander technique, and then I decided to pursue my academic education. So I started my academic education as an adult at Sarah Lawrence College, and I finished at Adelphi University as part of a program designed for adults who already had a career. Then I did my master’s in dance education at NYU.
TKS: Do you dance by yourself?
RC: Yes. In New York it’s sort of something people do a lot, they create a lot of solos because it’s easier and cheaper, so I’ve been creating a lot of solo works and sometimes collaborating with people from other parts of the world— I work with people in Brazil, with choreographers in France and America, and I do find myself in the studio a lot.
TKS: What are you teaching at Knox?
RC: I’m teaching contemporary dance for beginners and a somatic practices class. [In my contemporary class] I have a wonderful group of 25 students— girls, boys, many who have never danced before. It’s just fascinating to see people exploring their bodies for the first time like, “I never thought I could move, I was so shy, and now I can dance,” and they’re really enjoying it. This class is to introduce dance to people who are interested in dancing but not necessarily professionally, so it’s for anyone.
It’s hands on. They learn about their bodies from an anatomical point of view by seeing pictures of bones, touching it, drawing it, so they really learn to be investigators, detectives, in order to find out how they are using their own bodies. It’s quite interesting and it’s new, eye opening. I hear “Wow, this is so different” all the time, so this, for me, is very exciting: to be able to teach something unusual and to show them perspective on their bodies and movement.
TKS: What do you think of Knox?
RC: Knox is this incredible community, very welcoming, surprisingly diverse. I’m not American, but I feel at home here, which is a funny thing. I’m used to a bigger city and this is a small town, but I feel so good being here, and I like the people a lot. My feeling is that they really have the chance to be themselves. They’re really exploring their possibilities, and I think this is what I do as a teacher and as a dancer: really to let each person flourish and discover their own potential. It’s an incredible community. The faculty, the staff and the students are so supportive— it’s a great place to be.
TKS: What do you plan on doing outside of class?
RC: I was invited to teach a master class in samba, the Brazilian dance, so I might do that as a free class for faculty and students, and I might offer private lessons of the Alexander technique for people who are interested. I also like watching some of the games here at Knox, especially women’s soccer. I am a big soccer fan.
TKS: What is your favorite style of dance?
RC: I like to improvise a lot, and I became really good at improvising over time. It’s what I’ve been exploring mostly: contemporary dance and improvisation.
TKS: What are your plans for the future?
RC: I want to continue teaching higher education. That’s my favorite setting. Most of my experience in teaching is to teach pre-professionals and professionals, but I like where college students are. They have skills, but they’re still very eager to learn more and are open to new ideas. I’ll probably pursue my Ph.D. to continue my studies in the Alexander technique and dance teaching— those are my areas of interest— and maybe consider going back to Brazil. Maybe it’ll be time to go back home.