Taking the Stage: Alessandra Williams '07

By Nora Clancy

Alessandra Williams ’07, president of Macalester’s hip hop dance team Bodacious, is serious about dance. The Minneapolis native leads the team with seasoned experience. She has taken every variety of dance, and even learned Zulu moves in South Africa. Williams attends 18 classes, including both dance and academic, each week. In between classes and practice she still manages to squeeze in home-cooked meals. Next year may find her researching dance around the world or attending graduate school for law and dance, of course.
Do you have any good stories from your research in South Africa last semester?
A: The one that stands out to me the most is when I went to the Women on Farms Project, outside of Cape Town, South Africa. I was looking at how this land redistribution program in South Africa can possibly help women to gain better access to land. I interviewed two different women, one of which was the executive director of the project, and the other was in charge of the land and housing sector of the program. These were just two amazing women who worked very hard to be where they are and are truly passionate about helping women. I learned so much from those two and it was only like an hour interview. I think that was the very first time I really felt what it feels like to be discriminated against because I am American. That was a very complicated thing, because I didn’t recognize it at first.
What happened during the interview?
A: When I arrived there was a negative energy between myself and the director. She looked very unhappy and seemed like she didn’t want to talk to me. When we first started the interview, I introduced myself and explained why I was doing the research and why it was important to me, which was the first thing on the agenda. But the only thing she really wanted to talk about was why I wanted to do the project. At the very end of the interview she finally got comfortable with me and realized this was actually important to me and that I was cool, she was like, “I will be honest with you, at the very beginning I simply did not want to do an interview because you were American.” I was like, wow, that’s trifling. Just from the things that she’s read and seen on television, issues she has with the American government, she just kind of put Americans in a very small, narrow space. It was frustrating for me, having that kind of attitude can prevent us from developing a connection so we can carry on a conversation and we’re both working on the same things. I learned a lot. That was the highlight of my project, for sure.
In addition to your research you also did an internship. What was it all about?
A: The dance project is called Jikeleza, and basically the project is geared toward young people that live in the townships, mainly black people and colored people who are very poor. Some of the students that were part of the project were actually street children so they had to find housing for them, just basic necessities. It was great, it was the bomb, honestly. I worked with two teachers who taught ethnic contemporary dance. They were some of the most amazing dancers I have seen in my entire life. Extraordinary. Everyone was just so dedicated to the children and the children were so dedicated to the project. They taught ballet, modern, jazz, and tap. I learned a little Zulu dancing here and there.
You also taught a class for Jikeleza. What was that like?
A: I was able to teach hip hop for two weeks.

It was such an experience! The kids were at that age, like middle-schoolish, where they are excited to do things, and at the same time, kinda crazy. It was hard, because sometimes I would go home so stressed out. But sometimes I would go home so happy. In the end, I learned a lot.
You helped found the hip hop dance team at Mac. What was it like to start up from square one?
A: People just got really excited that there was finally a team celebrating hip hop. That was something that was really missing in my own life, being here. It was cool to know that other people thought that as well.
How do you manage to squeeze in time for all your schoolwork, dance classes, and Bodacious practices?
A: It’s all about time management. I have to make every minute count. I’m not even working this semester, because I didn’t have time to set up a schedule when I got back from South Africa on [August 24]. I’ve worked for Banana Republic in the Mall of America since I was 16.
What do you do to stay energized through the day?
A: I love to cook for myself. I like Southern food a lot: friend chicken, collard greens, I like to have lots of seasoned food. Oh, and homemade cornbread from scratch. Everything always from scratch.
You choreograph many dances for Bodacious. Where do you get your inspiration?
A: I try to see a lot of dance. I go to local shows a lot. Videos, like old Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson, also inspire me. Her Rhythm Nation video is so great, when she is wearing all the army stuff.
How did you choose the name for Mac’s hip hop dance team, Bodacious?
A: I think it can mean so many different things, like full, sexy, strong, confidence, taking the stage, having presence, just going up there and doing your thing and enjoying yourself. Finding power in what you do.