Dancing at the crossroads: Liberating Latina adolescents' voice

Ona Bernadette Bessette, Fordham University


This theoretical study listens to the experience of Latina girls as they navigate the critical crossroads of adolescence in search of self and voice. It suggests that joining a dialogical educational pedagogy, as espoused by Paulo Freire, with a spirituality nurtured in the Gospel account of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth creates an educational climate where Latina adolescent's voice is liberated and empowered. An environment of mutual dialogue between the Latina adolescent and her teacher is required for the liberation of the Latina adolescent's voice in the conversation of education and life. Using dance as a metaphor, a methodology based on the process of choreography unites the research elements of adolescent female development, Latina culture and educational experience, liberating educational pedagogy, and Visitation spirituality into a new educational paradigm. Adolescence has been characterized as a crossroads experience where girls struggle to find their voice and identity as emerging women. At this critical juncture of life, it is essential for the adolescent to develop strong supportive relationships that sustain her in the search for her true self. For the Latina adolescent, cultural and family expectations may place additional demands on her as she attempts to balance the requirements of the dominant Anglo culture operative in school and society. Latina adolescent girls are seeking caring compassionate women to assist them with the dance of identity. School, for many Latina adolescents, is a place of oppression, alienation, and imposed silence. In this environment Latina adolescents do not recognize teachers as potential dance partners. Moving from a liberating educational pedagogy and a spirit nurtured in the Visitation of Mary, the teacher/dancer establishes an environment of dialogue that welcomes the Latina adolescent dancer to join her at the crossroads experience. Mutuality, curiosity, humility, attentive listening, reflection, cultural affirmation, courage, and care characterize the climate of dialogue necessary for this dance to develop. In the Visitation dance between a teacher and a Latina adolescent each dancer imparts wisdom and learns to see and move with new energy and direction. Their dance is never ending and ever unfolding.

Subject Area

Secondary education|Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Religious education

Recommended Citation

Bessette, Ona Bernadette, "Dancing at the crossroads: Liberating Latina adolescents' voice" (2003). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3084904.