Super Bowl LVII and the Herberger Institute

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The Super Bowl is about a football game. It’s also about everything that goes into the event surrounding that game — culture, history, design, art and more. So when the Super Bowl came to State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, earlier this year, the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts was able to play a key role on several fronts.

‘The Indelible Legacy of Jimmy Raye’

In the days leading up to the big game, the NFL marked Black History Month at ASU with a screening of “The Indelible Legacy of Jimmy Raye,” a panel discussion following the film, a master class for students in The Sidney Poitier New American Film School and more. The events at the Media and Immersive eXperience (MIX) Center in Mesa, Arizona, were part of the league’s Super Bowl week festivities celebrating the first Super Bowl to feature two Black starting quarterbacks.

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Halftime show

Out of approximately 200 local Arizona dancers who performed in the Super Bowl halftime show, nearly 20 were dancers from the School of Music, Dance and Theatre in the Herberger Institute. The dancers rehearsed six hours a day for two weeks to get ready for the performance. Because they signed a non-disclosure agreement as part of the contract, they couldn’t share about the experience until after the performance.

Here, the dancers reflect on the experience and what it meant to each of them.

Eliana Bracamonte, junior, dance major: I felt like I was able to get a taste of the professional world within the commercial industry of dance, which was honestly a great experience and has inspired me to continue growing.

Kaiya Brondial, junior, dance major: Even though the dance was very uniform and together, there was still room to show your love and passion for dance. The community between dancers thrives that way. My favorite part was being around artists who love what they’re doing, and despite certain roles in the show, we always supported and uplifted each other. Also [I loved] dancing choreography made and accepted by renowned choreographers like Parris Goebel and Gab Robert, and of course, dancing for Rihanna.

Maia Castelli, sophomore, dance major: My favorite part was getting to experience one of the largest stages in entertainment as well as learning about the commercial performance world. One takeaway I have from the Super Bowl is the amount of teamwork and collaboration that goes into a production of such large size.

‘Opportunity (reflection)’

After being on display at the Super Bowl, the 10-foot-tall steel sculpture “Opportunity (reflection)” by conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas moved to the ASU Art Museum, where it was unveiled as part of the museum’s Black History Month celebration. Commissioned by the NFL for the Super Bowl, the piece shows an arm, hand outstretched to grasp at a football. The sculpture will be on view at the Herberger Institute’s ASU Art Museum through March 2024.

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Shayla Eshelman, junior, dance major and African American studies minor: Just the experiment in general was great. The hunger to train more and get off the field and onto the stage with the artist just made me really want to focus on my training and choreography and get to where I want to be. I loved being able to see the backstage experience and watch the show build to what everyone saw live — just seeing it all come together.

Sammy Frankel, sophomore, dance major: My favorite part was the endless support from other cast members. I learned that professionalism and hard work will get you where you want to be.

Caleb Hampson, sophomore, dance major: The community of it, everyone was in it together. There were no [comments like,] “I’m a platform dancer” or “You are just a field dancer.” Everyone had the love and support of each other. My biggest takeaway was the fact that I accomplished one of my biggest dreams, being deaf — and I’m only 20 years old. I can’t wait for more opportunities to come.

Cherish Hayes, freshman, dance major: One thing that really resonated with me from the show is how amazing it is when people of different skills collaborate. There were videographers, choreographers, dancers and of course the singer, Rihanna; they all did their part to put on an amazing show that I am so glad to have been a part of! My favorite part of the show was actually the end of it when we were all running off of the field and Rihanna was singing “Diamonds.” It was like I was in a movie, and her song was the soundtrack for an amazing moment in my life.

Alecea Housworth, second-year graduate student, MFA in dance: All dreams are possible if you have the right support system. I loved being able to dance with an icon while creating lasting memories with other fellow ASU dancers.

Karla Marquez, senior, dance education major: My favorite part was sharing the field with people I have grown up dancing with, people I have taught, and people that have taught me. It was a full circle moment for our community. One takeaway I had from dancing in the halftime show is that this life is possible for me! As a field dancer, I was able to get my foot in the door in a space I always dreamt about, and now it’s time to work toward the next level and be the dancer right next to the artist.

Honestine Mbuyenge: senior, performance and movement major: The commercial industry isn’t as bad as I thought. I maybe lucked out with Rihanna’s team being so attentive and welcoming. Overall the experience was amazing. I am beyond grateful to have been part of such a historical moment.

Jimena Perez, freshman, dance major: One takeaway that I had was how much blood, sweat and tears must be put in by everybody involved with the show in order to make it run smoothly. I never knew it took as many people as it did, and it was crazy to see how many people work behind the scenes. It really makes you appreciate everything so much more. The whole experience was incredible, but I loved getting to watch the main-stage core dancers rehearse and dance alongside Parris (the choreographer), who was standing in for Rihanna in most rehearsals. It really inspired me and made me realize that being up on the stage is now one of my new life goals.

Jaky Raygoza, junior, dance education major: Arizona has an amazing and supportive dance community. Dance is so large, and it’s wonderful to see dancers come together and become friends through a shared passion. I loved all of it, but the day of the Super Bowl was surreal. Especially when we got to the stadium and people were cheering and fireworks were going off.

Mamesarr Seck, senior, performance and movement major: My favorite part was actually experiencing how very normal celebrities and productions are. I was able to witness everything come together, from small details to bigger details, and being a photographer and dancer it was amazing seeing how things were brought together and how seamlessly things in TV are made. It was always so humbling and motivating to see Rihanna act like a human and not a “celebrity.” There was a moment where she expressed that she was overwhelmed, and that moment reminded me that even celebrities go through the same emotions as me. I learned my dreams are very much so possible and they aren’t far out of my reach as I thought they were. You don’t have to look a certain way, be a certain way, live a certain way, or act a certain way for your dreams to come true. Just continue being you and your spark will follow you.

Alex Solano, junior, dance major: It takes a village to create something so grand and special. I liked how small I felt in such a huge stadium contributing to something greater than myself. It eased my anxieties. It was one giant community of passionate dancers, and so the best memories were inevitably made being around such like-minded people. I learned so much from my peers throughout the experience.

Karelly Valenzuela, sophomore, performance and movement major: My favorite part was being fortunate enough to meet like-minded individuals who share the same goals as me in terms of dance and performance. Experiencing the entirety of what it means to perform for something so big in all aspects (wardrobe, rehearsals, etc) is something I am grateful for. It was enlightening to work with other artists such as singers and film directors/photographers from the perspective of a dancer. One takeaway I had from dancing in the halftime show is the level of dedication and commitment it takes to not only put something together, but to be part of a bigger whole that’s working towards the same goal. The sense of community between the dancers was beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. This idea of living in the moment was one of the major takeaways from my entire experience.

Fernanda Viera, senior, dance education major: My favorite part was being able to dance for thousands of people and being able to see the fireworks from the field. One takeaway from dancing in the halftime show was realizing that dreams do come true if we work hard for them.

Mya Walters, sophomore, dance major: The best part of it was dancing in the Super Bowl with Rihanna with all of my friends. I loved meeting all of the dancers and making memories that I will forever remember. One takeaway I had from dancing in the halftime show is to always try out for that audition because you truly never know what will happen. Don’t live in regret.


Jimmy Raye photo by Charlie Leight.
Opportunity (Reflection) photo courtesy.
Dance photos courtesy of students.