Reflections, Memories and What Comes Next: A Spring 2018 Newsletter
There are only three weeks left in our Spring 2018 semester. The students have never been busier, putting together performances and working on projects from dusk ’til dawn. The finish line is in sight for the dancer students and physical theatre students but there’s no time to slow down, as everyone is preparing for a week of final presentations at the end of April. Be sure to check out the special tribute to Kevin Crawford, Accademia dell’Arte co-founder, who’s retiring at the end of the spring semester. Scroll down for more!
Catching Up: A Recap of the Last 3 Weeks
Back from an adventurous and restful spring break, our students have hit the ground running. Collectively the students have attended five different workshops in the last three weeks, including: Butoh (with Misturu Sasaki), African dance with (Ashai Lombardo Arop), Tarantella (with Gianni Bruschi), Laban (with Dance Program Director, Sabine Fichter), and a three day Experimental Lab (with Sam Mcgehee and Saso Vollmaier). To hear more about how these weeks have been going, we asked dance student, Nadia Ureña (Muhlenberg College), physical theatre student Sarah Shin (Boston University), and one year physical theatre student, Dalton Hedrick (Coastal Carolina University).
What has been going on at the villa or in classes since you came back from spring break?
NADIA: We got back and it felt like we went from zero to 100 but in a good way. We had a week long Butoh workshop, which was learning new technique as well as putting on a show at the end, and we got to work with the one year students. It was a lot of community building and seeing what works and what doesn’t. We got to talk about ourselves telling stories about our hometowns, and the stories were different every time, so we really learned about each other. Then we had african dance and tarantella and we’re also putting on a show for that. It’s been exhausting. A lot of powering through and putting the pieces together with things we created before spring break. Then CabLab rehearsals have been going on like crazy so we’re figuring out when to meet and rehearsing, having showings for each other, and getting feedback on what we’re doing. So we’ve been working on three different shows since we got back from break.
SARAH: Since we got back I feel like we’re in a slingshot because we’re about to get launched into intense amounts of work and projects. It’s as if before break was more relaxed and now this is the real thing and it’s testing our strength.
DALTON: We came back and we had a Butoh workshop with Mitsuru where we got to be in class with the dancers and that was followed by the experimental lab where we were in class with the theatre students. We also continued work on our final devising project. It was great to break from our small group of four one year students, and work with the theatre and dance students. With all those new energies in the room it’s an opportunity to learn. As we continue devising we’re meeting with Saso, Kevin, and Giangiacomo for various specialized classes all seen through the lens of our final devised piece.
Have you made any new discoveries about yourself in your time thus far at the ADA?
NADIA: I realize I like group-work more than I thought I did. I have severe only child syndrome, so I really like to work alone. We have such limited time, and I’ve been learning how to be efficient in a group. It can be just a week we have to create something, so it’s cool learning how to work in this collaborative process so quickly. I’ve learned how to be a better group member. I’m also learning how to just keep trying at something even if your bad at it, specifically with speaking Italian, so I really try in town to speak to Italians. You have to be persistent at it because they’re going to speak English to you but if you keep going you’ll get better.
SARAH: It feels like I’ve rediscovered, and remembered how important being personal is to my artistry. I think over the years I’ve thought that making art starts personal and then we break away from that and then it’s being abstract or thoughtful with original ideas, but starting with the personal is true and authentic and there’s nothing wrong or immature about that.
DALTON: It’s been exciting to realize that whatever I have to bring into the room at any given moment is worthwhile, and productive for the space if I choose to have a good attitude about it and allow others to help mold it. In terms of myself personally I try to view all my experiences from an artistic lens as well. In life, I was born and raised as I was, and I now have a few things to think about: how do I bring myself and background into a space of others who are different from me, how do I allow them to help shape me, and how do I allow who I am to help shape them?
What has surprised you about working with your ensemble
NADIA: Because there’s only 9 of us, even though it’s a small group, a lot of ideas get circulated really quickly. Sometimes we do things we’ve already done and we get tired of each other, but then we’re always finding and looking for new ways to enjoy each other. The intensive weeks are hard, when do we feel tension in the group and know there’s something wrong, I think, “what can we do to sense that tension, and problem solve without really saying out loud that we have a problem to solve?” We’re all pretty vocal people and we have a lot of energy and we talk a lot, but we don’t address problems outright, which is surprising to me. We solve problems in unspoken ways which is helpful but also frustrating. There’s a lot of gauging when to put a problem out loud into the air and when to keep it internal.
SARAH: I think I’m noticing how each different person processes and collaborates in a group setting. Some people need to talk out loud and say ideas in front of the whole group, and others just need to have an internal moment and do it. Some people like to lead and give directions, I personally just like to stay back and observe and then pop my voice in whenever it seems necessary. I think, we’re all interested in process and getting to a product, but we differ in how we think about the speed in which we should create something or whether or not we think about the endgame first or just start with the unknown.
DALTON: Coming from a group of 14 [in the Fall semester] down to a group of four, I’ve realized that there are just as many practical challenges involved in a small group as there are in a large group. It’s impossible to hide. I believe sometimes we try to hide in order to be helpful thinking, “I don’t want to bring this into the room. It’ll slow down progress”, but it’s impossible to do so in a small group because everybody knows what everyone’s feeling all the time. But it’s been wonderful working through that and knowing how everyone feels because I’m starting to think not only for my own wants and needs, but for the wants and needs of other individuals in the ensemble. I’m starting to catch a glimpse of what ensemble means. Truly breathing and being with one another through the good an the bad moments. The word and concept “ensemble” previously felt very theoretical and intangible, I’m starting to see what it really means on bodies.
Do you have one thing you are working on or one goal in mind for the rest of your time here?
SARAH: Staying honest with myself, and speaking out, and remembering that that is welcomed and there is time for that still. As things get harder and it feels like there’s less time, but there is time to take a step back, reflect, and take care of myself.
NADIA: Just to keep pushing through. It’s easy, since we’re so physical, to say I’m tired and to give up. It may be the third dance class of the day, but if I’m tired I like to think, how does that inform the way I’m taking in the information as opposed to giving up and missing things.
DALTON: I think the magical quality of this place is that we’ve been exposed very horizontally to a lot of different techniques, skills, teachers, and energies. My goal, really for this whole semester really has been to start searching vertically through this devised piece I’m making with the other one year students to culminate everything I’ve learned into something practical. I’ll be leaving the ADA with over 100 pages of notes, but that won’t be as valuable as thinking back on the devised work I’ve made using those concepts. I’m also just enjoying every second because it’s easy when you live here and work here and sleep here and eat here to take it for granted, but now that the time is ticking down I’m finding everything so beautiful and I’m re -remembering all the reasons that I was first infatuated with this place.
Student on Student Interviews
To get an insider’s perspective at what it’s really like for our students living and studying all together at the Accademia, we invited a few students to interview each other.
First, Physical Theatre students Rosalind Bevan (Boston University) and Ellie Swartz (Muhlenberg Collge) talk about what it’s been like living at Villa Godiola for two-and-a-half months. Below, Dance students Matthew Guerrera(Muhlenberg College) and Makenna Finch (Hampshire College) have a conversation about some of the work they’ve been doing in the dance program.
ROSALIND: Ellie, in your training here so far what is a moment that has struck you the most? I know you’ve been working on skills too, like your headstand and physical things that you didn’t think you could do before.
ELLIE: Oh yeah! I didn’t ever think that i could do a headstand on my own and now I can do that. It’s great because I don’t think i would have been able to if it wasn’t for those moments right before class where everyone has all this energy and positive vibes, and you, and other classmates, would give me positive reinforcement. I’ve also really enjoyed Dory’s class. Figuring out alignment and positioning when you’re walking. The restructuring of the body we do, and figuring out if you keep a lot of tension in your shoulders, what is that originating from. That was eye opening for me. What about you?
ROSALIND: Learning more about my body and trusting what my body can do and being patient with the discovery of that. Being able to experiment with my body in different ways but also knowing it’s limits, knowing when to stop things or when to go further with things and feeling really encouraged by the teachers and the space.What’s your favorite part about living in Villa Godiola?
ELLIE: My favorite thing is that I can walk out of my room and down the hall and know that there are people to sing with, play with, talk to at any time of day. I’ve realized that I’m so much happier in this kind of environment rather than being in my one single room back at home.
ROSALIND: Do you find it creatively inspiring?
ELLIE: Yeah, it’s easier to collaborate with people because that’s the nature of this program, so everyone is always ready and willing. What about you, what’s your favorite thing?
ROSALIND: I think my favorite part about living here is the geographic location. Being able to see for miles from the rooftops and feeling really safe up here. Walking through the town of Arezzo is so special because so many people have walked here and lived here and made this place their home, years and years before me, and now I get to be a small part of that history.
MAKENNA: In your training here so far, what is one thing that has struck you the most?
MATTHEW: The ability to take a prompt and build something on my own, and then to somehow combine individual creations into a collective piece with our whole group of dancers. Also dance for the sake of dancing! Oh my god finally! I’ve done so much analyzing of my body in previous training. Can’t I just do a tendu for the sake of doing a tendu?
MAKENNA: Yeah! I do really feel like a dancer here. I feel like a dancer. Which is hard because that’s a very elusive term to claim. We’re really doing it seven hours a day and taking all these classes with all these teachers. We eat sleep and breathe it.
MATTHEW: And we’re surrounded by people who don’t care if you mess up or can’t get your leg above 90 degrees. Dance is just…
MAKENNA: Something that you do if you love it.
MATTHEW: And there’s no judging.
MAKENNA: I really enjoy that. What is your favorite class or intensive that we’ve had and why?
MATT: I have to tell you that the Butoh intensive started out rough for me. I never would have thought that’s what Butoh was, but I can say that was the week I learned the most about myself, about the people in the room, and I feel like I can use that in the future. What about you? You love Gianni’s class I know you do.
MAKENNA: Yeah I do. It’s hard, I also love Giorgio’s. I go places in both of those classes. Both really make me understand why I dance, which is something I’ve always questioned, because societally it’s like “why are you dancing that’s so stupid” and I just love it, and in those classes it gives me a reason. The things they say are so simple and so profound. Giorgio says, “Why do you dance? Because it’s joy.” I think it’s that Giorgio and Giannai both dance from the inside.
Advice for Future Students
CAIT: Enjoy being away. Allow yourself to enjoy being away from home and your home institution but also being receptive to making connections to things at home. I was very ready to come here and just be present here and distance myself from Muhlenberg, but then once I really got involved here in the learning, I could see how my learning at Muhlenberg has really informed my learning here and the other way around. Be receptive to all things. See all the performances you can, take all the classes you can. Take all the opportunities that come to you. Don’t being afraid to jump into things. You are creating life and experiences here that will inform everything when you go back home.
ANNA RAE: Don’t think, “Oh I’m here for a whole year, I can do it later” …do it when you have the time because the longer you’re here the less time you’ll have. Make sure your colleagues are you friends and your friends are your colleagues. Don’t get caught up too much in the work, but also don’t become to unfocused because your working with your friends. Find a balance. If you’re the only one not from CCU, don’t worry about it, just force your way in and they’ll come to love you, and then you’ll have an excuse to go to the south! Lastly, even though the work is crucial, don’t forget how important the relationships you build are because those last a lifetime.
MICHELA: I’d say if the only thing that keeps you going is motion, don’t stop moving!
A Send-off for Kevin Crawford
At the end of this spring semester, Kevin Crawford will be retiring. Below is just an excerpt of our tribute to him. Follow the link at the bottom of the section to see the many contributions from ADA faculty and staff, current students and undergraduate & MFA alumni.
Anyone who has ever set foot through the doors of the Accademia dell’Arte knows Kevin Crawford. Even if you have never worked with him personally, the ADA is what it is today because of his impact. Kevin is one of the founding members of the Roy Hart Theatre Company. In 1993 he began working at Trinity College where he eventually met Scott McGehee. In 2004, Scott, Kevin, Katrin and Linda Brown founded the Accademia dell’Arte, where he served as the first Physical Theatre Program Director and the first MFA Program Director. His direction both pedagogically and administratively literally built the base on which every program stands at the ADA. Kevin is a Master Teacher of Voicework and our beloved colleague and friend. He is an integral thread in the tapestry of our school and our lives. As I reflect on his life here at the ADA, I am humbled and overwhelmed by the beauty of this human work he has developed.
-Dory Sibley (Voice and Ensemble Performance Faculty, Short-Term Programs Director, Undergraduate Programs Associate)
Scott McGehee, (Founding Director), Katrin Pohl, (Director of Operations and Finance), and Kevin founded the Accademia dell’Arte together with Linda Brown in 2004, and have watched the ADA develop into the thriving institution it is today. We sat down with Scott and Katrin to hear some thoughts about how Kevin has shaped the ADA from the very beginning.
How did you meet Kevin?
SCOTT: It was either 2002 or 2003. I decided to go to Trinity College in Dublin to get advice from faculty about how to set up a school. Kevin was introduced to me as a fantastic voice teacher that might be interested in what we were trying to do in Arezzo.
How does the ADA today compare to the very beginning?
KATRIN: The Accademia was an experiment in the beginning because none of us had ever created something like this before. It was an incredible work load, incredibly fun and creative. And now the Accademia is an institution with all of the pros and cons that an institution might present.
In one sentence, describe Kevin’s impact on the ADA?
SCOTT: If one could say that there is an atmosphere or aura of the ADA, it is the aura of Kevin Crawford.
KATRIN: Calma. Reflection. Equilibrium (balance). And an incredible know-how on many levels: Artistic, financial, organizational. He is really fit on many levels.
What would you like to say to him as he moves to the next chapter in his life?
KATRIN: I appreciate you. I will miss you. And I wish you the most beautiful and rich retreat. Rich with hiking, nature, art, teaching, still growing and having time to enjoy.
SCOTT: My first wish for you Kevin is that you not leave me alone in this crazy place but if you must, you must! Whatever you do decide to do, wherever you and Caroline decide to go, I am sure the world around you will blossom as it has for us with your presence for the last 15 years. You will always be welcome here as a permanent guest of honor.
Click here to see the full tribute to Kevin Crawford, including contributions from ADA faculty and staff, thoughts from current students, and reflections from past students, click here.