We had a chance to catch up with Allison Brzezinski about her time at the ADA, her dance company and their annual festival in NYC.
When did you attend the Accademia and what did you study there?
I studied physical theater (commedia, clowning, Feldenkrais, Roy Hardt Vocal Technique and mask making) at the ADA during the Fall of 2008.
What University were you coming from?
Muhlenberg College, Class of 2010
What was your favorite thing about the program?
I loved having to work so hard and feeling so rewarded each day. I was finessing my craft, stretching new muscles and learning amazing techniques in their place of origin. It was incredible. Not to mention, working with talented and patient teachers as well as supportive comrades. It was like living on an artistic commune, where we all ate together, studied together, lived together, partied together. I don’t think I have ever experience such a sense of community before.
Can you share a favorite memory or story from your time in Italy outside the classroom?
A favorite moment is so hard because there were so many of them. And honestly when I think back about my time at the Accademia I see people’s faces and remember how close we all were, or I remember the time I made a break through and commedia actually started to make sense for me. That was an incredibly rewarding moment because I had worked so hard for something, not understanding fully what I was doing and all of a sudden it just started to click. I felt so empowered. But at the same time I loved everyone there and the connections we formed and all those times outside of class we just hung out or improved or chatted. All of it was wonderful.
A moment that really sticks, outside of the classroom and the training was when we all went to Venice. I loved working in that studio on the water. But also a few of us took a gondola ride and that watched the sunset in the bell tower and that was really beautiful. I also loved visiting the Blue Grotto in Capri. And every time we went outside of the villa and entered the city it just felt like home, which was great!
Do you have any “must sees” while in Arezzo?
I think when people are in Arrezzo, it is important to just wonder through the city because you will find the most beautiful and unexpected things. The food is great, people are kind and there are incredible historical and scenic areas.
What were some of the biggest “take aways” from your time at the Accademia?
Biggest take aways, complete and utter love and respect for mask technique and physical theater, a new sense of understanding of myself as an artist, a deepening of my artistic knowledge, the ability to trust and open myself up to a whole range of people and pride in all that I learned through all of the challenges I faced and how incredibly rewarding it all is.
What have you been up to since the Accademia?
Since Accademia and graduating college in 2010 I have moved to New York City and founded the all female modern dance company ChEckiT!Dance. Our mission is to create a crack in the stereotypical infrastructure of female standards and archetypes, by walking the line of dance, dance theater and performance art. Each July we produce the ChEck Us OuT Dance Festival: A Celebration of Female Choreographers in Central Park, to empower and present the works of innovative female dance makers. I have also independently choreographed three shows under the direction of Greg Taubman, East of the Sun West of the Moon (Central Park), The Dogs of Babel (Columbia University), Antigone (Columbia University and The Connelly Theatre). In addition, I have worked as a teaching artist, outreach coordinator and arts administrator for a variety of New York theater and dance organizations. I am also a proud to be a part of the Peer Leadership Circle for Dance mentorship program, produced by Queens Council on the Arts.
Do you stay in touch with anyone from your class?
Yes I would say that I stay in touch with a variety of people from our program. We were an incredibly tight knit group and I am happy to say that thanks to the internet we are still connected. McKenzie, my roomate in the villa, who also lives in NY just came to a fundraiser I was having for ChEckiT!Dance and seeing her and speaking with her was as if no time had past.
Can you tell us more about ChEckiT!Dance? Why did you start this group? What have you been able to accomplish and what are your goals?
I began ChEckiT!Dance in July of 2010 because I wanted more of an artistic outlet and I to give the opportunity to women looking to perform about gender related social and political issues. We started out with four dancers, Maggie Gomez Madonia, one of my classmates at ADA, as an original member, and we have grown to work with and audition hundreds of dancers including international dancers from Asia, Europe and the Caribbean. We have presented work throughout Manhattan and New Jersey in notable venues such as Dixon Place, STEPS, The Works Studio, Central Park, the Ailey Studios, FigmentNYC, The Kraft Center, Dance New Amsterdam, The Gershwin Hotel and more. We wish to bring awareness about gender related issues, in particular, how women are perceived in society, and in many pieces incorporate props, original music and sometimes text. We now have a steady repertoire of pieces and have been featured artists at events, giving talk backs about our work and teach master class workshops to students of various ages. This January ChEckiT!Dance was the featured story of a Japanese art magazine, which sold over 5,000 copies over seas. In addition, we will be shooting a music video for the up and coming disco punk band AmeriGogo towards the end of June. The company is growing and is headed in such an exciting direction, I cannot wait to see what is next for us.
Tell us more about your festival? How can people learn more about it or get involved?
We produce ChEck Us OuT Dance Festival each July, in order to further our mission and provide more opportunities for female choreographers. This year will mark our third anniversary and the festival has grown immensely. The amount of applications I received from highly qualified and talented female choreographers this year was completely overwhelming. And I am so proud to say that as of this year, ChEck Us OuT Dance Festival is not only a national but international event, featuring choreographers from NY, New Jersey, Virginia, California and Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The festival is an exciting evening of dance held Summit Rock in Central Park. The Third Annual ChEck Us OuT Dance Festival will be held on Saturday, July 13, 2013 at 5PM. It is a completely eco-friendly, family-friendly and admission free event, with dessert provided. We try to create a fun, welcoming picnic type of environment for audience members to enjoy the site specific art work.
The company and festival have grown in so many ways, and we are trying to take things to another level and hopefully expand the festival to be a full weekend event, which will include teaching workshops and will allow for more choreographers to present their work. This year was also the first year we began our sponsorship program and our digital platform, two initiatives that we would love to see evolve in the future.
Also, we are always looking for passionate people to be involved with our work. We have an internship and apprentice program for dancers and arts administrators looking to be involved in the NYC dance scene. As well as we adore collaborating with visual artists, musicians, composers, movers and shakers and artists or performers of all types. Please get in touch with us via email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to collaborate in any way.
Link to festival testimonial video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbQDMvuBVag&feature=c4-overview&list=UU7H5PC4j7b_i26rN15ClrYg
Link to playlist of videos from the Second Annual ChEck Us OuT Dance Festival: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLLXM5XU_Z9Io6vo6gSDtDok0JgkiEsH7o&feature=mh_lolz
How has the Accademia helped shape who you are as a dancer/artist/creator?
I know that the ADA helped me become a better choreographer/dancer/artist because it expanded my understanding of bodily and spatial awareness, and the limitations or the non-limitations of my body and the ways I can move and still convey my intent.
The ADA was such an important time of artistic and individual growth in my life, filled with amazing memories and training that I will never forget. I wouldn’t be the artist I am without that experience. And I am so excited for everyone else that will get to go on their own journey there. I am confident if you will absolutely adore it!
What would your advice be for people considering attending the Accademia?
Be open minded and willing to explore all avenues of artistic and personal experience while at the Accademia. ADA fosters an environment for individuals to learn and evolve not only as artists but as people. Immerse yourself into every facet of the experience, from lunch in the mensa to warming up in your vocal class, to discovering all of the ways the muscles in your face and neck can be articulated in commedia. All of these moments will help you sharpen your craft and become a better and more well rounded performer. I know that the ADA helped me become a better choreographer/dancer/artist because it expanded my understanding of bodily and spatial awareness, and the limitations or the non-limitations of my body and the ways I can move and still convey my intent.