Alongside these big changes, and easily as significant, is the departure of three pillars of the ADA faculty & the ADA community for the last several years: Sabine Fichter (Dance Program Director), Dory Sibley (Core Faculty: Voice & Ensemble Performance, Short-term Programs Director, Inter-program Associate and MFA in Physical Theatre Cohort I alum) and Nhandan Chirco (Physical Theatre Program Director). We reached out to a few alumni, as well as current and former faculty & staff, and asked them to reflect and share a few things about Sabine, Dory and Nhandan. You’ll find these thoughtful messages below, where the monumental impact each person had as teachers, mentors, administrators, colleagues and participants in the ADA community is abundantly clear. But first, here’s a newsletter excerpt from Scott McGehee (ADA Founding President):
… Even though it is a sad goodbye we are immensely grateful for the impact each one of them had on the school. They leave deep footprints and have shaped the school in many respects.
Undergraduate Physical Theatre Program Director, NHANDAN CHIRCO brought a unique point of view and passionate ethos to the school that was marked by a radical vision of art and the work of the artist and a profound respect for student colleagues. Her influence kept the faculty and students on their toes and challenged us all at every turn. As the school re-opens we expect that Nhandan will be a regular guest artist. SABINE FICHTER, Dance Program Director for over 10 years, leaves behind a program that she was instrumental in shaping. With her constant attention to each aspect of the program she leaves behind an excellent base for future developments. We will miss her professionalism and the warmth she generated within the community. And finally there is DORY SIBLEY. Fifteen years ago Dory came to the Accademia as an undergraduate student. She was also part of the first MFA cohort of the ADA and received her graduate degree in 2011. Working closely with Kevin Crawford as her mentor, Dory eventually moved on to become an outstanding voice teacher in her own right. We’re very excited that Dory’s next chapter will be as Assistant Professor of Voice and Speech in the Department of Theatre at Coastal Carolina University, one of our closest partner schools. Dory will continue to be part of the ADA community also as the Founder and President of the Alumni Association.
…We wish all three success and want them to know that they are always welcome at the ADA.
To see the full ADA Newsletter, click here.
Words that encapsulate Sabine’s impact: Encouraging, Kind, Luminous, Independence, Wanderlust, Self-expression, Motherly, Fierce, Wise, Authenticity, Creativity, Passion, Comforting, Vibrant, Inspirational, Easy, practical brilliance; Academic rigor paired with a deeply empathic approach to student’s needs and the ability to deliver both at the highest standards.
Is there a memory, situation or moment with or about Sabine that especially jumps out?
Sabine was a light during my experience at ADA. She has always struck me as someone who can weave interests and passions together, meaningfully. I loved learning about Laban and space theory through her. What I studied with Sabine has shaped how I think about space and relationships in any setting I work in, regardless of whether dance is a part of it. I went back through my journal and found a page documenting my first class with Sabine (it’s in the collage). – Shannon O’Brien, New York, NY (Spring 2013 Dance Program, George Washington University)
One of my favorite memories is a movement workshop that Sabine gave to the staff and faculty in the Teatrino. It was a great gift to be able to receive her teaching and I very much enjoyed it. – Anuschka Jaenicke, Arezzo, Italy (ADA Executive Director)
Before Sabine and I even knew each other, I always felt like she was someone who was truly looking out for each of her students. She made my ADA experience so welcoming, and also pushed me way out of my comfort zone. She instilled so much curiosity in her classes, and encouraged us to discover a multitude of new things through her teaching. Working with Sabine today, I see students so eager to explore in her classes. I do not think I would be the ever-changing dancer I am today without her influence, and for that I am forever grateful. – Mariah Halkett, Brooklyn, NY (Spring 2013 Dance Program, Goucher College)
I remember Sabine visiting Muhlenberg the semester after returning from Arezzo. Sabine came to the studio to chat and give hugs. It was as if I had flown right back to the Sala Danza. That afternoon in Allentown, Pennsylvania solidified what felt like a dream back in Italy. – Annie Williams, Louisville, KY (Spring 2013 Dance Program, Muhlenberg College)
There was one night after our Tarantella/Popular African Dance Performance where she offered a few of us a ride back into the villa. Typically in dance classes she plays very mellow, cafe-ish music or classic rock. When we got into her car this night, however, she surprisingly played Fame by Jovanotti (which, for reference, is a Rap song), and proceeded to tell us how all of the cool kids listen to this. I think I listened to that song for a few months straight after that haha. – Nadia Ureña, North Wales, PA (Spring 2018 Dance Program, Muhlenberg College)
I loved being in your modern class and helping create the final performance. I love how no matter what we were doing in class you always had a smile on your face and even when it was time to be serious we could still all laugh together at any moment. – Becca Canziani, Westchester, NY (Fall 2015 Physical Theatre Program, Student Life Coordinator 2017-2019, Muhlenberg College)
When you scoffed and told me that cranberries are an American thing. – Avery Gerhardt, Boston, MA (Spring 2019 Dance Program, Boston Conservatory)
A couple of moments really jump out at me. One of them involved Sabine helping me figure out that I am sensitive to gluten. My joints were swollen and I couldn’t figure out what was going on with my body. Per her suggestion, I ate gluten free for a week as a trial and immediately felt better. She also supported me when I was struggling to present more turnout in the ballet classes. I have femoral anteversion so I have more capacity for internal rotation than external rotation, and I was feeling discouraged, but Sabine encouraged me to work with what I have and told me that it was impressive that I could achieve an advanced level of ballet technique with limited turnout. Finally, when I was struggling emotionally because I wasn’t sure where I belong in the dance world, she suggested that I use my talent for comedy and performance to my advantage, telling me “you’re so funny!” Before that, I didn’t realize that I could make people laugh; I had always thought they were making fun of me. Sabine really helped me develop self-confidence during the spring semester, and still takes an active interest in me and her other students. We had lunch together in NYC when she last visited the States, and it was wonderful to catch up! – Olivia Wood (Spring 2016 Dance Program, Muhlenberg College)
Sabine always reached out to every student in the class, she sensitized to their uniqueness and she made movement and the body a tangible and intimate practice. – Kevin Crawford (ADA co-Founder, Physical Theatre Program Director 2004-2009, MFA Program Director 2008-2018)
What would you like Sabine to know as she moves onto the next chapter?
Sabine had a profound impact on my experience at ADA and beyond. She acted like both a mentor and a colleague, and feels like someone I can always reach out to for advice, feedback, and good conversation. – Shannon O’Brien, New York, NY (Spring 2013 Dance Program, George Washington University)
See you soon, a presto, und bis bald. – Anuschka Jaenicke, Arezzo, Italy (ADA Executive Director)
Sabine influenced my time at ADA so greatly, and continues to inspire me everyday. The ADA will definitely be missing her, but I am so happy for all the people in Sabine’s new chapter that will be able to experience her passion and wisdom. She and I will continue to discuss cats and movement while listening to Fleetwood Mac for many more years :). – Mariah Halkett, Brooklyn, NY (Spring 2013 Dance Program, Goucher College)
Sabine encouraged me to consider certification in dance therapy. Listening to Sabine’s journey in healing and movement, how Sabine gave that gift to others, specifically young people, pushed me forward to pursue a career in Family Therapy. We always dance in therapy, Sabine taught me that. – Annie Williams, Louisville, KY (Spring 2013 Dance Program, Muhlenberg College)
Sweet Sabine, I wish you great success in your next endeavor! You grace and wisdom during my semester abroad has impacted me so much in the years that followed and I know that wherever and whatever you are headed next you will continue to heal, inspire, and encourage others as you have done to my friends and I. Congrats on new beginnings! – Nadia Ureña, North Wales, PA (Spring 2018 Dance Program, Muhlenberg College)
Sabine, I always had so much fun being in your class, working with you, and getting to visit you in Dresden. Your passion for teaching and for dancing is infectious and I know you will bring that into your next chapter. I can’t wait until our paths cross again! – Becca Canziani, Westchester, NY (Fall 2015 Physical Theatre Program, Student Life Coordinator 2017-2019, Muhlenberg College)
I have never met a woman or mentor as brave and supportive as you! I hope this next phase brings you as much joy and creativity as the ADA did. Thank you for being the best influence and guru a girl could ever have. I love you dearly and hope to see you soon. Con calma…– Avery Gerhardt, Boston, MA (Spring 2019 Dance Program, Boston Conservatory)
Your support, guidance, and knowledge helped me tremendously to become the dancer and person I am today! You helped facilitate one of the most supportive dance environments that I have ever had the pleasure to experience and that made a world of difference in my career and in my life. The memories I made at the Accademia are some of the fondest of my life and I hope to see you again soon! Sending you much love and gratitude! – Olivia Wood (Spring 2016 Dance Program, Muhlenberg College)
Sabine is without doubt a master teacher, who has made the material her own, with her own very personal slant on how to deliver it. I truly believe she will find many avenues for her skills and personal charisma. – Kevin Crawford (ADA co-Founder, Physical Theatre Program Director 2004-2009, MFA Program Director 2008-2018)
Words that encapsulate Dory’s impact: Loving, Supportive, Inspiring, Encouraging, Resilient, Unique, Professional, Empathic, Connection, Process, Self love, Kind, Understanding, Grounding, Warmth, Open, Transformative, Inviting, Generous, Clear, Compassionate, Dedicated, Fun, Caring, Passionate, Joyful, Intuitive, A fine and passionate voice teacher, A column for her students, Hugely supportive to managerial aspects of the school that she contributed in shaping.
Is there a memory, situation or moment with or about Dory that especially jumps out?
I was lucky enough to not only know Dory as a colleague and a voice teacher, but also as a dear and treasured friend. I could share so many special memories, but one common thread that seems to appear over and over in my memory reel of Dory is joy and laughter. Dory and I share a very strange and particular sense of humor, which makes it really fun and easy to collaboratively tell stories and act out scenes together. From creating an imaginary band called Tandem Unicorns to reenacting “Strudelgate 2016” and “The World’s Most Existential Crisis-Inducing Text From A Stranger” for our colleagues in the mensa, Dory and I always found something to laugh about together. It was a privilege to work with Dory and learn from her during my years at the ADA, and I know that despite distance, she will remain a lifelong friend. – Kristen Wendt, Washington DC (Fall 2013 Physical Theatre Program, Student Life Coordinator 2015-2017, Muhlenberg College)
After our 1st week of 6 in circus school, Dory fractured her ankle while running on a gymnastics tumbling floor. I went with her to the hospital, where we waited a LONG time to be seen by a doctor, and we made up songs together during our wait. We continued to sing “Making Mem’ries” as I wheeled her around the hospital. – Meredith Fox, San Francisco, CA (MFA Cohort I 2009-2011, Catawba College)
I recall when I just started the position of Executive Director that I wrote in my journal: one of the reasons I want to do a good job is to shape a good environment for teachers like Dory. She inspired me with her incredible passion. – Anuschka Jaenicke, Arezzo, Italy (ADA Executive Director)
Dory was the first person I met when I went to the Accademia for my job interview. I can still picture her sitting on the steps of the main entrance. She was smiling – as usual – she welcomed me and made me feel instantly at home. I had no idea that would be the beginning of a wonderful friendship. – Monica Capacci, Arezzo, Italy (ADA Director of Admissions & Student Services)
I was part of the band who played during the fashion show at the new venue in Arezzo. I do not remember at all what that event was actually called, but we all got our hair and makeup down and played Jolene and You Belong to Me and it is, by far, the coolest experience I have ever had. I am so grateful to Dory for putting together that group and trusting us to play together! – Taylor Hunsberger, Brooklyn, NY (Fall 2015 Physical Theatre Program, Muhlenberg College)
I remember that once she taught me the Italian phrase “piano, piano.” which translates to mean “little by little” in English, with the word piano literally meaning “slow”. This is still my favorite Italian phrase and it made me smile whenever I would hear someone say it when I was back in Italy. To me, that phrase is a reminder to slow down and be a little more patient with myself and my growth as a person and an artist. – Julia Real, Oakhurst, NJ (Spring 2018 Physical Theatre Program, Student Life Coordinator 2019-present, Muhlenberg College)
I remember being in your class and I was having an emotional reaction to an exercise that we were doing. I was overwhelmed and wasn’t sure how to express what I needed. Without hesitation you knew exactly what to say to me and how to adjust my body so that I could release and understand my reaction. Thank you for being so open and intuitive. – Becca Canziani, Westchester, NY (Fall 2015 Physical Theatre Program, Student Life Coordinator 2017-2019, Muhlenberg College)
You made sure that the ADA was not an isolated study abroad, but a lifelong community of artists. When I arrived at the ADA, I was scared to be far away from people and places I knew. But but not only did you provide a welcoming and freeing creative space at the ADA, you fostered the Alumni network and held reunions in many different locations. Attending the reunions in New York, I saw that the ADA community was not just in Arezzo, but throughout the world. Even though you are physically leaving the ADA, the impact you had on my classmates and I is everywhere. – Abigail Gabor, Katonah, NY (Spring 2018 Physical Theatre Program, The City College of New York, Macaulay Honors)
One of my most poignant of many memories with Dory comes from the last moment of the final performance in our MFA program. We were in residence at the Paulo Grassi school in Milan, developing, rehearsing and performing an original piece inspired by Don Quixote. Dory was playing Sancho Panza, the loyal travel companion of Don Quixote and I was playing DQ. In the final moment of the piece, DQ was being pushed upstage on a gurney with Dory’s Sancho Panza methodically walking alongside as the lights very slowly faded to black. I think we had dialogue that was appropriate for the significance of the moment that I unfortunately don’t remember! The cross into blackout as those characters was a fitting end to our 2+ year MFA journey, when none of us in the cohort knew if / when we would ever see or work with each other again. But then, surprise! Just a few years later I started working at ADA and was back to working with Dory! – – Bob Shryock, Oakland, CA (ADA Director of Communications & Recruiting, MFA Cohort I 2009-2011)
The first full class I saw her take was magic, and she touched the students deeply. – Kevin Crawford (ADA co-Founder, Physical Theatre Program Director 2004-2009, MFA Program Director 2008-2018)
Every time I would come to sit in on a class that Dory was teaching, I always found myself waiting outside the door listening in, so as not to disturb, waiting for the right moment to enter. Such were the delicate and intense moments I witnessed Dory conjuring in her classes. When I would finally enter I was always overtaken by a childlike sense of wonder that Dory was able to impart so that I would look upon something which I thought I knew as something completely new. – Sam McGehee, Arezzo, Italy (ADA Devising & Physical Theatre Program Coordinator, MFA Cohort III 2013-2015)
What would you like Dory to know as she moves onto the next chapter?
Dory, you are the heart and soul of the ADA. You have touched the lives of each alumnus for the better, and your spirit will live on at the school long after you leave. You are off to what will surely be a wonderful next chapter. CCU is so incredibly lucky to be receiving someone with your experience, passion, and dedication. Thank you for all you have given to all of us, and best of luck as you take this next step in your career! – Kristen Wendt, Washington DC (Fall 2013 Physical Theatre Program, Student Life Coordinator 2015-2017, Muhlenberg College)
Remember where you came from, but keep looking forward to where you’re going. Find new adventures and make new memories. I love you and am so excited for y’all! – Meredith Fox, San Francisco, CA (MFA Cohort I 2009-2011, Catawba College)
See you soon, a presto, und bis bald. – Anuschka Jaenicke, Arezzo, Italy (ADA Executive Director)
She’ll be deeply missed but I know she’s embarking in an extraordinary adventure. I wish her all the best from the bottom of my heart. I already know she’ll be able to create the same community feeling we built at the Accademia and her new students are very lucky to have her. – Monica Capacci, Arezzo, Italy (ADA Director of Admissions & Student Services)
Dory, you really helped me trust myself as an artist. I had never made my own work before and though I no longer act, I am doing comedy and writing theater and that is all thanks to you. I am very shy in showing my work, but you always made me feel so comfortable and that I was supposed to be there and I really appreciate that. I also use your soundscape exercise all the time when I am teaching theater to kids and they love it, so thank you for that! I hope to one day be as cool a teacher as you! Welcome back to the US! – Taylor Hunsberger, Brooklyn, NY (Fall 2015 Physical Theatre Program, Muhlenberg College)
I am so incredibly thankful for everything that you taught me throughout my time at the ADA. You helped me grow so much as an artist and a person, but you also helped me believe in myself and value my own voice and for that I will forever be grateful. You changed the lives of so many young artists at the ADA and you will definitely continue to do so at Coastal Carolina University. – Julia Real, Oakhurst, NJ (Spring 2018 Physical Theatre Program, Student Life Coordinator 2019-present, Muhlenberg College)
Dory, I am so excited for you in your new adventure. I feel so lucky to have been in your class and worked alongside you. It’s clear that you have empowered and impacted every student that’s gone to the ADA, and I have no doubt you will continue to do that anywhere you teach. Thank you for everything. – Becca Canziani, Westchester, NY (Fall 2015 Physical Theatre Program, Student Life Coordinator 2017-2019, Muhlenberg College)
Dory, I’m so excited for this new adventure for you and your family. You’re incredibly deserving of the opportunity and I’m thrilled for the immense impact you’re going to have on your new students, colleagues and community. – Bob Shryock, Oakland, CA (ADA Director of Communications & Recruiting, MFA Cohort I 2009-2011)
Well, Dory is a special artist, performer and teacher. She has transformed herself over the years and is now more than ready to start this new chapter in her life. – Kevin Crawford (ADA co-Founder, Physical Theatre Program Director 2004-2009, MFA Program Director 2008-2018)
Sort’em out Dory! ADA style! – Sam McGehee, Arezzo, Italy (ADA Devising & Physical Theatre Program Coordinator, MFA Cohort III 2013-2015)
Words that encapsulate Nhandan’s impact: Generosity, Curiosity, Engagement, Joyous, Fun, Freeing, Strength, Determination, Collaboration, Honest, Continuation, Bold, Playful, Passionate, Articulate, Concrete, Fierce, Subtle, Kebab, Intellectual honesty paired with a constant hunger for research and exploration that was infectious for students and staff in the community.
Is there a memory, situation or moment with or about Nhandan that especially jumps out?
When I was assistant teaching with her, we would often have these quick check ins in the little closet of the teatrino before class. We would be rushing and changing clothes, and in a few words quickly share the plan for the lesson. During these brief little moments of communication and scheming, I felt so much trust and mutual respect from Nhandan. I dearly miss so much about Villa life, but those little moments of collaboration and creation were some of the most precious. And during my 2+ years at the ADA, some of my most fulfilling moments of teaching and creation were in the classroom with Nhandan. – Chris Truini, New York, NY (Fall 2015 Physical Theatre Program, ADA Technical Coordinator 2016-2018, Wheaton College)
My first encounters with Nhandan were at art festivals in Hamburg, Novi Sad and Thessaloniki and I recall her infectious enthusiasm for the social impact of art. – Anuschka Jaenicke, Arezzo, Italy (ADA Executive Director)
I will forever remember when she first taught us how to do headstands. When we all first saw her do one, we were in awe of how easy she made it look. It felt like such a spontaneous and exciting lesson that ended up kinda becoming the highlight of our movement class. Although, to be honest, I sadly never did end up mastering doing a headstand. – Julia Real, Oakhurst, NJ (Spring 2018 Physical Theatre Program, Student Life Coordinator 2019-present, Muhlenberg College)
I will never forget training in your class, all of us working so hard to remember everything we were supposed to do, sweating more than we ever had, and you standing there giving us commands and not letting us give up. You were always honest about what you wanted from us and how we could improve. When I got to the end of the training it always felt so good and I felt so strong knowing I could get through it. – Becca Canziani, Westchester, NY (Fall 2015 Physical Theatre Program, Student Life Coordinator 2017-2019, Muhlenberg College)
I remember my mid semester check in with Nhandan. I was feeling very discouraged and low that my performance in class wasn’t as good as it could be. Nhandan did not hesitate to be extremely honest with me and share that she felt I was hiding much of my potential as a part of our class. She knew I had a background in dance, and we talked about my foundation in ballet, and how the diligence I used to feel as a child while learning new skills should carry over as a growing adult. Our meeting was long, longer than I thought it would be. I cried, because I thought no one was noticing my struggle. But Nhandan has amazing intuition. She sees that every single student had a gift to bring to the floor, (or the taped out box!) as well as a skills to be strengthened. I left my meeting with her feeling a new fire lit. I pushed myself harder. I cherish the sunrise runs and sun salutations that she led us through Tuscany. I smile when I remember her sound effects she used to describe our movements. Nhandan provided an excellent course for movement at ADA and I am so thankful for my experience. – Nicole Esposito, Lancaster, PA (Fall 2015 Physical Theatre Program, Muhlenberg College)
You fostered experimenting and playing with movement. Despite the fact that many of my classmates and I liked to be told what to do, you continued to cultivate the creativity within us, which helped us learn to make stronger choices as artists. – Abigail Gabor, Katonah, NY (Spring 2018 Physical Theatre Program, The City College of New York, Macaulay Honors)
Seeing Nhandan always tirelessly concerned with her students, mentoring them on to their next challenge. – Kevin Crawford (ADA co-Founder, Physical Theatre Program Director 2004-2009, MFA Program Director 2008-2018)
Yes, Nhandan has a special energetic skill, which is very powerful and which she wields with great care. One of my first memories of her is a small ‘experimental session’ we had together. I remember starting to improvise with her in the space not knowing what might happen_ then I remember the session ending still unsure of what exactly had happened but I felt that I had grasped something important in my work. I felt that this had been made possible by Nhandan’s presence and that she had played a great role in that, simply by working alongside me. – Sam McGehee, Arezzo, Italy (ADA Devising & Physical Theatre Program Coordinator, MFA Cohort III 2013-2015)
What would you like Nhandan to know as she moves onto the next chapter?
I hope Nhandan knows that she has touched the lives of dozens of young artists stateside, and that the reverberations of her work are still shaking our bodies and souls. We carry her work into every workspace we inhabit, and I hope that all her other pupils feel as emboldened, affirmed, and encouraged by her training as I feel to this day. I also hope she knows how thankful we are to have gotten to work with her, and that we all wish her the very best moving forward! – Chris Truini, New York, NY (Fall 2015 Physical Theatre Program, ADA Technical Coordinator 2016-2018, Wheaton College)
See you soon, a presto, und bis bald. – Anuschka Jaenicke, Arezzo, Italy (ADA Executive Director)
You were such a valuable part of the ADA community, and I will miss you so much. I will miss doing yoga with you in the mornings, as that was always a great way to start the day. Your class gave me more confidence as a mover and performer and it definitely did the same for plenty of other students as well. I wish you the best with everything moving forward and I hope you are doing well. – Julia Real, Oakhurst, NJ (Spring 2018 Physical Theatre Program, Student Life Coordinator 2019-present, Muhlenberg College)
Nhandan, I learned so much working with you. I’ve seen how semester after semester you pushed the students to find their own creativity and to learn how to communicate and collaborate with one another. I hope your next adventure challenges and nourishes your never- ending creativity and strength! Thank you for everything. – Becca Canziani, Westchester, NY (Fall 2015 Physical Theatre Program, Student Life Coordinator 2017-2019, Muhlenberg College)
I would like Nhandan to know how much confidence she instilled in myself. I think my cohort was so amazingly talented and hardworking, so I sometimes felt lost. But because she worked us to our highest potential. Thank you for working us hard! – Nicole Esposito, Lancaster, PA (Fall 2015 Physical Theatre Program, Muhlenberg College)
I am really grateful to have worked with you because you encouraged the imaginative spirit within me. Thank you for bring your energy and artistry to the ADA! – Abigail Gabor, Katonah, NY (Spring 2018 Physical Theatre Program, The City College of New York, Macaulay Honors)
Nhandan is a person of great stature and vision. I do wish her on-going fulfillment in her life and career. – Kevin Crawford (ADA co-Founder, Physical Theatre Program Director 2004-2009, MFA Program Director 2008-2018)
I’m wondering if Nhandan’s life is really divided into chapters… I imagine something more like a giant wake. I hope we can work together on something again. – Sam McGehee, Arezzo, Italy (ADA Devising & Physical Theatre Program Coordinator, MFA Cohort III 2013-2015)