Our interview series with Dance Program Director, Sabine Fichter continues as we discuss her first semester in the program and details of the dancer training at the Accademia dell’Arte.
Read part 1 of the series to learn about Sabine’s training and background.
How did you find your first semester at the Accademia?
My first semester at ADA was absolutely wonderful. When I first came to ADA in the summer 2012 to apply for the dance director’s position I was already impressed by the beauty of the building, the facilities and the landscape.
I had strong positive feelings about the faculty and the working atmosphere, so I was pretty confident that we would have a good semester. But my expectations were even exceeded!
We had a lovely group of nine talented young, enthusiastic dance students from different colleges all over the US. My favorite moments from the semester were definitely the final performances from the different courses: Butoh, Tarantella, Giorgio Rossi’s Performance class. I also loved to see the so-called “Cabaret nights” where the students have the possibility to perform their own artistic work and many of the dance students collaborated with students from the theatre program. I was absolutely delighted to be able to follow each student’s personal growth and artistic development! I think that seeing changes and progress in students is a highlight and precious moment for every teacher.
What types of students do you feel are a good fit for the dance semester abroad program at ADA?
The students who come to ADA are certainly open and curious to expand their dance knowledge, both physically and mentally. I felt that all the students from the spring term 2013 were ready for a whole new experience: a foreign culture, a new language, new dance techniques and approaches, different ways of thinking about dance and performing. The students who choose our program also have a desire in developing their artistic potential and a strong interest in personal growth. Joining a study abroad program certainly is always an adventure. From my experience (and the feedback that we got!) this last spring the ADA adventure was certainly enriching and beneficial for everyone who attended it.
Can you talk about the role of technique in the program?
The students who come to ADA usually arrive with a solid background in dance technique. Some have a strong background in Ballet, others are more experienced in Modern Dance techniques. We offer a Modern Dance class (Nikolai technique) at least three times a week and Ballet class twice a week.
We certainly consider technique classes as an important part of the dance program, but for us it is even more important to support the students in developing their own creativity. We also invite students to approach technique from different perspectives and to re-think what “good technique” really means! Therefore we sometimes ask students to let go of certain movement habits and try something new that might feel unfamiliar to them at first. There are many ways to achieve a strong, healthy and efficient movement technique for a dancer. Our main goal is to support students in enhancing their movement possibilities and to fully develop their individual potential.
How does the setting of the school impact the work of the dance program?
The setting of the Accademia has a huge impact on the study abroad experience as a whole. Students live, study, eat, work, meet, chill and celebrate in the wonderful Villa (built in the 17th century), on top of a hill vis-à-vis from the historical town of Arezzo, surrounded by lovely Tuscan hills.
We live there as a close community, theatre students meet dance students and even share some of the classes and workshops. The environment is really inspiring with astonishingly beautiful cities like Florence, Siena, Perugia and Rome, which can be easily reached within a 1 or 2-hours train ride.
The dance students will do three major final performances at the end of the Butoh workshop, the Tarantella course and the Performance Studies (Giorgio Rossi) course. The performances take place at different venues in the Accademia itself (in our “Sala Danza” or the “Teatrino”) or in performance spaces in the centre of Arezzo. In addition to those major shows there are also the “Cabaret nights”, when students have the possibility to create and present their own work, solo pieces or collaborations with other students.
The program at ADA is unique because of the artists who teach the courses, the way they teach and of course the content of each course! Students who come to ADA have the chance to work with dancers who have worked with Pina Bausch – for example Mark Wilson, who was a member of the Tanztheater Wuppertal for five years, or Mitsuru Masaki, a Japanese Butoh master, who has worked with Susanne Linke and Pina Bausch for many years. We work with Italian teachers, Giorgio Rossi for instance, who danced with Carolyn Carlson Company, or Rita Petrone, our Nikolai teacher. She works as a choreographer and runs her own dance school in Perugia. Gianni Bruschi is located in Arezzo with his own dance studio and he leads the Tarantella course. All of our teachers are strongly connected to the European dance scene and share their knowledge and expertise with the students. For next year I have plans to invite a special guest, Petra Kugel from Berlin, Germany, who has studied with Mary Wigman, the grand lady of German expressionist dance and we will have Thomas Kampe from London who will teach a workshop in Contact Improvisation. Our faculty works together as a very strong team of passionate artists and competent pedagogues which in my opinion builds the foundation of an excellent dance program.
Next spring at ADA and how I see the program to grow:
I am very much looking forward to our spring program 2014. As I mentioned before I have plans to invite some very interesting guests from Germany and the UK. We might have another dancer from Tanztheater Wuppertal who has specialized in teaching Pina Bausch repertory.
In the future we hope to schedule more classes that dance students and theatre students can share. I have a lot of ideas and plans how the dance program can grow – there are so many interesting teachers out there who would be perfect fits for the program. There are also plans to find more performance opportunities and new venues for students’ shows, so that we can present the work to a broader Italian audience.
Everything is a matter of time on the schedule – we only have 13 weeks for the spring term and these 13 weeks are already quite packed! I really want to bring the program forward maintaining a strong connection to the European dance tradition and history. The program is already a great program and I am very confident that it will grow in the future – we’ll take it step by step.
Continue reading about Sabine and the dance program at the Accademia in part 3.