New Energy, New Connections, New Collaboration: an Accademia dell’Arte Newsletter
Like every Fall, we had the pleasure of opening our doors to a group of curious and talented actors and musicians. What came to us as a dedicated student body is now already deeply immersed into their learning process here at Villa Godiola and filling the space with their passion and commitment to art. Students have already been exposed to some of the highlights of the semester. This included special guest faculty such as Yo-El Cassell from Boston University and Markus Stockhausen from Cologne whom we had the pleasure to welcome to Arezzo. Music students recently returned from a trip to Venice, which included attending a performance of Tosca at La Fenice. Theatre students just returned from Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital, where students had the privilege to work directly with some of the most outstanding artists in the area.
Fall is always an exciting moment at the Accademia dell’Arte as it generates a special aura in the school with the presence of the Furman University music students, not only because the air is filled with the sounds of Mozart, Brahms, Puccini and others, but because two artistic cultures meet, clash, fuse, and create. The crossing of artistic borders plays an essential role in every art form as an act of creation; it is the moment when the intuition links directly to the skills of the artist. In our case, this fusion is between the actor and the musician. An interdisciplinary approach is a fundamental strategy that helps to open up the intuitive side of creation. To this at the Accademia, we continuously work on placing emphasis on these so- called “border crossings” which is an element that repeats throughout the semester in various moments from the Markus Stockhausen workshop in “Intuitive Music”, to Tomas Grom’s workshop in rhythm for the actors. In addition, the musicians and actors fuse their work together in our “CabLab” (cabaret laboratory) for a public showing. We never know what to expect, but there are always surprises.
We wish all of the students an exciting, challenging and meaningful semester.
– Scott McGehee, PhD, Founding Director
Exciting Moments in the Classroom
Ever since they arrived at the villa, the students have brought a lot of energy and creativity to the work that they are doing in the classroom. Read below to hear what One Year Physical Theatre Student, Ashton Harris (Coastal Carolina University), Music Student, Mia Berindea (Furman University), and Fall Physical Theatre Student, Jala Bennett (Coastal Carolina University), have to say about their experiences in class thus far.
What’s something one of your teachers has said that has resonated with you? How is it related to (or different) from activities & exercises you’ve done in classes at your school in the US?
ASHTON: Nhandan was saying “Performance is a constellation of practices” and “Body is constellation, explore and learn, constellation”. We were working with imagination, and I think it was the day that we did the dream exercise. She was talking about how your body is just a constellation and how you should treat it as such. It made me think of how I have such a close relation to the stars and things astrological. And… it stuck with me. It’s interesting. I didn’t think Coastal prepared me for this, but Coastal prepared me for this without me even knowing. I find in classes the majority of people who are doing the speaking are students from Coastal and our professors at Coastal always drop gems. This one professor of mine, Robin Russell, her thing is make a damn choice, and I think that applies to my entire life. To wrap this up, when I think of body being a constellation, it just reminds me and it lets me know that it is always there, and I should treat it as something cosmic and ethereal.
What’s one exercise or activity that has resonated with you? How is it related to (or different) from activities & exercises you’ve done in classes at your school in the US?
MIA: I really liked doing the warm up with Dory and I’m looking forward to doing a movement with musicians class. The warm up that we did was a breathing and alignment one in the morning and I thought that was a really good way to start your morning. Especially as a musician, you have to be in a relaxed state so that you are playing the best that you can; you don’t want any tension in your shoulders. So I thought that was a great way to start the day and in general, it put me in a good mood. So, you know, having that every day is really cool and I can’t wait to work with her again!
JALA: In the Voice and Ensemble course with Dory, learning how to tremor has been an extremely eye-opening experience for me. I’m not very in touch with my body and in that class and especially in that exercise, tremoring, I’ve realized I’ve had more epiphanies about my body than I have had in any other class like that and I’ve only taken one other voice class before this, so it’s become an extremely self realization type of moment for me.
What’s it like studying & training in a small community of artists? What’s something that’s surprised you about it? How do you think this will grow or change as the semester moves forward?
MIA: I love it so much! Just being around creative people all day unlocks my mind in different ways. I’ve already gotten to work with someone on a project from Coastal Carolina, someone who I may not have met if I had not come here. Ashton and I worked on a song together, and we recorded it and it’s done, and I’m super excited to release it and that was just a really cool experience. I’m hoping to do it again with him and other people too because there are so many creative people here, like creative writers, like Aliza, and Ashton, and Bennett, with his recording and filming. So I like being around those people because it makes me feel more inspired.
JALA: This is only the third week and this is the most amazing experience I’ve ever had with a group of artists. Because of course, my home school, Coastal, is a group of artists, but I don’t think I have ever grown as close to a group of people so quickly and it’s amazing honestly, I think. And even within, because we’re in group A and group B and I’m in group A, even within my own group, we’ve grown close. So there’s this like immediate tight knit fabric, almost like a family, and it’s very satisfying to be around because you’re not concerned about someone judging you and it doesn’t become a competition of who is a better artist, it’s just a bunch of artists growing together. It’s wonderful to experience.
ASHTON: It’s really intimate, intimate in the way that our energies exchange consistently, but through that exchange, there’s a lot of positive ebb and flow. It’s taught me not to live in a state of fear. It’s taught me to truly do what I need to do for myself and then check in and make sure others are cool. Because if your body is your constellation, you’ve got to take care of your constellation! You can’t stifle your constellation for the selfish comfort of others.
Guest Faculty Spotlight
We were thrilled for Yo-El Cassell (Assistant Professor of Movement at Boston University) to join us recently at Villa Godiola for a short residency. He lead both the Physical Theatre and Music students in a master class where they collaborated on combining music with movement. Read below for thoughts from Yo-El and Fall Physical Theatre student, Collin Beach (Coastal Carolina University), about the experience!
Yo-El, you recently spent the better part of a week in residence with us in Arezzo at Villa Godiola. How would describe the spirit and energy? What’s something that pleasantly surprised you?
What I observed among the students, faculty and staff was genuine generosity, spirited curiosity, passion for collaboration and for discovery as well as empowered embracement of self and community. The history of Arezzo, being an encrusted city, surprised and enlightened me that I felt complemented the curriculum as as whole-the idea that a city can preserve, not delete, it’s history yet at the same time, prepare for the future.
What was the focus of your work with the students and what did you hope they took away from the sessions. How did the students respond?
To treat the body as the solution – to explore how like an instrument, it has the ability to express our inner thoughts and imagination in all of its shapes and ideas. With the musicians in the room as well, the idea was to explore how each individual’s body can not only locate their “inner music” but share it as well. What I sensed in their reflections and in their embodiment, was unconditional commitment, newfound transformative discoveries and liberated ecstaticism. They connected to the joy of simply moving and embraced their, not someone else’s accessible entry point, to physical expression. They were a pleasure to partner with as a facilitator. I will never forget the transformative experience of being in that room.
How does what you observed and experienced at the Accademia complement the training & education your students receive at BU …or for that matter, students coming from American institutions?
The idea of working on a horizontal plane and learning about self through not only art making but humanistic dialogue-making complemented very well. The curriculum, focusing on delayering to find self and then progressively layering to expand self as an artist and human being also complemented the approach at BU.
Collin, can you describe the work Yo-El led the group through? How did it connect with or complement what you’re experiencing in other classes?
It was in a word, liberating, because it was so free and playful, but at the same time it was similar and completely different from the other classes, because other classes have to have that sense of structure to get us through the semester or year, depending on how long we’re here for, but rarely do we ever just play for the sake of playing or experiment for the sake of experimenting in those classes. So it was a very interesting and welcoming experience.
What was your favorite part of Yo-El’s master class?
My favorite part of Yo El’s master class was probably when we introduced ourselves, because it involved say your name, say where you’re from, say your preferred pronouns, and then say what movement meant to you, either a best friend, someone you don’t know or an acquaintance. And that was just a really good way to gauge what people had to bring and it was really nice.
What was it like working collaboratively with the musicians? Were there any challenges or exciting moments?
I love the musicians, we genuinely have not seen enough of them and that’s just coming from a social aspect. But to actually get in a room and work with them is such a refreshing and welcoming experience because they are so talented! We don’t see them often enough, like we hear it in the background from time to time, but to be in the room and have them help us is inspiring.
First Impressions of Life at the Accademia
After living in Arezzo for a few weeks, the students are starting to get used to what life is like here at Villa Godiola. Below, Fall Physical Theatre Student, Cate Esposito (Muhlenberg College), One Year Physical Theatre Student, Donia Mourad (Coastal Carolina University), and Music Student, Bryan Tran (Furman University), tell us about their experiences living in the villa thus far.
What was your journey to Arezzo like? Describe the sensation of it. How did it feel to finally arrive in Arezzo?
CATE: The travel itself was fine. I was worried about the obvious, making my connecting flight, all that nonsense, but really, it went smoothly. Aside from screaming, crying children, but that was really the worst of it. Yeah it was good, I was a little nervous when I got in line for security and said goodbye to my parents, but then when we landed in Florence and I immediately met up with other kids who are doing the program, it was so exciting to talk to them and get to know them a bit before we dove into the work. It was so surreal getting on that bus from Florence to Arezzo and just taking everything in, even though I had all of my heavy suitcases. It was just so, I don’t know how to put it into words, so beautiful to get here and to be like “Wow this is where I am living for the next three months, thank god.” Like “Okay, I made it.” It had been a huge part of life for so many months and it was not even here yet.
BRYAN: I remember getting off the plane and walking down the steps, because it was one of those smaller planes getting here, and so I literally walked down the steps and on the last one I did like a big hooray jump almost, with my hands in the air, like “We’re here!” But being here now, it still hasn’t really hit me that I’ve been in Arezzo yet, and that it’s going to be my home. I guess the schedule is always changing, so it always feels new and each day feels different from the last, so it doesn’t really hit me that I’ve been here for a good solid two weeks already.
DONIA: To me it was like coming home. I’m not even American, I just live in America, so to me it’s closer to where I’m from, culturally and literally. But it’s also getting away from a lot of social conditioning to have a lot of artistic freedom, so it was definitely coming home.
What is your favorite moment or memory from living in the villa thus far?
CATE: I think what was really nice was the first night we got here, the Friday night. We all just got unpacked and ate and then we chilled in the Limonaia. We were playing music and we were like “Hey let’s take this to the Teatrino.” And so we had a mini dance party and it was really fun, it was just what I needed before orientation, before classes started. It was so much fun!
BRYAN: I think it was the first night I was here. I was just so tired but I think it was the excitement and energy that I was in Italy. I sat at the top of the Teatrino for at least a good three hours just looking over the city and playing music on my phone. I sat there and just watched and listened. I think that was the most enjoyable part, just having alone time and having an amazing view.
DONIA: I think the first day we did yoga, because I have my own workout programs that I’m doing and at night I do yoga and I kind of just thought on a whim to tell other people to do it. On the first day that I did it, almost 15 people showed up to do yoga with me, which was pretty amazing. I don’t know if it’s the favorite moment, but it’s the one that pops into my head right now and it’s definitely in my top 3, plus the fact that they continued to show up. We still do it every night.
What is your favorite thing about the Accademia dell’Arte community outside of the classroom?
CATE: I think just how chill everyone is. Yeah, because, you know, no matter where you go classes will always be stressful, there will always be that stress, but what’s nice about the community is that we all have each other’s backs. Literally everyone is like “If you need help with this, I can help you with that!” or like “Hey if you need a space come talk to me!” or “You don’t have food for the weekend, here I have leftovers that I don’t want, take them.” In and out of the classroom, everyone is so supportive and so kind.
BRYAN: I think for me, it’s to being able to connect with all of the different students around. There are just so many different types of students and they each bring a different perspective into how art is and why they are doing this. And so hanging around the theatre students and not only the music students and having class with them as well is something I’m really, really enjoying.
DONIA: I think it’s that we’re all a family. Of course we have some family drama but there is so much family love that the drama doesn’t even matter. We help each other with everything, there’s always somebody looking out for somebody else. Whether it be that somebody’s sick or [somebody needs help with] laundry. At least one person always has keys get back in because I never carry my own. We also look out for each other when we go in town and we plan trips together. And so it’s like a really big family, and it doesn’t feel like we haven’t known each other for long. I mean there’s a lot of Coastal students, so some of them I have known for around three years, but even the people that I just met, it feels like I’ve known them forever.
To get a unique insight into how the semester is going, we interviewed some of our incredible faculty members. Read below to hear from Dory Sibley (Voice and Ensemble Performance), Emilija Dimitrijevic (Philosophy of Arts and Performance) and Nhandan Chirco (Movement and Body Work).
What is an exercise, activity or assignment that has resonated differently with you this semester compared to previous ones? Why do you think that is?
DORY: No group is ever the same. I have learned to not “predict” the outcomes and instead to take the experiences and hold the space for students to discover how they will shape these experiences to achieve their objectives. The truth is, the more I teach, the less I know. Thus, I realize that the most important thing I can do is support young artists, give them tools that empower them to make choices, listen to their intuition and see their own work using various perspectives. I find the Fitzmaurice tremor work really useful both for discovering new connections and dissolving our habitual patterns and points of view. The more I do the work, the further the curiosity spans. These exercises provide a wealth of information and discovery that arises from every unique individual.
EMILIJA: Class discussions are particularly interesting this term. From the very beginning, the atmosphere in the classroom has been that of open and honest dialogue based upon respect, which has made this class interesting, engaging, and thought provoking.
What activities / approaches in class do find your students engaging strongly with? Which ones are they finding more difficult?
DORY: The Presence work is always very interesting. It raises questions about language, meaning, engagement, desire and relationship in very short, simple exercises. The work I share has been adapted from exercises by Saul Kotzubei and Craig Deuchar, Organic Intelligence. These have proven unparalleled in the exploration of artistic intention, character and ensemble building.
In general, listening is a difficult discipline to master. Learning how to listen without immediate response takes time, patience and stillness. To enjoy listening can be a lifelong ambition, coming from a desire to understand and fueled by our empathetic nature. In time, artists who truly listen to understand can create from various perspectives, work through deeper introspection and connection with both the world and their collaborators. It takes a lot of practice, but it is worth it.
EMILIJA: I find students engaging strongly in discussion of various art related topics. Part of their interest emerges out of the material under consideration, part out of the way in which the conversation develops. One of their assignments is to think about the works of art that creatively explore philosophical concepts and theories, or to think about the ways in which they could artistically develop them, and this helps to embed theory more in practical work. Reading some texts may occasionally be more challenging because of their form or length, but the effort certainly pays off.
Nhandan, you recently took a one-week recruiting trip to the US (where you were joined by Accademia alum Chris Truini) to visit universities and colleges in the Boston, MA and Allentown, PA areas. What were your thoughts or feelings about the trip beforehand? What were you looking forward to?
It was very important for me to have a concrete idea about where the students I work with at the Accademia are coming from. I wish to see the places, the colleges and campuses where they live before they come to Arezzo, and where they will bring their work after the program concludes. It was essential to meet with their faculty and have conversations about the pedagogical profiles of our programs. Actually, even if we had never met before, we were already working in collaboration, as we are working with the same students. We want to establish communication and become aware of the ways the work we do can match – or have complementary differences – so it can be impactful and help the students bridge the two experiences.
Had you been to Boston before? How did being there compare to your expectations of it?
Boston is a beautiful town. This was the first time for me. Amazing. I had no expectations, I was mostly focused on the work and on my professional tasks, but as I landed in Boston I felt so light and happy to be in those surroundings! Just to walk to the first coffee bar at the corner in the morning… joyful days! And traveling around with Chris Truini, working together and discussing about all we did, analyzing labs and meetings and the intensive conversations with faculty, while traveling in the car looking for a place to have coffee… it was a really great experience of collaboration, like having a real ally.
What would you like to experience or accomplish on your next recruiting trip to the US?
I’d like to continue the pedagogical exchange with the brilliant faculty I met on this tour as well as meet more people, talk, exchange reflections about the work, increase my understanding of the system of education students are coming from and of the language they are used to, be aware of the differences in the way we work and make this awareness a useful tool in supporting their process. A study abroad program has the wonderful challenge of an encounter of different cultures and languages. To know the other cultural background helps to introduce the new language with a certain degree of continuity to make the communication ideal, fluid and effective. And of course I’d love to be back in Boston once again. I loved it!