We recently got a chance to catch up with Gina Carli, an alum of the 2008 Summer Arts Program to talk about her time at the Acacdemia and what she’s been up to since she left. She is a dancer and filmmaker and recently had a dance film selected to be shown at Lincoln Center in New York City as part of the 41st Dance on Camera Festival.
When did you attend the Accademia?
I attended the Accademia’s Summer Arts Program during the summer of 2008.
What did you study while at the Accademia?
I studied dance, but I loved the collaborative opportunities we had with the film and acting students.
What home University were you coming from?
When I attended the Accademia I was a student at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY. I graduated from Manhattanville in 2011 with a BA in Dance and Theatre, Dance Concentration, and a minor in Film Studies.
What was your favorite thing about the program?
Choosing my favorite thing about the program is nearly impossible because it changed my life…. But I will try… Perhaps my favorite thing about the program was the open and supportive environment for collaboration and deep, true artistic exploration, filled with so much fire and inspiration from the other students, teachers, artists and the setting of Arrezzo.
Do you stay in touch with anyone from your class?
At the Accademia I met two girls who are still to this day my soul mate best friends. Their names are Robyn Willson and Anna Hardy. We have kept in touch and gotten together many times back here in the US, including reunions in Disney World and Emerald Isle, NC.
Can you share a favorite memory or story from your time in Italy outside the classroom?
One of my favorite stories from outside of class at the Accademia involves a trip to Pam, the grocery store in Arezzo. It was towards the beginning of our time in Italy and we didn’t really know our way around Arezzo yet. I just remember that to get to Pam the directions were something like, walk down that dirt path, past that farm, turn left at the old wooden gate… stuff like that.
So when we finally made it to Pam we got some groceries, and I decided it would be a good idea to get a watermelon, so we did! As we started to head back to the Accademia it started to rain. Anna, Robyn, and I sat at a bus stop under cover, with our watermelon, in the rain, and talked about philosophy, thanks to Scott McGehee’s morning philosophy class we all took. Sitting in the rain, slightly lost, in the middle of Arezzo, discussing “What is Art?” and then finally trekking back through the wet fields while carrying a watermelon is definitely an experience I will always remember.
Do you have any “must sees” while in Arezzo? A Favorite Gelato spot, restaurant, historical/cultural landmark?
A “must see” for me in Arezzo is the locals. I really liked the fact that the Accademia is in a small city like Arezzo instead of some place more touristy like Florence. Spending days in town, shopping, eating gelato, shopping, dancing, shopping, hanging out with friends was all definitely enhanced by the fact that we got a glimpse of what “normal” life is like for the people who live in Arezzo. Although, I don’t think any day in Italy is ever “normal.” I also love the slanted piazza square in town where we got to experiment with gravity and falling in our choreography.
What were some of the biggest “take aways” from your time at the Accademia?
My biggest take-away, artistically, from my time at the Accademia is in regards to choreographic identity. The choreography classes we took with our dance teacher, Scott Putman, were the first choreography classes I had ever taken. Scott, with the support of all of the other dancers in the program, really helped me break down some barriers. Before the Accademia, when I would choreograph, I would always be questioning “Is this correct? Am I doing this right?” It was at the Accademia that I began to learn that I have my own voice. I learned to listen to myself and trust myself, and therefore to believe in myself. The choreographic exploration that began at the Accademia is a path that I have been on ever since I left Italy, and that journey for artistic identity is one that I will be on for the rest of my life. I am just so grateful that my journey began in such an inspiring place.
What have you been up to since the Accademia?
After I left Italy I went back to Manhattanville with a new fire and drive to focus on choreography. Also drawing from my experience working with the film students at the Accademia on creating a screendance, I began to focus my attention on choreography for the camera. I wrote my thesis paper on screendance and collaboration between choreographers and filmmakers, and I created my first screendance at the end of my senior year for my thesis project. Then I moved to California. I currently attend the University of California, Irvine where I am pursuing my MFA in Dance and Digital Media. I am a teaching assistant for Digital Media courses. I am still focusing my research on dance for the camera and, more broadly, dance and technology. My current research interested include: screendance, telepresence, the relationship of humans with computers and digital technology, and the effects of social networking on society.
Can you talk more about your current dance film project? What was it like having it premiered in NY?
The film that I had accepted into the 41st Dance on Camera Festival, which is presented annually by Dance Films Association and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and which occurred February 1-5, 2013 in NYC, is titled Swan Lake. It is a stop motion animation dance film which stars two super heroes (action figures). The two action figures perform a 2 minute rendition of Swan Lake.
I got the inspiration from a panel in a comic book which included an image of a ballerina. The combination of dance and comics interested me because I had never seen that before. It also brings up conversations about high art/low art (ballet and comics), the short attention span of audiences these days, and the internet as a platform for art (the film received close to 4,000 hits on popular news website Reddit in just under an hour of being posted). I created the film in three days as an exercise/experiment. I had just bought a new camera, computer, and Final Cut Pro editing software, so I wanted to learn to use these materials before graduate school began in September.
I submitted it to Dance on Camera because I am a member of Dance Films Association so I get one free submission. I had no idea they would actually select the film! I attended the screening in New York at Lincoln Center, and it was wonderful to hear people laughing while my film was screening. I love to bring joy and happiness to people!
What would your advice be for people considering attending the Accademia?
My advice for people considering attending the Accademia is DO IT. It is an artistic oasis and I personally promise you it will change your life and bring you inspiration. I know I will return to the Accademia in some capacity one day. Once you go there it is your home away from home. There is truly no place like it. I crave the disconnection from my hectic life with so many distractions here and I think about the Accademia every day.
It is a beautiful location, filled with talented, smart, and passionate artists, the food is wonderful, the wine is superb, and the energy of the yellow villa will fill your soul for the rest of your life.
In your opinion who is a good candidate to get a lot out of the program?
Good candidates to get a lot out of the programs at the Accademia are anyone who wishes to throw themselves 100% into being an artist. Anyone who wishes to embody what it means to be an artists. Not to have it be something that they DO, but to have it be who they ARE. If you are not there yet, but that sounds good to you, then the Accademia will start you on your journey to get to that point. Good candidates for the Accademia are anyone who feels like they have something to say, something they want to share. Or anyone who enjoys art and wants to know more.
I would like to add a huge thank you to everyone at the Accademia for doing what they do and providing such an amazing environment for artists expression and development!
You can see more of Gina Carli’s dance film, choreography and performance work on her website http://theatregina.wix.com/ginacarli.