Rapidly approaching the one-month mark here in Italy, we’ve asked some of our undergraduate Physical Theatre and Dance students to reflect upon how working with European instructors has colored their experience, impacted their artistic life, and opened their eyes in new ways. Check out this cultural reflection by Julia, Carrigan, Michelle, and Tommy, and don’t miss Meg’s video about the students’ excursion to Venice!
Julia Krawczyk: Dance (Goucher College, MD)
I’m in a different country
And everything is new
I have European instructors
Who tell me what to do
I’m not always sure
exactly what they mean
But I try my hardest
to think differently
Gleaning words of wisdom
From each and every one
Italian is very hard
But being here is fun!
Carrigan O’Brian: Physical Theatre (Sarah Lawrence College, NY)
After being in Italy for three weeks (already!?) I am coming to a premature conclusion about why Italian culture is so invigorating and overwhelming for us “noobie” folk. We don’t know how to indulge and how to live from our hearts the way that Italy does. Maybe this is a naïve conclusion to make about a country I have lived in for less than a month, but I am certain that the roots of Italy are passion. Having been a New Englander for most of my life, I am unaccustomed to meeting “passionate” people on a day-to-day basis like in the gas station or in a local yoga class. In America we are all about efficiency and knowledge. The more things you can accomplish in a small amount of time, the stronger you are as a human being and a citizen. Alternatively, every Italian professor I have had so far, every waiter or local business owner is seriously passionate about what they do. The “Tarantella” shows this passion. It is a traditional Southern Italian dance that is supposed to represent freedom, being connected to the Earth, to the sky and your insides. When we had our Tarantella dance class with the incredible Gianni, he taught us with wild hands and sensual adjectives and transported us through a spiritual membrane. I think this is possible in Italy because of the sunshine, the glorified wine, unbelievable food and the “acceptance” of sensual expression (PDA in the streets among lovers seems almost encouraged!). I have learned from observing that nobody gets their “coffee to go” in Italy or orders the most expensive wine just to wash down your fat steak. In Italy, you are expected to sit and induldge in every drop of your wine bottle. It is not shunned upon to order two or three courses and entire bottle of wine. And why wouldn’t you do that? It’s THAT GOOD here! Italy is built on living life to the fullest, savoring every bit of flavor out of those fermented grapes and letting the garlic homemade gnocchi melt in your mouth, literally. It is not a “past time”, it is expected. I love this country!!!! (Notice the expression of passion in that last sentence; I’m learning…)
Michelle Ciccotelli: Physical Theatre (Boston University, MA)
During our semester here, we have so many opportunities to immerse ourselves in the Italian culture. Through speaking the language, trying the cuisine, and visiting both the major landmarks and other smaller, more residential areas, we get to learn so much about a new place and its people. In our classes, we also get to work with teachers who are from Italy and other parts of Europe. Having teachers whose experiences and training have been so different from the American teachers we have at our home universities is a unique privilege. After 2 and a half years of training at BU with the same teachers, I was honestly pretty nervous to come to a new place and have to adapt to different teachers, but it has proven to be a refreshing and interesting change. Not only are these teachers immensely qualified for their positions, they have an abundance of knowledge and experience to share with us that is completely unique to each of them individually. Because of their different backgrounds and languages, they also use different vocabularies than the teachers I am used to. At a university with only a handful of teachers in the theatre program, there becomes a common language among the teachers and students, where terms and ways of talking about the work cross over between classes. This definitely has its value, because then everyone is on the same page, and the experiences we have in a class aren’t just isolated to that one class; however, coming to a place where we are learning new techniques and new ways of looking at the work is so useful in its own way. Some of the things we’ve learned, such as Laban, are things we have worked with at my home university, but approaching it in a completely new way, with a teacher who has had her own experience with the technique opens even more doors and offers us a fresh perspective on the work. Rather than coming in and continuing to work in the same way I have for the past couple years, having these new teachers has reminded me to approach each class as something completely new. Their way of teaching, their vocabulary, and the way they present the material to us gives us the opportunity to start over even with a skill or technique that we have approached multiple times before. Even the teachers’ use of language offers us a new way in. Since many of our teachers grew up communicating in other languages, like Italian or German, or learning from teachers who spoke other languages, their choice of words and ways of communicating are unlike what I am used to with American teachers. This often opens up other doors into the work, because things that we have learned before are being phrased in new ways, and even that small change can help us to understand what we are learning in ways that resonate more deeply with us. This first month at the Accademia has taught me how valuable training with all different teachers from all different backgrounds is to being an artist. There is no one way to learn, practice, or teach, so learning multiple ways from multiple sources helps us to broaden our view of what this art form is, and what the possibilities can be. Just from the small amount of time we’ve spent here, I can already tell that our teachers’ willingness to share their own unique knowledge and experience with will be an invaluable part of our training.
Tommy Walters: Physical Theatre (Muhlenberg College, PA)
As usual I’m paralyzed by a fear of saying something that’s been said before, which I
know it is an impossibility not to do, but it is in this paradox we live.
I guess in many ways for me there is an Arezzo, the place, and an “Arezzo”, the idea. At
my school back home, Arezzo is an idea, a concept. Arezzo lore is passed down to the
freshman from the minute they get there. This heaven of rich history and random aqueducts
where it rains wine and everyone still comes home leaner and stronger than they’ve ever been.
Some people come to the school mainly so that they’ll be able to go to Arezzo their junior year.
So I think in many ways, what I’ve been combatting since I got there was a tendency to build
this place up to more than it actually is. It’s been my goal to throw off the rose-colored glasses
and get the most out of the differences of this place.
So goes the mantra for me: “It is not better, it is just different.”
And it has worked wonders for my ability to see the people of this place simply as human
beings, living in a society, working under the conditions of their surroundings, just like those I
know back home. Although I’ve learned a lot about Italy and Italian culture, I think that the real
purpose of travel in many cases is the same as that of theatre, to teach us about the universality
of our condition.
Also, in many ways, Italy brings this truth home even more than home, just because the
manmade structures here are so old! You can see the remains of the last “millenials,” (the ones
from the 1000s), and feel a connection not only with the people around you but also with the
generations of humans searching for meaning in God and money and art, just as we do today.
Taking a step back from the heady stuff for a moment, what’s also really important about
this experience so far is the people of the ADA. There have been times in my life when I have been too open to others and believed them unequivocally, and there have been times when I have been so disillusioned that I couldn’t open myself to others at all. These people have helped to teach me that it does not have to be one or the other. We can know what we know, and still learn from everyone in our lives. I have definitely learned from all of them, and we’ve only been here 3 weeks!
When I really break it down for myself, the question becomes, “What can I get
elsewhere?” I can read philosophy elsewhere, I can study Italian elsewhere, I can dance, move, speak, and exercise elsewhere, and yes, although it may be harder, I can find good Italian food elsewhere. What I cannot do, that this place has done, is bring together these people. These people who are honest about what they know, and open to what they do not. These people whose search for meaning and truth and adventure has lead them here, like it has me.
I guess this place has reminded me of what I value most. Both in what I’m missing right now, and what I’ve found now I’m here: People.
Meg Groves: Physical Theatre (Coastal Carolina University, SC)
Hey y’all! I decided to create a video of my trip to Venice. Every since I was little it has been my dream to go to Venice. It was so amazing. I hope you enjoy the video.