As an artist, as a student, and as a young person living abroad, you won’t learn anything by playing it safe. This week, we asked our UG Bloggers to tell us a story about a step they’ve taken outside their comfort zone this semester that ultimately brought them personal, academic, or artistic growth. Read on to hear from Tommy, Meg, Michelle, Carrigan, and Julia!
Tommy Walters: Physical Theatre (Muhlenberg College, PA)
There’s a part of me that wants to call it, “physical risk taking.” But really I think the proper description is just “doing the crazy thing.” For whatever reason, throughout this trip I’ve done some things that a year ago I would have considered reckless. Nuts.
But I’ve done them, and here I am. So I guess you could say this is the, “Sorry Mom,” blog post.
The first one was a backflip attempt gone awry. I decided I wanted to try to do a backflip. I’ve always talked about doing a backflip, but was too scared because of the whole, “flipping backwards” thing. I had done one on a trampoline before, but never on solid ground. So I made sure I had a little cushioning, tried to remember to jump and to tuck and the order in which to do them, and went for it. To my utter disbelief, I did not die. In fact I made it all the way around onto my knees! So that wasn’t so bad. I swallowed my fear a second time, put it in my feet a second time, and went for it again. This time I got even closer. Didn’t make it to my feet, but closer for sure. I put on some music, waited for it to swell, and tried again. My nose smacked into the ground. There was quite a bit of blood. It was initially scary, but after a moment, I cleaned up and took stock of the situation. Nothing was broken or irreparably damaged. My nose was a little tender but that would pass soon enough. I decided to call it a night on the flips, but oddly enough, I was less afraid than before. In fact I felt even stronger, more able to take risks.
The next day I went to Cortona by train on a solo day trip, and from the train station to the hill town itself, it is a long walk uphill. My strategy when I get to a hill city is just to continue to walk up until you get to the top, where there will usually be a castle, or some other super-cool structure. Cortona did not disappoint. After an hour or two of walking straight up this hill, I made it to the castle at the top. To my surprise there were a bunch of kids my age and younger playing on the fields around it. There were kids with knapsacks and sleeping bags returning to the place. It felt like I had stumbled into a summer camp, or what I assume what was an Academy of some kind. Seeing that the castle was private land, and that there didn’t look to be a way for the general public to appreciate it, I decided I would climb the castle wall. After hundreds and hundreds of feet uphill to the castle, and a hike around its edge to find a good spot, I climbed my way up the last 15 feet to the top of this wall. The wall was about 5 feet across, and from it, I could see the entire valley around Cortona. Yeah I was standing on a wall that was centuries old, with hefty falls on both sides, but I felt no fear. I just felt invincibility. I felt unlimited.
The last crazy thing happened in Capri, a couple weeks ago. I went off on my own to find the place my parents stayed on their first ever trip together, and in the process found a trail called “The Walk of the Old Forts.” That took me down to the ocean, where I found a small hole in the crests of the coastline. I climbed down into the rocky cove, and realized how easily I was able to hold on. The rocks had been eaten away by erosion in such a way that they dug into the skin of my hands very well. After hanging out in a tide-pool for a while, I turned my eyes to the big rock structures that were boxing me in. They were probably 10 or 12 feet up, all made of that spiky sharp rock which was perfect for a good handhold. With the water churning the rocks, I climbed up to the top, and sat there, looking out to the sea, waving at the boats of tourists headed to the Blue Grotto as they passed by. And again, sitting there above the sea and under the sun, I felt unlimited.
I recognize that risk is something different to everyone, and that what is daring to some is Tuesday to others. But these are just a few times that I did what to me were the crazy things, and figured out that I had more in me than I had thought. Sorry mom!
Here at ADA, the biggest step out of my comfort zone has definitely been my involvement with Cabaret. I had always struggled with sharing my ideas and being confident in my abilities, but since I have been here at ADA I have felt safe to devise work. I am thankful that the teachers have created an environment where it’s okay to fail and it’s okay to share your ideas. Before, I was always worried that whenever I showed people my skills I would be considered as a show off. I am so happy that I feel comfortable and confident to show others what I’m capable of without judgment.
While I was here at the ADA, a close friend of mine from home took his life. The teachers and students here were really supportive and helped me during that difficult time. As an artist I feel the best way to express myself and communicate with others is by creating art and so, to cope with his loss, I also decided to devise a movement piece to share a message about those who suffer from depression and mental illnesses. At first I was hesitant to share my idea with others or to present it at the last Cabaret, but with the support from my friends and my teachers I decided to push myself to do it.
With help from my friends I was able to present it at our last Cabaret. I feel proud of the work we devised and so happy that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. It’s because of the ADA that I am able to give life to my ideas. Now that Cabaret is over I hope to continue to work on this movement piece and bring it back to Coastal Carolina University. I want to use it to help bring awareness to Suicide Prevention at my school. I want to thank the ADA for the tools they have given me to devise work. I cannot wait to bring back what I have learned.
Below is a link to Meg’s cabaret performance, “A Piece of Me,” on YouTube:
Michelle Ciccotelli: Physical Theatre (Boston University, MA)
A brief story about being thrown into the deep end and somehow learning to swim:
You walk into class to see a row of masks sitting on a table, just like any other day. Three blocks are set up. You warm up, you sit, and slowly you realize what is about to happen. Dory asks for three volunteers to get up, choose a mask, forget pretty much anything they know about what the mask means in terms of commedia, and sit on a block. The first three people who go take a moment to look at the mask and discover a way of speaking and moving through the mask. She asks them questions, and they come up with their answers, as their characters, right then and there. It’s great to watch, but you maybe start to freak out a little bit. You ask yourself, “How am I going to just get up, put on a mask, and start talking as this character that I’m creating on the spot?” Eventually, you get yourself to the row of masks, choose one that sparks your interest, and sit on a block. You feel quite unsure of yourself, but hey, you’re already up there and this is what you signed up for. You put on the mask and eventually turn around to face everyone. You’re glad there are two other people next to you who have also just been thrown into this. You’re still a little nervous, but something happens. Somehow, this mask tells you exactly what to do. You feel a little like you’ve jumped off a high dive into a deep pool but somehow, you’ve gotten yourself back to the surface, and without thinking about it, your body figured out how to keep you afloat. The character creates itself and you realize that you’ve taken a back seat in it all. You start saying things you could never have planned, doing things you’d never do as your regular self. You watch two other characters come to life through the people next to you and the crazy, unexpected things that come from them make you laugh. You realize that when you jump in before you think you’re ready, you’ll be capable of so much more than you could have predicted. You know that you can swim, and realize that you’ve known how for much longer than you’ve given yourself credit.
Carrigan O’Brian: Physical Theatre (Sarah Lawrence University, NY)
I have learned how to be upside down in Italy. It is the strangest thing to discover and something I had never thought about. I have done plenty of yoga in my life but I had never done a headstand or felt comfortable upside down, nor did I think it was necessary for me to try. During one of our initial movement classes, our incredibly talented teacher Nhandan saw me playing around upside down, or trying to. For me, it felt exciting and good to turn my body completely another way around and experience that sensation. After class Nhandan told me it was important for me to continue doing work upside down. She didn’t tell me why or how, but she said to work on a movement piece that put me upside down.
I was terrified at first and a little concerned, but I knew Nhandan’s impulses were always correct, so I tried it out. I worked a little bit every day on my headstand and made sure to do them in class whenever the opportunity arose. Over Spring break, I made sure to try a headstand or at least a handstand in every city just to get more comfortable, experience the world differently and recirculate my blood. It was amazing! I started to become okay at it and I could, and still do, feel my body getting stronger.
My individual movement piece is now a commentary on what it is to be “stuck” in one body and I play upside down on a balcony. For me personally, I wish I were a boy sometimes because women have had so many struggles with sexism (plus I dance to the song “I Wish I Were A Boy” by Lesley Gore), so I used that as my story line. I don’t think I ever would have created a piece and been so confident with being upside down if I hadn’t been encouraged and pushed to explore that part of me. I also feel significantly more open and free after doing all this upside down work, and know it has allowed me to trust my body and my environment even more.
Julia Krawczyk: Dance (Goucher College, MD)
I’ve been taking a lot of chances here and really trying to push myself to go past my boundaries and experience everything possible. And for the last Cabaret performance I think I outdid myself. Ladies and gentlemen, I bared it all. All of it. I danced in literal lingerie for a Zombie burlesque piece I was in. It was exhilarating. It was empowering. It was freeing. I feel like a new woman. Everyone saw my butt!! My whole entire butt. I honestly never thought I would do something like that before coming here. I allowed myself to be vulnerable and you know what I had a grand ole time. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.