Centre for Advanced Training Italian exchange 2018

3 Sep 2018

In July, three students aged 16-17 years from our Centre for Advanced Training in Dance (CAT) scheme were awarded scholarships to attend the Arte Balletto Summer School in the heart of Cantina, Sicily; the home of Mount Etna. The scheme allowed the students to immerse themselves within a different culture and language, and to have an opportunity to work with new teachers, artists and other European students, as well as ending the programme with a performance at Teatro Metropolitan.

This is the second time that participants from the The Place CAT scheme have taken part in an international exchange programme. For the past 3 years we have invited Arte Balletto students to attend the CAT Summer Intensive at The Place and the programme continues to grow year on year. This year's exchange students, Holly, Lily and Emily, documented their experiences at the Arte Balletto Summer School in the form of blog entries:

Monday 16th July

Lily:

It was nice to see a friendly face in contemporary, although Nicky spoke mostly in Italian. At the beginning of class this was challenging but as it progressed we all felt more relaxed and comfortable as we began recognising the basic phrases. In comparison to ballet, contemporary was easier in some ways because it gave us a familiar environment and we were able to demonstrate our capability and potential.

Holly:

When entering the pointe class, all three of us were apprehensive. The thought of being able to execute complex repertoire seemed daunting, especially after having participated in a two and a half hour ballet class prior to this. However, once the class got underway, we were surprised with how quickly we were able to pick up the sequences. Being placed in an environment where the standard was so high, and where the students had so much experience, pushed us to work harder in order to keep up, and in turn, the class that we were dreading became less difficult.

Emily:

Today was our first day at Arte Balletto Summer School, and we woke up to the high temperature of 39 degrees. The first class was ballet, and we found ourselves amongst a large array of talented dancers. The task of matching the height extensions of the dancers proved a challenge at the beginning of the class but the hot temperatures added some new found height to our grand battements! There was a clear different between the style of the Italian and English dancers and it was difficult to not compromise our own technique and alignment to match their differing approach.

Tuesday 17th July

Lily:

Again, the second day at Arte Balletto began with a ballet class, but this time taught by Stephen. This class seemed more accessible than the previous lesson as, like us, he was a predominantly English speaker. We especially enjoyed the style of the exercises and the more upbeat atmosphere this provided. The Italian students also seemed more approachable and up for conversation which provided a more relaxed space for us to work in.

Holly:

After a challenging pointe class, contemporary was a nice relief! We began with some chilled mobilising exercises but quickly moved onto some more expansive travelling phrases. Nicky provided us with multiple challenges - the easiest being transferring the exercises from the right to the left (destra to sinistra!), and the hardest being working in pairs with speakers of a different language. The majority of the class, however, was spent looking at the contrasting, longer pieces of choreography - the dynamic ‘Gecho’ and the more relaxed ‘Sleep’. These were put together to start to produce a piece for the show at the end of the week.

Emily:

Today, pointe was the most challenging class. The repertoire that we were taught was delivered at a fast pace and the content was more complex. This, in combination with the un-matted floor of the alternative studio, made us more wary of our less confident technique and decreased our confidence in executing the steps. However, we are determined to not let ourselves feel defeated by this, and by the showcase we hope to have progressed under Natalia’s excellent tuition!

Wednesday 18th July

Lily:

Within today's pointe class, we started creating the final piece for the showcase. Initially, we had learnt all the different sections, however Natalia began putting us into separate groups to perform the different phrases. This made us feel more relaxed and calm as it meant we could focus on our section in more detail rather than panicking about learning the entire piece.

Holly:

Today we had Stephen. The class still had the upbeat atmosphere but more challenging sequences, such as fuettes changing spot and grande plies into pirouettes. He gave great constructive criticism around my carriage of the arms which allowed me to balance more effectively.

Emily:

We started to incorporate exercises in the class into the choreography for the showcase. We also worked on the different dynamics and textures of the movements. We had our first rehearsal for our trio where Nicky gave us tasks to complete, for example, making a contact section and a solo both in just 4 minutes.

Thursday 19th July

Lily:

I was feeling unwell so I sat out in contemporary. I assisted in annotating choreographic notes. Nicky set us a 4 minute task to create duets and trios which had to include contact and lifting. The language barrier was tricky initially, however this prevented us from wasting time and allowed us to communicate physically.  At this point in the week, the group as a whole has become more comfortable in each other's company; lots of peer mentoring and positive reinforcement e.g high fives when lifts were completed successfully!

Holly:

Today we completed the rep which meant we could focus on cleaning and small details. However, I have a severely blistered little toe! I have learnt to work through the pain in order to practice to improve so I am ready for the showcase.

Emily:

I found today the most mentally challenging as tiredness has caught up with me and I didnt feel at my best. The class sequences were not a natural progression from Monday therefore were more difficult to remember. The classes at ArteBalleto are more technically challenging where transference of weight is frequent, making the steps harder to execute with the correct technique. Whilst this has been an exciting experience it has made us realise the importance of an equilibrium between challenge and security. As the week has gone on we have been able to appreciate the the break times at CAT and the way we are taught to nutritionally fuel ourselves for the day.

Friday 20th July

Lily:

The ballet class today once again was taught by Stephen. However, in comparison to last time it was filled with slightly easier content, which was still challenging but more enjoyable. After completing a short bar and a lengthy adage (which required a lot of strength endurance), we moved onto completing the rep which we will perform in the finale of the show. This choreography is upbeat and full of simplistic allegro which makes it fun to perform as a group.

Holly:

The structure of the contemporary class was different to the days prior to today. We used the first exercises of the class as a warm up which prepared us for putting together the piece which we will perform in the show. We rehearsed the counts of the beginning sequence which were surprisingly difficult to submit to memory. We then moved onto putting the duets and trios that we created yesterday in order, and then infiltrated segments of the choreography that we had used in class. By doing this we managed to create a whole piece which we will clean tomorrow.

Emily:

Having completed the piece yesterday, the pointe class required high levels of concentration. Natalia went over the rep piece by piece, cleaning the arm and head positions for each section. For my section, the polishing was so thorough that she was correcting my head line which was facing the right way but not inclined enough. Executing these corrections was difficult whilst still successfully getting onto full pointe, but by the end of the class the piece looked neater and nicer to watch.

Saturday 21st July

Lily:

The last day of pointe rehearsals consisted purely of cleaning the repertoire ready for the showcase. We practiced the piece to two separate tempos and chose the preferred music as a group. The faster tempo meant that we didn’t have to balance for as long on the pointe shoe, but was difficult to keep up with on the faster travelling movements. So, in order to achieve clean positions we chose to dance to the slower tempo. We also got given tutus to rehearse in, which made it even more important to achieve the correct turn out and alignment (due to how much they expose the legs!).

Holly:

The main focus of the ballet class today was to achieve the correct coordination of the arms, legs and head. This started at the barre, where we had to complete complex exercises such as a fondu and and adage. Here, our balance was tested by making us move away from the barre at certain points. To execute these exercises correctly the correct coordination was required.

Emily:

Today, Nikki asked us to set the counts for a certain section of the choreography so that they weren’t even and predictable. We worked in a group of people who spoke three different languages, and, together we managed to decide and solidify on a certain rhythm of movement and clean it so that it was in unison. This was especially satisfying when we completed it because we managed to overcome a large language barrier.

Sunday 22nd July

Lily:

The final day of our stay here in Sicily involved the spectacular which we have been rehearsing all week. The morning began with a technical rehearsal where we spaced all the numbers ready for the performance. We then participated in a full show run which calmed our nerves about the pointe dance (which we were feeling anxious about performing in the large space). After having been given notes and corrections, it was time to perform the show. This provided the perfect finale for our time at Arte Balletto, allowing us to perform with our new friends and to apply all that we have learnt this week to the rep.

Holly:

The show, which the teachers and the students at Arte Balletto worked so hard at creating this week, was a huge success. Watching all the Italian students perform their variations and solos reminded us of how lucky we are to have trained amongst such talent this week, and so meant that we cherished our final performances with them. As well as the relationships we formed despite the language barrier, we have learnt to have faith in our own strengths, even if they are different to other peoples’. This quality is one which will be valuable to us in the future when auditioning, allowing us to keep a level and focused head space and preventing us from becoming daunted in pressurised situations.

Emily:

Amongst accomplishing successful performances in the contemporary and pointe pieces, we also managed to execute to the best of our ability the trio which we had such limited time to create and rehearse throughout the week. With Nicky’s help, we have learnt to compile a quality sequence of movement without thinking too deeply about its content. By challenging our usual ways of thinking, we managed to create more obscure and interesting pathways. Once the material was created, she then made us think about the relationships and focus between us on stage, and this really transformed the piece from 3 isolated solos performed side by side, to a collaborative trio. This week has therefore also taught us that by giving ourselves limited time whilst applying intense concentration, provides a far more effective way of working - and we are then able to alter the movements that are set by reversing them (e.g when Nicky changed my barrel jump to needing to have my legs forward and above my head). We have all found this week such an enriching learning experience and want to thank CAT and Arte Balletto for giving us such a special opportunity.

As part of the exchange, the CAT Intensive in London also ran in July where four students from Arte Balletto worked with Candoco Dance Co and James Wilton Dance Co.