Centre for Advanced Training Italian exchange 2019

29 Aug 2019

In July, four students aged 16-17 years from our Centre for Advanced Training (CAT) scheme were awarded scholarships to attend the Arte Balletto Summer School in the heart of Cantina, Sicily. 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 third 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, Sveva, Sasha, Aklisa and Amy, documented their experiences at the Arte Balletto Summer School in the form of blog entries:

 

Day 1 - Sunday 14 July

Aklisa:

We left from Gatwick airport with our chaperone Irad and arrived in Catania in the early afternoon

Sveva:

Although we’ve been at CAT for a year, Aklisa and I had never met Sasha or Amy, so we had to get to know each other on the go! Since classes started the next day, we took the Sunday as a chance to relax. We dumped our stuff in the *absolutely stunning* apartment and went straight to the beach. By the end of the day it felt like we’d all known each other for ages!

Sasha:

This was the first proper chance for us to get to know each other and to bond. We decided to have an early night as the following day (and week) would be intense, especially in the humid weather.

Amy-Groves-and-Sveva-taking-in-the-sights

 

Day 2 - Monday 15 July

Sveva:

I’ll be honest, walking into that first class was definitely one of the most intimidating parts of the whole week. Seeing so many amazing dancers in one room made me really nervous.

Amy:

I think us CAT students felt slightly overwhelmed because everyone around us was insane at ballet, but Irad reminded us that this was only the first day, and this definitely stayed with me through the week! In repertoire we learnt the Lilac Fairy solo and then performed it two at a time. I really enjoyed performing it, and this was the point where we started to talk to the other girls in the class which was nice.

Aklisa:

At 2pm we had a contemporary dance class with Nicky who teaches at CAT. It was really nice because I felt at home and doing contemporary after classical ballet felt very liberating. During the lesson with Nicky we had the opportunity to help the other girls in the group, meet new people and be able to make friends through dance especially while working on duets and quartets.

CAT-students-and-Nicky-Ellis

 

Day 3 – Tuesday 16 July

Amy:

We came raring to go today, with our CAT t-shirts on and feeling positive. Also, we had a different teacher for ballet, his name was Carlos and I liked him, even though he spoke mainly Italian and was quite grumpy! He kept saying that we needed to take risks and not be afraid to go wrong, which I really agree with.

Sveva:

The hardest part of his class was definitely the complexity of the centre exercises. He used a lot of steps that I wasn’t familiar with, so it wasn’t the best I’ve ever danced in class, but I think I learned a lot. In the last half an hour of ballet we got split up into groups to work on the pieces for the show. The CAT girls and I got put into Renato’s group. Renato has possibly the most unconventional teaching methods I’ve ever come across, but he made the class so enjoyable with his funny anecdotes and comments.

Sasha:

After ballet class was repertoire with Ann-Loe. She told us that we were going to learn the Act 1 Kitri variation. She demonstrated the variation once, we marked it all together, then she asked us to perform it two at a time. It wasn’t as nerve wrecking as yesterday’s class, but I was still anxious.

Amy:

The variation was hard for me to master. I was nervous to do it, I felt I didn’t know it well enough and wasn’t prepared, but this was the point where I truly learnt to JUST GO FOR IT! I came to the realisation that it is better to do something to the best of your ability than not to do it at all, and this is a valuable lesson I will keep with me as I further my training. After the variation class we moved onto contemporary where everyone was really on it! We all really upped our game after yesterday and I enjoyed learning new choreography!

Sasha:

As a CAT student I didn’t find it difficult to do, however some Italian students were struggling so Nicky made us split up and help each other. This was a challenge as language was a barrier to communicating but it also allowed us to properly mix with the Italian students instead of being isolated.

CAT-students-after-rehearsal

 

Day 4 - Wednesday 17 July

Sveva:

We had Renato for ballet, which was a complete contrast to the ballet teachers we’d had previously. Renato works with a lot of repetition, so we’d repeat each exercise at least 2 or 3 times. On top of that, the aircon in the studio broke and left us sweating in the 30+ degree Sicilian heat. Personally, Renato’s ballet class was the hardest on my body, but it was the most beneficial for me because it allowed me to really home in on the small technical aspects of each exercise.

Amy:

Contemporary came really fast and I felt more confident than I ever have before in a contemporary class, I think because I actually knew what I was doing for once! We also started to put the group piece together which was based on a lot of the exercises, and it got me really excited for the performance!

Sveva:

We began working on some duet work for Nicky’s piece in contemporary; it was a bit awkward at first because it’s harder to do contact work with someone you don’t know, but my partner Tamara was so lovely, and we worked really well together.

Sasha:

As it was half way through the week, Nicky didn’t expect 100% physically but 100% mentally, to be intelligent with movement, spacing and the use of eye line and focus. Nicky asked us after class if we wanted to create a quartet for the show; we agreed and then spent the evening looking for music.

Amy-Groves-playing-about-on-stage

 

Day 5 - Thursday 18 July

Sveva:

We had Renato for ballet once again which absolutely killed me off for the second day in a row- I’m not joking when I say that I have never sweated so much in a class.

Amy:

This was definitely the hardest day for me, as much emotionally as physically. We had Renato for ballet and knowing that he was creating our group piece spurred me on to make a good impression! This paid off, because when we went to continue the piece after ballet, he put me at the front to do pas de deux with the only boy! Also, as Renato was explaining that the piece was Balanchine inspired, he added that Balanchine would have given me a job! That has to be one of the best compliments a dancer can get!

Ballet-teacher-Renalto-advising-Amy-Groves

Sasha:

Thursday was the hardest day mentally to get through. Nicky started experimenting with formations and movements from class to start structuring our final piece. Towards the end of class, we were given a creative task to create 6x8’s of material either as a quartet or duet.

Aklisa:

This allowed us to mix with the other girls in the group, meet new people and be able to make friends through dance.

 

Day 6 - Friday 19 July

Sasha:

We had ballet with Renato again which I liked because it meant that I could compare both days of classes to see how much progress I had made. He was very demanding in his class, making us repeat almost every exercise to build stamina and hopefully improve with every repeat.

Sveva:

The worst day. By far. After 2 days of Renato’s classes absolutely kicking my butt, I was physically exhausted and mentally drained. In contemporary the whole class was feeling a bit down, so we weren’t working at 100% where we should’ve been. This led to Nicky having to give us a bit of tough love and a kick up the backside to get our brains in gear again, and by the end of the session we actually got a lot done. After class, Nicky gave us a pep talk and it inspired me to come in the next day with a new attitude. That night we went out for dinner as a little reward for making it through the toughest day of the week.

Amy:

I was also feeling very achy today. Arriving late into the solo variation class, instead of speed learning the Bluebird variation in a panicked frenzy I decided to calmly go through the variations I already knew. I was so engrossed in my own world that I didn’t notice Patrizia (the head of the school) walk in and Ann-Loe beckon me and another girl over. They wanted to see us do the Lilac Fairy solo! It turns out I was selected to perform it on Sunday! I was so shocked I had to keep double checking the piece of paper!

 

Day 7 – Saturday 20 July

Amy-Groves-just-before-performing-Lilac-Fairy

 

Amy:

The last day of rehearsals! I woke up in a kind of nervous excited state, and by the time ballet class started I was full of adrenaline. Ann-Loe’s class felt like coming in full circle since she taught our first class of the week! This was a really nice feeling and reminded me of how far I have come in just a week. It was nerve racking however performing the Lilac Fairy variation in front of everyone, I worried that people were thinking they could do it a lot better than me, but as soon as the music started, I lost myself, it was a lovely escape.

Sveva:

I think Saturday was my favorite day of the whole intensive. Everyone seemed to be recharged and so much livelier than the day before. There was a bit of tension in quartet rehearsals because we were all so tired and had been living in such close proximity for a whole week, so we took some time apart and when we came back to it, we finished the whole routine. I’m very proud of how the quartet came out and how well we handled the time pressure.

Sasha:

Nicky gave us each a little pep talk; asking us to reflect individually on our week and it was really lovely to have such a supportive teacher give us personal feedback from the week.

 

Day 8 - Sunday 21 July

Sveva:

Sunday was an early wakeup call as we had to be in the theatre by 9:30. We ran through the show twice: once to mark the entrances, exits and spacing, and the next time to get used to performing full out with all the lights. It was so hectic! But by the end of the dress run the teachers made sure we all felt really confident and comfortable.The show was amazing! The fact that we were performing material that we’d learnt in less than a week, in a foreign country after struggling a lot at certain points added to the buzz so much.

Amy:

After the performance we gathered on stage for Patrizia to give out any scholarships. I was pulled to the front by the girls who could understand Italian. After taking loads of photos we headed back to the dressing room, but Patrizia came rushing towards. It turns out she had forgotten to turn over her piece of paper, but I had been awarded a full scholarship to return next year! I was truly speechless, I just couldn’t believe it! I am the first CAT student ever to be awarded a scholarship to return to Arte Balletto! This was the BEST end to the BEST week!

CAT-students-realising-they-are-being-photogrpahed

Day 9 – Monday 22 July

Sasha:

We met our Italian friends at the beach and spent the whole day together. It was so much fun to finally relax after a week of intensive dancing. The whole experience is a once in a lifetime opportunity and the bonds you make are unbreakable.

Aklisa:

Overall it was really an experience full of good memories and above all new emotions and improvements. It was a difficult course, but in the end after the show the satisfaction repays all the efforts.

Amy:

Throughout the week, I overcame so many personal hurdles. For example, I hadn’t even left the UK before this trip! It was the best experience and pushed me to perform my absolute best in so many ways, I am so grateful to have been able to do it.

Sveva:

The bonds I’ve made through this experience have been second to none. Sasha, Amy and Aklisa have literally become my sisters. Lastly, thank you to Irad for being the best adoptive dad we could’ve ever wished for. I know it must’ve been hard to put up with 4 annoying teenage girls for the week, but we genuinely appreciate everything you did for us and all the laughs we had. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I’m so grateful to have been given, and I’ve taken away such important lessons both inside and outside of the dance studio.

CAT-students-after-show-pose-with-Irad