International Dance Festival in Italy Stretches Students

PBA dance students and their professors pose for a photo at Mediterraneo Dance Festival in Italy. Often enduring 12-hour days in the studio, dance students perfected their craft under the guidance of elite, world-class dancers and choreographers at the Mediterraneo Dance Festival near San Nicola Arcella, Italy, last month.

Three PBA students, Winston Jean-Joseph, Victoria Holmes and Brooke Perry, were among eight dancers who won a competition of solo performances, earning scholarships toward next year’s festival. Jean-Joseph, a senior majoring in dance, won an additional scholarship at the festival’s final show.

The students competed with advanced and professional dancers from around the world.

Eleven PBA students traveled to the festival, where they learned as much about body mechanics and playing off of their fellow dancers as they did about various types of contemporary and modern dance.

Dance students learn from world-class instructors during a lab at the Mediterraneo Dance Festival in Italy.Within the contemporary dance genre, there are 50 subtypes, said Dr. Kathleen Klein. The festival’s study program from July 13 to 21 covered four.

“I needed to open the dancers’ eyes to something completely different,” Klein said. “This is something that PBA Dance has never experienced.”

In one of their exercises, the instructor told each student to imagine there’s a marble inside his or her body that needs to get out. The exercises taught them to maintain control while using fluid movements, Jean-Joseph said.

“One thing that they enforced was being honest,” Jean-Joseph said. “There are ways your body already knows how to move. Let the organic part of you do it.”

That’s easier to do when you’re tired, because there’s less tension in your body, he said.

“You could actually dance with greater quality because you’re not forcing yourself to do it.”

Each PBA dancer choreographed a solo performance before he or she even arrived at the festival. The dancers refined their performances over time with feedback from their professors.

The festival instructors stretched students even more with their exercises, said Eileen Hebron, a PBA artist in residence in dance.

“It was fun to watch them evolve,” Hebron said. “It was intense.”

Brooke Perry, Winston Jean-Joseph and Victoria Holmes pose for a photo at the Mediterraneo Dance Festival in Italy. The three students each won a scholarship for their solo performances.Perry, a junior majoring in dance, said she learned to be open to more styles of dance — styles she wouldn’t get exposure to in the United States — from the instructors from Italy, Germany and Spain.

Perry said that diversity of skill will make her more competitive when she’s looking for jobs, because potential employers will want a well-rounded dancer.

The dancers who stood out the most to Samantha Savoie were those who had developed their own unique style and who were most confident, she said. Students and dance professionals came from Israel, Russia, Italy, Croatia, Bulgaria, England, Ireland and China, among other places.

“When you’re going into the performing arts, connections are everything,” Savoie said. “I’m now connected to people across the world who share the same interests as me. It’s a great eye-opener and learning process to be connected with the world of dance on a whole new level.”

The trip made Savoie, a senior musical theatre major and dance minor, more comfortable in her own skin, she said.

In their free time, the group took a boat excursion to Dino Island, where some of the students got out of their comfort zones swimming in a cave. Hebron and a student also attended a mass in a cave at Praia a Mare, a beach resort town on the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Initially, Jean-Joseph didn’t even consider going on the trip because he was apprehensive about paying for it and traveling abroad. God had other plans, he said.

“I felt really loved by God on the trip,” Jean-Joseph said. “I felt an immense amount of peace. It was an encounter with God that I hadn’t felt anywhere else.”

He also shared about his faith with a young Jewish woman from Israel. She asked him why he was at the festival and why he attended PBA. Later, after one of his performances, she approached him and said, “I saw God in your piece.”

“Not only was I blessed, but other people were blessed as well.”

Photo 1: PBA dance students and their professors, Dr. Kathleen Klein and Eileen Hebron, pose for a photo at Mediterraneo Dance Festival in Italy.

Photo 2: Dance students learn from world-class instructors during a lab at the Mediterraneo Dance Festival in Italy.

Photo 3:  Brooke Perry, Winston Jean-Joseph and Victoria Holmes pose for a photo at the Mediterraneo Dance Festival in Italy. The three students each won a scholarship for their solo performances.