Spain Times

Hannah McCarthy is a PAA alumnus who interned at La Caldera dance studio in Barcelona, Spain during the summer of 2017. The video below is the final product of Hannah’s capstone project.

During my eight week Dance Internship in Spain, Barcelona quickly became like a second home to me. After being ushered into a taxi with my new roommate, Natalia, I realized that I would be learning even more about myself than expected that summer.

First lesson: Step, or might I say, leap out of your shell as soon as possible!

PAA makes a point of mixing their students with other groups studying or working in Barcelona. I had a roommate from Virginia and flatmates from California and North Carolina. Each of us from different places, interning in different fields, yet we were plopped together in a nice apartment in Gracia, expected to become friends for life. Well…it worked. I’ve never met a more talented, interesting group of women who I could spend every waking moment with while seeing new places and experiencing new things.

Once I quickly got comfortable with the roomies, it was time to start work. An all new group of people, with even more diverse backgrounds, and a bit of a language barrier (my Spanish was a little rusty at the beginning). I interned at La Caldera, a dance and scenic art creation center that opens its doors to artists, teachers and audiences of all kinds. Here, I would be able to watch and participate in the inner workings of a dance focused non-profit, while also taking professional level classes and building an international network of dancers and artists. Needless to say I was nervous taking my first steps through the big glass doors.

All the nerves and first-day jitters vanished when Raquel Ortega, my supervisor, immediately smiled, grabbed my hands, then kissed both of my cheeks. Never have I felt more welcome in a work environment. This jubilation in meeting a new acquaintance was something I was not used to in America. I would continue to notice the accommodating nature of the Spanish culture throughout the 8 weeks of my immersion.

Second lesson:  Observe, take note, make change.

As time rolled by, I was rapidly becoming more infatuated with Barcelona and its slower-paced, laid-back tone. As a part of my internship, I got to walk around Barcelona’s various artistic districts to deliver fliers and promote upcoming shows. Some people might not be attracted to the idea of walking up to 11 miles per day and tirelessly hopping on and off the Metro, but I couldn’t get enough. Every day was a new discovery. I found exhibit after intriguing exhibit. I watched artists at work in studios. I saw street art of every color and style. I also made mistakes and got lost a few times, which only allowed me to see more of the city and its carefree people. After about the second week, I started to slow down my relentless power walk and breathe in each moment. The world around me was opening. I was speaking more Spanish to local shop owners, even ordering my coffee in Catalan. I was on a mission to adapt to my surroundings, and I was welcomed with open arms. That is when Barcelona became home.

Perhaps the most inviting community in Barcelona was the dance scene. When it came to taking dance classes, my nerves were at their pinnacle. I had never taken classes in Spanish. Do they even say ‘plie’, I would think to myself before entering the studio space. Again, I couldn’t be nervous for long. The classes I took at La Caldera were filled with new concepts and ideas. The mood was inviting, calm, less competitive than many American dance classes seem to be. I felt as if, for the first time in my adult life, I was dancing for myself. No one was judging me. There were no mirrors, so I couldn’t even judge myself. I listened intently to corrections and felt them viscerally rather than just letting them flow in one ear and right back out the other. When we did contact exercises, we truly touched each other. It was a sincere feeling that I often missed in my classes back home. It made me want to bring these lessons I was learning back to my university classes. I was being challenged to step far out of my mental and physical comfort zone…and I just didn’t get tired of it.

Third lesson: Just do it all.

When I was offered the opportunity to complete a capstone project, I was nudged by my advisers to do so. I always had the idea of wanting to choreograph while in Spain, but I wasn’t sure who to set the work on. Once I decided to do the capstone, things just started falling into place. Typical Barcelona magic. My adviser introduced me to a dancer named Elisabet Sanchez. She hadn’t danced in a while, as she was busy being the single caregiver for her young son. However, she was more than excited to learn my choreography. From there, our stories and lives began to intertwine. Together, we created a work which spoke to the female situation in society. Long talks led to the realization that our cultures shared many similarities in that aspect. Oppression and confusion were woven into both of our pasts and consequently into the piece. Out of our sharing of stories and favorite literature, grew a project that is unmatched with any of my previous experiences. I think it sums up my experience with the PAA Dance Internship in Spain. I will always be grateful for the beautiful city of Barcelona and its open and accepting people.


Dancing in 100 Places Pt. 6

Sophie Marshall - 1“Before I left for my Performing Arts Abroad experience in Italy, I was dared to film myself dancing in 100 different places over the course of my travels. A challenge? Most definitely!”

Sophie Marshall is a dancer from Armadale Australia and she is currently an Arts Administration (Dance) Intern in Florence, Italy. This is the fifth in a series of updates on her Dancing in 100 Places project.  See the rest of the series here. You can also follow her on Instagram @lipbalmiscool

This week has probably been my most memorable week so far. With our time in Florence quickly coming to an end, we’ve been trying to pack as much into each day as physically possible. On Tuesday night we headed up to the Piazza de Michelangelo to watch the sunset (again). Last time we did this, hiking up all those stairs was a huge struggle that involved lots of breaks and some serious panting. But this time I made it all the way to the top without a single break and was only slightly out of breath once we reached the top. All this walking is clearly paying off – I don’t think I’ve ever been this fit in my entire life!

Ponte Vecchio

Super fit!

We (somewhat stupidly) decided that we wanted to come back the following morning, so on Wednesday we woke up at 4am(it was a struggle) to hike back up to watch the sunrise over the city. Despite the ungodly hour and the lack of sleep it was one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever witnessed. I don’t think the world has ever been as quiet or as beautiful as it was at 5:56am that morning.sunrise
Before we knew it, it was the weekend again and we headed off on our respective adventures. On Saturday I headed to Venice with one of my housemates, and not surprisingly, it was incredible. The city is like a maze, with so many dead ends and bridges and tiny streets – if I didn’t have my GPS we probably wouldn’t have made it back to the train station in time. I smashed out a solid 10 videos with ease, and we even managed to fit in a gondola ride (which was gorgeous)!Gondola in Venice Despite the sweltering heat (we both got sunburnt even with the copious amounts of sunscreen we applied), it was such a fun day – I slept so well that night after all the walking.

Canal splits

My secret: always remember to stretch.

On Sunday I took the train to Verona to do some exploring (and to make up for the missed trip last week). I can only assume that there is going to be some sort of Egyptian exhibit in the arena in the near future, because there were huge props and sphynx statues EVERYWHERE. After having some fun with those I walked around the city, checking out the various sites. The House of Juliet was ridiculously packed, so I wasn’t able to film in the courtyard, but I did manage to quickly do one in front of a wall of love locks. I also got the stereotypical photo with her statue – apparently it’s good luck, but that doesn’t make it any less awkward to grope a statue in front of hundreds of people.

When in Rome–er–Verona, I guess.

After a quick stop for lunch I took another train to the nearby Lake Garda. Desenzano was easy to reach by train (only 30 minutes!) and by 2pm I was walking along the shore of the lake and enjoying the spectacular views. The light breeze was wonderful after the ridiculous heat in Verona, and I was eager to go for a swim. I went for a quick walk along the jetty to do some filming (there were some great views), then set off to find a rock to claim as my own.

Jetty in Desenzano

On the Jetty in Desenzano

After a brief walk along the lake I found a perfect spot and spent a solid hour floating in the water and cooling down. I’m so so glad that I decided to do both places in one day – Lake Garda was beautiful and if I’m ever in Italy again I will definitely be back to explore the other towns.

5 weeks down, 83 down, 17 to go. Bring it on.

Dancing in 100 Places Pt. 5

post 5.4“Before I left for my Performing Arts Abroad experience in Italy, I was dared to film myself dancing in 100 different places over the course of my travels. A challenge? Most definitely!”

Sophie Marshall is a dancer from Armadale Australia and she is currently an Arts Administration (Dance) Intern in Florence, Italy. This is the fifth in a series of updates on her Dancing in 100 Places project.  See the rest of the series here. You can also follow her on Instagram @lipbalmiscool

Throughout this whole adventure my main difficulty has been finding the confidence to actually bust out my moves in public. Now that I’m well into the second half of my trip, I only find it difficult about 10% of the time, which is a HUGE personal achievement for me. I can feel how much my self-confidence has grown, and although I still feel incredibly awkward most of the time, the videos are definitely getting so much easier to film. My new concern is that I’m not going to manage the full 100 locations. When I first started, I was pretty much just winging the entire thing – picking a place, chucking the music on at any random moment and hoping it’d turn out ok (which luckily for me, did work out quite well). But now that I’m getting closer to the end I think I actually need to sit down and plan out the rest of the video as a whole. I need the locations to be spread out throughout the video, not clumped together in one section, which means I’m going to have to plan which part of the dance I’m going to do before I actually start filming. So this week I spent a lot of my downtime making a rough plan in Excel, which will hopefully help me stay on track (it’s colour-coded and everything!).

Love Locks on the Jetty

Love Locks on the Jetty

This entire week has been ridiculously hot and sticky, so on Friday afternoon I took one of my housemates to Viareggio to check out the beach. When I was there last week it was slightly cloudy, so the mountains in the background weren’t very visible, but this time it was PERFECT! We set up on some rocks along the jetty and had a great view of the beach and the mountains.
porto antico

Porto Antico

On Saturday morning I set off for a day trip to Genoa, a port slightly north of Cinque Terre. It was so much bigger than I was expecting and I was pleasantly surprised by how much there was to do. I strolled through the city centre and browsed a few shops before stopping for lunch, then headed down to the Porto Antico (the old port). The harbour was beautiful, with its combination of massive cruise ships and smaller sailing boats contrasting nicely with the houses on the hill behind it. I spent a solid 3 hours just wandering around and enjoying the atmosphere, and at one point I managed to sit down just as a group of free runners started jumping and flipping off of the wall in front of me. In hindsight, I wish I’d gotten a video with them flipping in the background but I was too busy watching them to even think of it at the time!
Free Runners

Free Runners

On Sunday we were supposed to go on a trip to Verona and Lake Garda, but it was cancelled on Saturday afternoon due to low numbers (much to everyone’s disappointment). So instead we had a bit of a sleep in then went for a late breakfast at La Milkeria (they make great waffles!). We took the long way back to the apartment and browsed some of the local markets as we went. We decided to get some cheese and wine and have a picnic in the park, so after popping to the shop we headed over to the park down the road.



Apart from the large swarm of pigeons we attracted, it was a great afternoon. As disappointed as we were in the cancellation of our trip, it was a nice, relaxing day.

4 weeks in, 59 down, 41 to go. Bring it on.

Dancing in 100 Places Pt. 4

post 4.5 “Before I left for my Performing Arts Abroad experience in Italy, I was dared to film myself dancing in 100 different places over the course of my travels. A challenge? Most definitely!”

Sophie Marshall is a dancer from Armadale Australia and she is currently an Arts Administration (Dance) Intern in Florence, Italy. This is the fourth in a series of updates on her Dancing in 100 Places project.  See the rest of the series here. You can also follow her on Instagram @lipbalmiscool

I am pleased to announce that after 3 solid weeks of frustration, I am now capable of unlocking our apartment door all by myself! My housemates are incredibly proud of me – they were getting pretty sick of having to let me in/provide assistance every time I felt like going out. The novelty of being chief door opener whenever we all go out together will probably wear off soon, but for now I’m finding much joy in showing off my newfound door opening skills.

in the gardens 1


This week marks the halfway point of my time here in Italy. After classes on Tuesday we went and explored the beautiful Boboli Gardens and the Belvedere Fort.

The view from the gardens

The view from the gardens

I may or may not have gotten in a little bit of trouble for dancing at the fort (ok I did get in trouble). I say trouble, but the guard basically just laughed at me a lot for the first 2 videos, then told me I had to stop after I’d attracted a small crowd, so no major drama.

Disturbing the Peace in the gardens

Disturbing the Peace

On Thursday we all had our final exams for our respective classes (I totally nailed my Italian exam in case anyone was wondering), then everyone headed off for the amazing weekend trips they had planned.

Getting some post-exam gelato with my Italian classmates.

Getting some post-exam gelato with my Italian classmates.

I was supposed to work on Friday, but at 10pm on Thursday night, my internship boss emailed me to inform me that the following day was a public holiday and that I didn’t need to come in again until Monday! Score! I’d somehow gained an unexpected long weekend! So with no time to plan anything more exciting, I headed to Viareggio on Friday (about an hour and a half west of Florence by train) to go to the beach.
 Viareggio 2
On Saturday morning I caught the 6am train to Cinque Terre, a series of five coastal towns on Italy’s west coast. If you ever get to visit anywhere in Italy, go to the Cinque Terre. I had the most incredible weekend hiking between the towns, swimming, sunbathing, dancing and relaxing.

Starting the weekend right #viareggio #italy #paabroad #paaitaly #beach #sun #summer #imsunburnt #swim

A video posted by Sophie (@lipbalmiscool) on

It’s beautiful. I stayed overnight at a hostel in Biassa, a 10 minute bus ride from the first Cinque Terre town, Riomaggiore.


Riomaggiore (cinque Terre)

Riomaggiore. Did I mention it’s beautiful?

This was perfect because it was 10x cheaper than actually staying in the Cinque Terre, but still close enough to be convenient. After hiking 3kms between the towns of Monterosso and Vernazza on Saturday, I fell asleep almost instantly.

Sunday involved much of the same – swimming, eating, relaxing and enjoying the incredible views. I visited the middle town of Corniglia, which involved climbing a thousand stairs (I may be exaggerating slightly, but there were A LOT of stairs) to get from the train station into the actual town. If you want to swim, you then have to climb down another thousand stairs on the opposite side of town to get to the marina (which I did with only a few mental complaints). And then the process is reversed to get back to the train. Your legs will be in fantastic shape by the end of it, I promise you – mine definitely are. The other 4 towns are much easier to get to and involve a lot less walking (thank goodness).

Me in Corniglia (cinque Terre)

Obviously, the stairs are worth it.

Of course, I smashed out as many videos as I could, managing to get around 10 over the 2 days. Such a beautiful place, I could’ve stayed there for so much longer. It was with great reluctance that I boarded my train back to Florence that night.
3 weeks in, 52 down, 48 to go. Bring it on.

Dance to Death

Shanice StanislausShanice Stanislaus is a dancer from Singapore.  She is a Dance intern in Spain.  

Dance to Death is an interactive, entertaining and insightful dance theatre performance influenced by the dance competitions that took place during the Great Depression in North America, where couples competed to win a cash prize. Alberto Velasco, the director for the show brings a new interpretation to the story by staging the performance as a competition where the performers would have to compete for real every night. The show itself uses unemployed actors and dancers of all ages hence bringing out the reality of the situation in which the show is based upon.

So how did I, a Singaporean who speaks mediocre Spanish find myself being part of this highly entertaining show? It all started with the training I went through as part of my internship in La Caldera where I took workshops with Alberto. Initially, I had second thoughts about doing this workshop because it was in Spanish and I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to learn as much. I have a colleague, Lucia to thank for pushing me to take the workshop regardless of my language level. The workshops were absolutely amazing, I had learnt so much and most importantly, my course mates and Alberto himself were warm and helpful. Later, I found out Alberto was using the workshops to try out new ideas and choreographies for the show, after which he invited me to be a part of the ensemble for the show. After the series of workshops, I got invited to join the cast and I was honored because I truly believed in the work he was trying to make and I felt there was so much to learn from him and my fellow cast members.

workshop picture copy

The Workshop

Alberto is such an amazing artist and the most wonderful human being. I don’t say this because he is currently my director but from the very beginning he brings non-judgment and pushing creative boundaries in his work. He is so accepting of his cast, where they come from (including me), what they can bring to the work and mostly making work from the stories of these artists themselves who have struggled in this industry.

Before rehearsal

Before rehearsal

The rehearsals have already commenced and it really is work. I get the first taste of what it means to train and work for a dance company in preparation for a huge show like this. We do an intensive 5 hours a day, including an intensive training on the body and mind, along with creating and preparing material for the show. As fatigue starts to wear the dancers down throughout the week, we are all presented with the personal challenge of pushing our bodies and minds to be as available as it can be for the day’s work and in preparation to perform for almost 3 hours for the show.

Break time with the cast members.

Break time with the cast members.

Sometimes in the work, it becomes intense because some of the issues we deal with are all real. The competition, the actual fatigue and the pushing of our boundaries physically be it in acrobatic throws, muscle aches, or repeating a crazy cardio dance number many times to perfection. While preparing for the show has its intensities, what makes me return back to rehearsals are not these things. Instead, it is the warm, loving and accepting ensemble and director who I work with every day. They push you, love you and respect you for your individuality, even if it means translating instructions and treating you as an equal no matter where you’re from, what language you speak or how old you are.

Being a Dancer as part of Alberto Velasco’s ‘Dance to Death’ for one of the biggest art festivals, the El Grec festival in Barcelona is truly an honor. It comes with a lot of hard work, beyond what I had ever imagined was required of a professional performer. However, every ensemble member and Alberto himself makes every intense, funny and tiring moment so worth it. While, I have learnt so much, there is so much more to be learnt from the experience. I am looking forward to the show and from what I have been rehearsing so far, it seems like it is going to be an awesome show indeed!

Dancing in 100 Places Pt. 3

Post 2a“Before I left for my Performing Arts Abroad experience in Italy, I was dared to film myself dancing in 100 different places over the course of my travels. A challenge? Most definitely!”

Sophie Marshall is a dancer from Armadale Australia and she is currently an Arts Administration (Dance) Intern in Florence, Italy. This is the third in a series of updates on her Dancing in 100 Places project.  See the rest of the series here. You can also follow her on Instagram @lipbalmiscool

My favourite thing about doing these videos is watching them back and seeing people’s reactions as they notice me randomly dancing in the middle of a crowd. Some people don’t even notice, but others do a full on double take as they walk past. I still can’t work out if it’s easier or harder to film myself while my housemates are standing near me – I feel less on display having friendly faces around, but they also spend the entire time laughing shamelessly at me. The only upside is that their laughing makes me laugh as well, so I actually look happy in those videos, rather than just incredibly awkward. It is definitely getting easier though, but I think that’s more to do with the circumstances in which I’m filming rather than a growth in my own level of self-confidence. My GoPro decided this week that it no longer wants to connect to my phone, so I can’t preview what I’m getting in the shot, meaning that I have less things to procrastinate with now. It’s more of a ‘set up the tripod, aim it in the general direction of the cool thing I want to be in the shot, then hope for the best’, which kind of forces me to just get on with it.


Sure they look friendly, but they’re ruthless.

This week has been pretty full on for everyone, with classes now being in full swing, but we still managed to get out and explore. On Monday night we hiked up to the Piazza de Michelangelo to watch the sunset (so many stairs!). The view of Florence was breathtakingly beautiful – I will definitely be going up there again. After classes on Thursday we climbed the bell tower of the Duomo (once again, so may stairs! I’m sorry legs!!!), and saw yet another spectacular view of the city. I even managed to sneak in a video!

13388655_1100098333386969_144071400_n copyAfter work on Friday we took the hour long train ride to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower – prepare yourselves for stereotypical tourist photos. It was pretty amazing watching hundreds of random people all doing the exact same pose at the exact same time – imagine how weird it would be seeing that in your local city, yet here the locals are so used to it they hardly bat an eyelid!

See the Tower, Be the Tower

See the Tower, Be the Tower

On Saturday I decided to take a day trip by myself to the nearby town of Lucca. It’s pretty small and there’s not a great deal to do, but after such a busy week it was a nice relaxing change. After a few hours of exploring I set up my camera in front of the Basilica di San Frediano. I got up and performed half a count of moves, only to be video-bombed by some street performers who set up right next to me. Too lazy to move the camera or wait for them to move, I just went with it, laughing to myself at how badly my dancing went with their music.

Sunday was the most relaxing day of the week – we had a Chianti wine tour booked for 2pm so got to sleep in, go for a hike up the mountain and take the morning at our own pace. Typically, at 1:55pm it started bucketing down with rain, meaning that we were rather wet by the time we got on the bus. Our first stop was a small winery in the town of Monteriggioni (about an hour drive from Florence). Once again, we got absolutely soaked walking up the hill, but they had an AMAZING dessert wine which made up for it. Next stop was a winery in San Gimignano for the sit down tasting. Nine glasses of wine later and everyone was feeling pretty content (maybe even a little more than content to be honest). It was a great way to finish the week.

Wine Tour.

Wine Tour.

Two weeks in, 26 down, 74 to go. Bring it on.

Crushing it:

Crushing it.

Crushing it.

Dancing in 100 Places Pt. 2

Blog 2 - 1

“Before I left for my Performing Arts Abroad experience in Italy, I was dared to film myself dancing in 100 different places over the course of my travels. A challenge? Most definitely!”

Sophie Marshall is a dancer from Armadale Australia and she is currently an Arts Administration (Dance) Intern in Florence, Italy. This is the second in a series of updates on her Dancing in 100 Places project.  See the rest of the series here. You can also follow her on Instagram @lipbalmiscool


As much as I don’t want to be one of those clichéd travelers who ‘had an amazing first week in insert destination here’, my first week in Italy was absolutely incredible. Florence is such a vibrant and fun city with so much to do, so much to see and so many places to go! Add some awesome new friends into the mix and boom – you have the perfect equation for an amazing first week!



I’ll admit upfront that the week didn’t get off to the greatest start – there was a slight issue with my apartment’s front door. Specifically the lock and my inability to use said lock. I wish I was exaggerating, but I spent a solid hour trying to unlock the door. I was very unsuccessful. Admitting defeat, I hauled my suitcase back through the streets of Florence to the university to ask for help (not an easy task with all the cobblestones). “Did you try turning the key the other way??” This must be the key version of “did you try turning it off and on again?” Yes. Amazingly, I did think of that. Sigh.

I did eventually make it into the apartment. And (thankfully) it was not just me that had had difficulties with the lock. I have still not actually managed to unlock the door by myself (even though the landlord changed the keys and no one else is having problems now), but I’m determined to master the skill by the end of the 6 weeks.

So not the greatest of starts, but I’m optimistic that the next 6 weeks will run smoothly. My new housemates are a great bunch – fun, friendly, and great at making light-hearted jokes about my accent (which they do at least 3 times a day). Over the weekend we took day trips to Livorno (a coastal town about an hour from Florence) and Siena. On Saturday we followed a local couple in Livorno who looked like they were dressed for the beach, and ended up at a small, quiet cove. It was beautiful. We swam, we sunbathed, we explored – it was such a great day.

Livorno Cove

Livorno Cove

Post 2a

It was the perfect location for filming, so I wasted no time in setting up my camera and tripod. Of course, I then had to awkwardly explain to my housemates what I was doing, and thankfully, they only laughed at me a little bit. Actually they laughed at me a lot, and seemed to find great joy in filming me film myself. Thanks guys. I managed to knock out 4 more videos, bringing my total up to 8! I am on a roll!

On Sunday we headed to Siena. The day started well but then the weather decided it was bored with sunshine and it quickly clouded over. I had my camera set up in front of the Duomo at the time and I knew it was going to start bucketing down pretty soon. I filmed a quick video but wasn’t happy with how many tourists were blocking the cathedral. I decided I was going to wait until the storm hit and quickly film it again as soon as people ran for cover. There was a split second of calm between the initial shower and the downpour – I saw an opportunity and I took it. Did I get soaked? Yes. Was it worth it? YES! In the full video you can hear the ear-piercing screams of people running for cover as the downpour hits (we all laughed when we watched the video back on my computer at the apartment), but the view of the Duomo is practically perfect. Mission success.

Post 2cOverall, I’d say it was a pretty productive week!
12 videos down, 88 to go. Bring it on.