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.
Juliet

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.

Florence in the Dark: What it’s Like to Study Abroad While Blind

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Christina Ebersohl is a Music Performance major (viola) at Portland State University.  She just completed Performing Arts Abroad’s Summer Study Abroad semester in Italy.

I’m not exactly a discrete study abroad student in Italy. I mean, I don’t exactly have the olive skin of the Italian women (the Irish is strong in this one), I constantly have a giant red viola case strapped to my back, and, if that isn’t bad enough, I don’t eat meat.

Oh, and I’m blind.

But honestly, the Italians are far more upset about the not-eating-meat thing.

“Sono cieca.”
I spoke a decent amount of Italian before arriving in Florence, which I credit a huge amount of my success to. But when you come to a new country, especially when you come with a disability, it is indescribably helpful to have a few pocket phrases already in your repertoire. My winning gem is: “mi dispiace, ma sono cieca”, or “I’m sorry, but I’m blind”. It’s not that they ignored my glaringly obvious white cane, or missed the fact that I had to press my face against the glass case to see if that was a croissant or mortadella (always a crowd pleaser in a touristy café, let me tell you). But Italian customer service is far different from American service: If you don’t ask for help, often times, you won’t be offered any. They aren’t being rude. They just believe in giving customers space and time to decide what they want or need.

“How do you get around?”
I joke that I get around Florence better than my sighted classmates, and truthfully, I do to some degree (she said with a HUGE helping of humbleness). Honestly, Florence is a confusing city to get used to no matter what. Streets like to zig zag, veer off into alleyways, and randomly develop new street names without warning. But unlike my classmates, I don’t squint at buildings trying to make out the impossible street signs, or glare at the map on my phone with disgust. I look up directions before leaving the house, and use meters and landmarks to guide me. If my directions tell me to walk 200 meters down a road, then turn right, I judge a pretty accurate distance, and when I reach my corner, I find something to distinguish it—a smell, a noise, a color, etc.

IMG_20160709_123105608 copyOn my first walk to the sQuola building (where we have Italian class), I had to take a left on Via dei Giori. At that corner, every morning, was a cart. And every morning, a man would be filling that cart with books to sell while singing American pop songs in the most wildly out of tune Italian imaginable. But he was always my landmark. And because of him, I was twenty minutes early to my first Italian class, while others were late because they couldn’t find the street (But don’t worry—I, too, have gotten plenty lost in this city!).

“But are they nice to you?”
The people of Florence have been extremely thoughtful and generous towards me. My teachers have gone out of their way to make sure I feel included and comfortable in my classes, and the faculty of the university have made the field learning excursions as accessible as possible—going so far as leading me, arm in arm, through the Parma cheese factory and describing what they are seeing. The residents have been just as kind-hearted: the owner of the Parma factory gifted me a block of his specialty cheese because he admired my spirit, and the bartenders at my regular café always greet me with kind conversation, even during a mid-morning rush. I haven’t experienced any sort of gruffness or impatience from the Italians.

But I don’t think that it is all good luck.

The people of Florence, specifically, are constantly bombarded by tourists of all nationalities, often times rude and demanding, and usually unwilling to attempt any real communication short of unintelligible grunts and finger pointing.

So when business owners encounter an (obvious) foreigner (like my delightfully pale self) who expresses an interest, desire and partial ability to communicate in polite Italian, it goes a long way. I can’t count the number of times I have listened to a long rant from Italians (in Italian, mind you) about how people (Americans specifically) need to be more open minded about learning a language when they come to another country. To them, it is a sign of respect—for the culture, the history, and really, the people whose lives you are affecting daily.

All in all, I have received more negative reactions from some American students I have met while abroad than I have from any Italian my whole time here.  But like everything else, you just have to take it in stride. Being successful in a study abroad program isn’t just about what the university or program can offer you, but the attitude and motivation you bring with you every day in your new country, and the ability to shake off the things that just don’t matter. Much like anywhere else, it truly helps to be kind and cheerful to others you meet—it always perpetuates good things in the long run.

Or, if all else fails, just smile…

received_493419024161620…because you know that fresh biscotti and a frothy cappuccino await you at your local café.

 

Five Friends You Make Studying Abroad

IRE - 1We at Performing Arts Abroad are incredibly proud of the Study Abroad programs we offer in Ireland, England, Italy, and New Zealand, as well as the participants who go on them. Students are applying now for Spring semester, and in honor of them and the $1,500 scholarships we’re offering (more info on that here), I wanted to take a look at the type of people you’re sure to run into while abroad.

For the purposes of this post, we’re sticking with people who are also international students like you. This way you can look in the mirror and ask, “Oh wow, which one am I?”

#1 The Homebody

Whether you’re in London or Barcelona, Limerick, Ireland or Dunedin, New Zealand, chances are you’re probably going to want to get out there and explore! There are new places to see, new streets to roam and new foods to eat, and most of your fellow international students will be right there with you.

Let’s hit the town!

Then there’s the Homebody. The Homebody rarely ventures out, and when they do, it’s not for long. You might ask why they came all this way to experience the thrills of a dorm room in a far off land, but who knows?

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Yes but it’s an ITALIAN twin size bed.

Maybe they’re pacing themselves. Maybe they’re like this at home. Maybe it’s their first time traveling on their own and it’s all a little overwhelming. Whatever the case, don’t write off the Homebody. They make hanging out at home more fun, and once they’re more comfortable being in this exciting new place, who knows, they may even evolve into…

#2 The FOMO

FOMO stands for Fear of Missing Out, and you couldn’t keep this person home if you tried.

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The FOMO only has X number of minutes in this amazing country, and by golly they are not going to waste a single one of them! Going hiking this weekend? The FOMO is there. Seeing a play tonight? The FOMO is there. Visiting the market, having a party, or taking a tour of the most haunted basements in London? You can always count on the FOMO.

Check...check, check, checkcheckcheckcheck.

Check…check, check, checkcheckcheckcheckcheckcheck

Remember though, it’s not a good idea to try to keep up with the FOMO the whole time. You can drive yourself into the ground having so much fun, and if you burn out early you can unwittingly turn into a Homebody. Whoa, we came full circle there, didn’t we?

#3 The Insta-Local

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Nobody wants to look like a tourist (especially when we are one) but the fact is, no matter how hard we try, we’re going to stick out in a new place.

Sometimes it's best just to lean into it.

Sometimes it’s best just to lean into it.

Whether it’s because of a language barrier or our unfamiliarity with the local transit system, it takes time to get your bearings and feel comfortable in a foreign city.

That is, unless you are the Insta-Local. The Insta-Local immediately blends in seamlessly, either through instinct or a concerted effort. Within hours they can navigate the local transit system blindfolded. Within days they’ve got the local sports team’s jersey, know all the cheers, and can tell you everything about league standings. Within two weeks they’ve developed an accent that will stay with them the rest of their lives.

Wha--? How? I didn't even know there was a beach here!

Wha–? How–? I didn’t even know there was a beach here!

The best part about being friends with the Insta-Local is that they’ll know the coolest hotspots in town that only the locals know about. We don’t know how they know, but they do. It’s like a 6th sense.

Like the pub where you have to bring your own instrument.

Like the pub where you have to bring your own instrument.

The polar-opposite of the Insta-Local is the “Everything is Better Back Home” friend. We were going to give this person their own number, but they’re super annoying. Don’t be the EIBBH friend.

"I like the pizza back home better" "I swear I will stab you with this pizza cutter."

“I like the pizza back home better than here in Italy.”
“I swear I will stab you with this pizza cutter.”

#4 The Party Animal

4th7 copyWe all go abroad for different reasons. For some it’s the adventure, for some it’s curiosity, and for some it’s a chance to get away from home. For the Party Animal, it’s the lower legal drinking age.

There’s no doubt about it, there are exciting clubs all over the world and the Party Animal will find them.  You won’t see them much, and the “study” part of study abroad may or may not happen.  (These are rarely the PAA participants.  We’ve found that performing artists have a drive and intensity about them that precludes debauchery.  Mostly.  Obviously we’re very proud.)

#5 The Best Friend

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This is an exciting time in your life, and you’re doing something that will stay with you forever. I love hearing my mom’s stories from her semester in Spain in the 60’s. (For some reason their housing was in a convent. The old Spanish nuns and the precocious American college girls weren’t a great mix. But I digress.)

You’re on an adventure, and chances are you’ll find that one buddy to be adventurous with.   You’ll wonder where they’ve been all your life, and be grateful they have just the right amount of goofiness in them to match yours.

They’ll give you the courage to do things you might be to scared to try otherwise, and won’t make you feel guilty on those weekends you’re just tired and want to stay home. Keep an eye out for the Best Friend.Eymundson 7 copy

West End Musical Theatre Training Program: My Experience

Courtney Widgerson participated in the West End Musical Theatre Training Program in the Summer of 2015Courtney editedA few weeks ago I got back from London, I was there for 3 weeks, participating in the West End Musical Theatre Training Program. Before leaving for this trip I was already excited because I had always wanted to go to London and experience what West End has to offer compared to Broadway. I am so glad that I got to go, it was one of the BEST experiences I have ever had (and I’ve done a lot of pretty cool things).

First thing is, if you have interests in theatre and want to learn something new and improve your skills, this program is for you. Why? Because you are surrounded by so many different people you can learn from. From the other participants to the teachers, there is no shortage of talent. Every person brings something different to the table that you can learn from, and the able to be versatile is a very good skill to have in theatre.

The classes were pretty awesome. We would have 2 classes in the morning, a lunch break (when almost everyone would sit and have lunch together), and then a workshop with a cast member from a West End show.

Just a few highlights from classes: The 3rd week we did a puppeteering workshop (not as easy as I thought it would be). Also the 3rd week we did a Fosse workshop. We did a workshop on one of the Saturdays where we performed a song for an agent, then the other Saturday we did an audition technique workshop. We did much much more, that’s just a tiny little glimpse.

We had some scheduled events that were a lot of fun. We went on the London Eye (so cool!!! And got some amazing pictures!)


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a West End Haunted walking tour, got to see backstage and go on the Les Mis stage, and more. As part of what you pay for the program you get to see a show once a week (3 for me since I was there for 3 weeks). We saw Wicked (and did a workshop the 2 days before seeing the show so that was pretty awesome), The 39 Steps (a play), and Sunny Afternoon (the Olivier Best New Musical Award Winner). And besides those 3 shows I saw 6 others. Theatre is so much cheaper (despite the sucky exchange rate) then in New York I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to see the shows I wanted to see.

A few last words. If you do end up doing this program (or happen to be in London) go see a show at Shakespeare’s Globe (and stand, it’s worth it) and don’t wait till the last few days to go to the museums. This program was better than I had expected it to be and I would definitely recommend doing it. It doesn’t matter where you are with your training it will help and you will grow as an artist immensely. The person in London who runs the program (Rachel) is pretty awesome! I could not have imagined spending my summer (before heading off to college) any other way!!

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Alumni Update #6: Elyse Anderson

Is participating in a Performing Arts Abroad the total apex?  Is it ever possible to beat?  Gosh, we hope so.  These are the things you’re dying to know!  Never fear.  We’ve started asking for updates and well, let’s just say it turns out awesome people continue being awesome even after they’ve moved on from PAA.  

Today’s Alum:  Elyse Anderson, Music Semester in Italy, ’14

Elyse Anderson

Fall Performance with the Peabody Singers

 

What’s something exciting happening right now?

I am currently taking two summer courses- The Politics of Music, as well as Intro to Western to Classical Music- and loving every minute of it at Johns Hopkins. I can’t believe I’m already going to be a junior! This year I am very proud and excited to announce that I am studying with the renowned opera singer, Ah Young Hong. I began my studies with her in January and I look forward to learning even more from her this year.

After studying abroad last summer with PAA and learning the incredible power of summer programs for advancing your technique in such a short period of time, I mainly decided to stay this summer to study with my new teacher. Just like last summer studying with Susanna, I have learned so much in a short amount of time. Although Baltimore is nothing like Italy (take me back!) I have enjoyed exploring the city and learning more about the arts culture here.

What performances have you done?

This year, I spent a great deal of time performing at school. I sang with the Peabody Singers in their fall and winter concerts, danced in and choreographed for the JHU Classical Ballet Company’s performance of The Nutcracker, and worked with John Astin on a production of the play “Three Men on a Horse.”

Any Traveling?

Although I haven’t gotten to do too much traveling since PAA, I have enjoyed spending the summer in Baltimore and learning more about this culturally rich city. It has been wonderful getting to see more of the city I now call home. Studying abroad in Italy last summer taught me that there is always more to do and explore, and I have definitely applied that to my life again this summer. There’s still so much to explore, even here in America! That being said, I cannot wait to go abroad with PAA again soon!

 

Aw shucks…with PAA again?  You’re the greatest.  We love that your experience abroad has helped you get more out of things that are around you right at home.  Keep up the amazing work!