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.


Performing Arts Abroad Welcomes Joe Dulude II!

Performing Arts Abroad is thrilled to introduce the newest member of our team, Joe Dulude II. Joe is a highly accomplished makeup designer, best known for his designs on Wicked, the internationally acclaimed musical. His work with Wicked has taken him all over the world, and gets him to London almost every year when the West End cast changes over. We’re so excited to have Joe advising everyone who has expressed interest in our programs, and helping them take the first step on their journey abroad to pursue their artistic passion! To learn more about Joe, visit his website and feel free to contact him at or 413-341-5570 ext. 2004. Enjoy this short interview with Joe!


I have to start this interview by asking about Wicked. How did you get involved with the original production of such an iconic musical?


I had just moved back to NYC from LA to take over doing makeup for Vanessa Williams on Into the Woods.  The costume designer of that show is Susan Hilferty, who is the costume designer for Wicked.  I had read the book and loved it and when I found out she was going to be designing it, I said to her that I would love to work on it.  Not long before the cast and crew were to leave to go to San Fran for the out-of-town tryout, I got a call from her assistant about coming in to interview to design the show.  I went to the interview and was informed that they were looking for someone who had more of an editorial background rather than theatre as they didn’t want the makeup to look stereotypically theatrical.  My makeup background had been in fashion and editorial and I received a call a week later that I got the job.


What most excites you about joining Performing Arts Abroad as our new Program Advisor?


I think what excites me the most about joining PAA is that I get to help people achieve their dreams and goals of studying abroad.  I had always wanted to study abroad but due to finances, never could do it.  I also had a lot of fear about going abroad.  I had never been and the thought of going alone scared me.  I wasn’t sure I would be able to succeed.  I regret that.  So if I can help someone else push past the fear and move them into excitement, then that is a success for me.

What’s your #1 tip for performing artists who are preparing to travel abroad?


My number one tip is to research.  Find out about the city and the country you are going to.  Research local customs, foods, places of interest.  The more prepared you are, the better the trip is.  Whenever I travel I find out as much as I can.  I don’t plan my excursions day-to-day, but I make a list of things I want to see and experience.  It’s amazing when you travel, the people you will meet and the things you will see.  So I think it is important to have as much knowledge as you can and then be ready for anything that comes your way.  You have to be open and adventurous so that you can get as much out of travel as you can.



Tell us about a favorite current or recent artistic project you’ve worked on.


One artistic project that I am very proud of is my piece Project Wound.  For Project Wound, I took 30 people of different races, ages, socio-economic backgrounds, etc. and I asked them what it is that they are afraid of with the country and the world in the state it is in.  I listened to them speak about their fears and then interpreted that into some kind of wound makeup on them.  I then shot photos of them, just on my phone.  After, I asked them to condense their fears into 1 or 2 brief sentences and recorded it.  I mixed these vocals together, overlapping at times to create chaos, and then other times certain words or phrases pop out.  I showed it at a pop up art show in NYC this summer and it will be up at the Full Disclosure Festival in Amherst this month.


If you could do one of our programs yourself, which would you choose and why?


I think out of all the programs, I would choose Theatre Volunteering in the Galapagos.  I have never been to that area of the world and think it is just a magical, unique and beautiful place.  Also, one of the most important things is that it is volunteering and working with youth.  I work at a camp every year and have taught makeup to kids often.  I love working with kids and helping them to realize their dreams.  I think one of the most important things you can do is to teach children that they can be better, that the world can be better and that they can make it better.  And there is no better way than through the performing arts.  By using performing arts we can express emotions or talk about issues that might otherwise be difficult.  It is a great bridge between fact and fiction.

Memories That I Will Cherish Forever, stories from Quito

 Check out Chris’ life changing adventure in Quito, Ecuador as a music intern (and his amazing pictures!)

My time spent in Ecuador turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life! Everything from interacting with the people who live there, working there, traveling, and just experiencing life as an Ecuadorian citizen for four weeks helped to shape this life-changing endeavor.

The first weekend in the city spared no time acclimating me to what my life over the next four weeks was going to be like. My first weekend was spent in a hostel. The women who ran the hostel were my first introduction to the people of Quito. Even though to them, I was simply a customer staying in their place of business, they treated me as family and were very helpful in making me comfortable and calming my nerves for that first day. Since I teach in the public school system in Phoenix, Arizona, I knew a little bit of Spanish traveling down to Ecuador. However, I quickly found out how much Spanish I didn’t know when people started talking to me and I couldn’t understand them.

Once I got to my host family’s home, I started to become more acquainted with what my life was going to like there in Quito. My host family experience was very special. I became quite close with my host mother and the rest of her family. They even celebrated my birthday with me with a nice dinner, a cake, and a special gift. When it came time for me to leave Ecuador, leaving that home was very difficult because it’s almost as if they accepted me as one of their family members.

SI.NA.MU.NE was the school where I was working during my time in Ecuador. The school was originally opened as a school of music for students with special needs and disabilities, but, then transformed into more. One man, who is a renowned musician in Ecuador, had a dream to open this school and provide these students with an exceptional education and musical experience. Over the last twenty-five years, this school has grown to include more arts classes including visual art, media art, and dance. There are also services available for occupational therapy as well as general education.

The staff at SI.NA.MU.NE was exceptional. From the first day, everyone there was so welcoming and so grateful for our (the volunteers) help. What made it even more special was that we weren’t necessarily treated as volunteers. We were treated as equals; as employees of the school. Not only the staff, but, the students were exceptional as well. Every student came with different experiences and a different story. Getting to know these students, work with them, laugh with them, and make music with them created memories that I will cherish forever.

Finally, the last aspect of my trip that I wish to speak of is the people of Ecuador. I’ve never been to a place where people are so willing to help out anyone that needs it. There were times when I was lost, missed my exit on the bus, or didn’t know what I was ordering to eat and the people were so unbelievably helpful. One gentleman even got out of his seat to stop the bus for me because I missed my exit. Also, there was a woman who set up everything for me down in Ecuador. Her kindness and her assistance during my time went above and beyond anything I would have ever expected. She made all of us volunteers feel welcome, comfortable, and got us to fall in love with the country. I’m grateful that I can now call this woman a dear friend of mine.

Thank you to Performing Arts Abroad for setting up this trip for me. Everything worked out exceptionally well and I did not have one single bad experience during my time. It was also very comforting to know that if something were to happen while I was down there, I had connections both in the country and back here in the United States to contact. Even when I was down there, PAA consistently checked up on me to make sure I was having a fantastic experience. All I can really say to sum up this trip is that I absolutely cannot wait to go back and live in Ecuador again.

2015 Summer Video Contest!

Last week we posted the results of our photo contest, and now we get to share some fun videos!  Most of our video contest entries came from Instagram and other social media, so they’re just little glimpses into the life of PAA participants on their programs.  We didn’t break these down into categories, so here for your viewing pleasure are the winner, runner up, and honorable mentions.  Enjoy!


Congratulations Laura Christensen!  Laura volunteered teaching Dance in the Galapagos Islands, and this piece of cuteness is just the tip of the iceberg of awesome, beautiful, and adorable videos and photos she sent our way.  Thanks Laura, and congratulations again!


Lorena Abreu, West End Musical Theatre Training Program.  Lorena is, according to all the evidence at hand, a freaking firecracker.  In this video she shows of some serious stage combat, movement, and comedy chops all at once.


Crista Guthrie, Music Volunteer in Costa Rica.  Crista puts on a little disney-inspired concert for her students.  You can just tell they’re crazy about her.

Hannah Harris, BLAS Summer Music Intensive Program in Ireland.  The video title pretty much says it all.

Kiana Lum, West End Musical Theatre Training Program.  Lorena showed us some hard core stage combat, now here’s Kiana busting out some Book of Mormon: the Musical.

Emily Eymundson, Dance Intern in Spain.  If you saw last week’s winning photo, you’ll recognize the location of this video.  Emily Eymundson films as fellow PAA intern Beverly Diaz gets into the show from backstage.

Tiffany Ruizo, BLAS Summer Music Intensive Program in Ireland, films a bit of her tutors’ concert.

Beverly Diaz, Dance Intern in Spain.  Beverly pieced together a collage of moments to give you a sense of being in the middle of the action after Barcelona won (what we assume is) a soccer match.

Maxwell Sandberg, Music Volunteer in Costa Rica.  We’re pretty sure this is Uptown Funk…Costa Rica style.

After a Month

Beverly Diaz was a PAA Dance intern in Spain in the Summer of 2015. This is the third of three blog posts she wrote on her personal blog about here experience.  Be sure to check out the first and second posts.

Diaz Post 3 pic 1

Crinkled receipts of foreign type in the trash. Old metro tickets and museum brochures that missed the cut to become a memento join them. A neat line of souvenir shot glasses now adorn my dresser, next to a collection of beach rocks I brought back form Barcelona. These, along with the thousands of pictures I am still sorting through, are the only material reminders of the past five months. I’ve quickly found a new daily grind – the job, the commute, TV show, hangouts, all bringing me back to the norm of my home country. But the memories creep in to my day to day and I quickly push them away before they take me away. Friendly questions of, “What was it like abroad? I bet it was amazing! ” become a double-edged sword. I get to share my amazing experiences with you! But it also brings back the bliss – an unexplainable bliss…right now it doesn’t hurt to reminisce and I don’t ever want it to. I started missing Europe the second my plane took off from Florence – a little over ONE MONTH AGO (?!) – there’s no denying that. But now, I’m somewhere completely different, somewhere not even worth comparing to life abroad, because they are in two opposite categories. One does not trump the other. But Europe does taint my now, because I can’t pretend it didn’t change me, educate me, inspire me, give me even bigger dreams. With each experience came new thoughts, new etchings into my soul that I can’t erase – that I don’t want to erase and that no one can take away. My experience was individual though it was enjoyed with many. I may never be able to fully put into words what these past five months have meant to me, but I’lll never stop trying, for me.