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.