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.

PAA Welcomes Caitlyn Conley!



Performing Arts Abroad is thrilled to announce the newest member of our team, Caitlyn Conley!  Caitlyn started on July 11th as PAA’s new Program Advisor.  She will be helping potential participants select the program that is the best fit, and encourage them to realize their dreams.

Here’s a quick interview so you can get to know Caitlyn a bit better. You can also read her bio on PAA’s Meet The Staff page on our website.

You’ve mentioned that you live your life and pursue your art based on a set of values. What are these values and how do these play out in your art and day to day life?

I definitely believe as artists we all need an artistic perspective or a base of why we do what we do that intersects with our outlook on life. There are 4 words I love keeping in mind in my work as an actor, writer, an educator and any other role I fill. Those words are connection, generosity, communication and specificity. I love connecting people and I totally think art is an incredibly generous thing we give each other. I use these words to keep me on track with my values and so far they’ve been able to get me to places that have people who not only share similar values, but also similar outlooks on life and creativity!


You have an incredible background in international travel, acting and the performing arts, and writing / blogging. Where do these aspects of yourself intersect? How do you see this playing into your role with us?

It is so awesome how much they all not only run parallel to each other but also find ways of intersecting. I really believe the skills I learned in training to be an actor have totally prepared for me a life of travel, education and writing. As a performer I gained so much self-confidence and the ability to comfortably connect with others face to face. I learned how achieve objectives and clearly communicate my thoughts. All of these things help me everyday but they especially are essential in traveling and meeting so many new people. As an advisor, I look forward to being able to utilize my knowledge and experiences to help others achieve their goals.


Me in a refrigerator box in a production photo from “True Believers” a play that took place at Comic Con.

Me in a refrigerator box in a production photo from “True Believers” a play that took place at Comic Con.


What excites you the most about Performing Arts Abroad and your job here?

So many things!! After my first day with PAA I went home and told my boyfriend I was in the scene from Annie where she’s in Daddy Warbucks’ house for the first time. The people working here have created an incredibly supportive environment full of knowledge, experience and wanderlust. I love being in an office where everyone is talking about the places they just returned from or going to, everyone is excited for each other’s opportunities and celebrates their success.

On the outside of that, I am so excited to be able to be someone who provides life-changing opportunities to others. Both travel and the arts have shaped who I am and I am a big believer they can be transformative for anyone who pursues them. I look forward to working with students about to embark on these adventures and hearing all about their experiences.


You describe yourself as a “basic millennial”. What does that mean? How does this make its way into your art and writing?

I think it’s important not to take yourself too seriously. As performers and artists, that can sometimes be tough because we fight super hard for our work and we are in a medium where an audience of 200+ people clap for us when we do a good job. Sometimes we just have to make fun of ourselves. I am super proud of what I have achieved in my life but at the end of the day I still go home and watch the Bachelorette and take selfies.


A selfie with my dog, Walter Jr.

A selfie with my dog, Walter Jr.


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

Since moving back to MA I’ve taken a small break from theatre and film to focus more on writing and theatre education. Currently, I’m working on a book of essays about our experiences from ages 26-29 in this crazy and sometimes ridiculous, technological world we live in. Whether it involves dating, travel, careers, moving to a new city or taking the next steps in our lives, we’re all trying to navigate our way in a time that our communication and access to information is unprecedented – it really makes for some hilarious moments.


You’ve traveled and lived abroad extensively. Hit me with your funniest / most awkward travel story.

Oh boy.

I was in Cusco, Peru in 2010. The city had just suffered through landslides that devastated much of the city. It was pretty barren. I was 22 and up until that point I had mainly just travelled the UK. I had very little experience in places too far out of my comfort zone but I was really eager to learn about a new culture, so it was at the top of my list to try Guinea Pig while I was there.

My boyfriend and I went to a local restaurant that served it. The place looked really fancy and the food was relatively expensive so we felt that the risk for food poisoning was low. Plus, they looked like they were struggling for customers, we were the only guests there.

When we sat down we ordered the Guinea Pig, or “Cuy,” in our broken Spanish. Our waitress looked at us, trying to communicate something that seemed super important. Once she realized we did not understand her, she started making a quick running motion with her hands. We still didn’t get it, so she just did the motion faster. Finally, she opened her eyes very wide and then closed them several times. It hit us. She was telling us our food was still alive and they would have to kill it and cook it. She was warning us this may add to the time it took to prepare dinner.

I was mortified, but still committed to the cultural experience.

The Guinea Pig was served to us on a plate, fully intact. He was propped up, frozen in a running motion with a very surprised look on his face… he wore a tomato hat.

I walked down the street back to our hotel doing that thing where you’re crying and laughing at the same time.


The aforementioned tomato-wearing Guinea Pig

The aforementioned tomato-wearing Guinea Pig


What’s something important you’ve learned about yourself from traveling abroad? What piece(s) of advice would you give to first time travelers?

Oh my gosh. There are so many things you learn about yourself when traveling. Things that you just can’t learn unless you’re in the situations travel puts you in. Besides the skills you pick up from learning different cultures and languages, I learned how adventurous I can be, that I can make friends wherever I go, I can successfully navigate the world on my own, among so many other things. All of these aspects about myself have made me a happier, confident adult. I now trust my ability to make decisions and stay true to myself.

My advice would be to stay present. When we travel we tend to get overwhelmed with logistics and planning. Once those are out of the way, just relax and truly be where you are because you are creating memories you will have for the rest of your life.

2015 Summer PHOTO CONTEST!

We had such a great time looking through our Summer 2015 Photo Contest entries!  Here are the winners and runners up from each of our four categories and (because we couldn’t resist) a number of honorable mentions.

Thanks again to all of our amazing participants.  We had many times more submissions to this contest than any previous year, so it was harder than ever to pick a winner, but all of your submissions showed what great work you did on your programs.  It’s you who give PAA the great reputation it enjoys around the world.  Thanks again!

Overall winner:Eymundson 11 WINNER OR AT WORK

From Emily Eymundson, Dance Intern in Spain.  We like calling this “Traveler in the Wings,” and it beautifully reflects what Performing Arts Abroad is about.  The great view from the wings of a performance on stage lets you know this is the view of an insider–someone involved, not just watching from the audience.  The cherry on top is that our silhouetted observer is holding–that’s right–a suitcase!  Performance.  Artistic perspective!  Travel!  This is what PAA is all about!  Congratulations Emily!

Now here are a few favorites from each of the categories we gave our participants.  Enjoy!

“You at Work” Winner:

Christensen 5 AT WORK copy

From Laura Christensen, Dance Volunteer, the Galapagos Islands.  We wanted to see PAA participants in action on their programs, doing what they do from day to day, and not only does Laura capture it in this photo, but the joy of this picture is infectious!

Runner up:Guthrie 1 WINNER OR AT WORK copyFrom Crista Guthrie, Music Volunteer, Costa Rica.  There are so many great and adorable pictures of Crista teaching violin, it was hard to pick our favorite just of THOSE.

“Music/Dance/Theatre” Winner: 


From Kiana Lum, West End Musical Theatre Training Program.  Every time we look at this picture we fall in love with it.  We love the action, we love the composition, and we love the intensity!

Runners up:Christensen 11 DANCE

From Laura Christensen, Dance Volunteer, the Galapagos Islands.  Simply put, this is one of the most beautiful photos we’ve ever received from a participant.  We’ll make a poster of it and hang it in our office.


From Hannah Harris, Blas Summer Music Intensive Program in Ireland.  Maybe it’s because we know this was an Irish music intensive, but we can almost hear the music pouring out of these folks, and boy does it make us want to jam.

Stagnaro 1

From Marina Stagnaro, Dance Intern in Italy.  What can we say, we’re suckers for shots of people dancing in exotic locations.

“People” winner:Le 10 PEOPLE

From Emily Le, Acting Intensive with Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London.  There are so many wonderful group shots, but the motion, the silliness, and the freaking Globe Theatre push this one to the top.

Runners up:Christensen 7 PEOPLE OR AT WORK

And yet another from Laura Christensen, Dance Volunteer, the Galapagos Islands.  This could be seen as a “You at Work” photo, but something about the human connection makes it more comfortable in this category.

Ramani 3 copy

From Shreenika Ramani, Dance Administration intern in Italy.  We’re pretty sure these are strangers, but we love the simple, human moment Shreenika captured.

Lum 3

From Kiana Lum, West End Musical Theatre Training Program.  Yes, we know that this is actually from part of the Book of Mormon workshop, but we like to imagine that it’s just two friends screaming at each other.

“Local Culture” Winner:Eymundson 35 CULTURE

From Emily Eymundson, Dance Intern in Spain.  Let me tell you something, nobody chills on the streets of Barcelona like Ms. Eymundson.

Runners Up:

Guthrie 23 copyFrom Crista Guthrie, Music Volunteer, Costa Rica.  Oh, just playing the violin and chillin’ with a sloth.  No big deal.



Eymundson 50

Also from Emily Eymundson.  Like we said, homegirl knows how to roll in Barcelona and take pictures doing it.

Honorable Mentions:

These may not quite fit into one of our regular categories, but we just couldn’t leave them out!

Le 3 copy

Emily Le, RADA program.

Le 8

Emily Le, RADA program.  We laugh every time we look at this.

Storey 2

Raine Storey, Dance Volunteer in Ecuador.  I think I’ve seen this poster before.  WOW!

Storey 1

Raine Storey, Dance Volunteer in Ecuador…clearly has an eye for beautiful photography.

Ramani 1 copy

Shreenika Ramani, Dance Administration Intern in Italy.

Ramani 2 copy

Shreenika Ramani, Dance Administration intern in Italy.

Lum 4

Kiana Lum, West End Musical Theatre Training Program.


Alexandra Heybourne, Theatre Intern in Costa Rica.

Drought of Touch

Bón Día from Barcelona! My name is Allyson and I am a dance intern in Barcelona, Spain with Performing Arts Abroad. This blog post is part of my internship capstone project.

A week ago I went to my first rave. And it was at 6:30 in the morning… you heard that right.

The rave, called Morning Gloryville Barcelona, involved no hallucinogenics and no alcohol. Instead, the goal was to get to the trance-like bliss of a night-time rave with nothing needed except the DJ, the energy of the crowd, your body, and a free cup of coffee.

I was willing to go for it. So at 5:30 a.m. I forced my protesting body out of bed and crept covertly out of the apartment, trying not to wake my host mom. It was still dark outside, and walking to the metro station I remembered the last time I had been awake at this time in Barcelona. Then, it had been the end of a long night. Now, it was the beginning of a long day. The street was almost deserted: just me and the street sweepers.

When I arrived at Mercat de les Flors, the location of the rave, the morning light kissing the rooftops took my breath away.  It was all so sharp and clean.


The music was already spilling from inside the building, even though the rave hadn’t technically started. The repetition of the words, the drop of the bass, began to weave their spell. A woman’s voice, singing, inviting: start moving in your way.

We were gathering. Fairy wings and glittered skirts. High heels and Hawaian prints. A cacophony of nighttime color and sound, so curiously juxtaposed with the scent of coffee and the brightening of the sky.


At 6:30, those who had arrived for the beginning formed a circle, hands on each others backs. A woman began to speak into a microphone. Against the music, and in Spanish, I couldn’t catch it all. Just the general ideas: breathing, giving energy, being present.

She told us to divide into pairs, and I found myself face to face with another woman. “Look directly at each other.” We began the rave like that, sinking deep into the eyes of a stranger.

In case you don’t know, eye contact can be terrifying. For this first partner, it was a little too intense. She kept laughing and looking down or away. I tried to hold that, without casting judgment, although I was aware of the uncomfortable space it created between us. I tried to make my face a resting place for her restless, flitting gaze.

We changed partners.

My second partner was brave. Together, we held each other’s gaze without breaking it. “Don’t think about anything” said our instructor (instructor? teacher? guru? fellow human?) “Just see the person sitting across from you.” As the minutes passed, I felt tears coming into my eyes. Almost immediately after, I saw them reflected sympathetically in the eyes of my partner. Similarly, without any intentional effort my face and body arranged themselves to match hers. (Actually, there’s a scientific reason for this. Wikipedia “mirror neurons” when you finish reading)

After minutes of this, of just seeing, we were told to touch our partner, in whatever way we wanted to. Our hands found each other’s shoulders. Others were grasping hands, touching knees, or gently holding faces. I could feel the weight of her arms. I realized we were now smiling. Not embarrassed, deflecting smiles, but expressions of genuine joy in the acts of seeing, and being seen.

We are so rarely allowed the luxury of studying a face. If we took time to do this with every new person we met, the word “ugly” would not exist, at least not in reference to other humans. There is no such thing as “ugly” when you really look. Judgment fades and there is only light and shadow, structure and detail, color, symmetry and asymmetries, humanness.

“Start moving in your way.” The words were like a massage—repetitive, soothing. Telling me to begin by listening. The room was electric, pulsing with energy. I felt as if there were invisible threads connecting me to every person in the room. Each one present and accounted for.

At last we finished and stood up. My partner and I grasped each others arms and smiled and laughed in and said thank you in as many ways as we could. Then we let each other go, and started moving in our ways. The music changed. The dance began.

Since that morning I have not been able to forget the electricity of being touched and seen, so long and so unbreakingly, by another person. I find myself craving a return to that sensation. I imagine I crave it the the way friends who smoke crave nicotine.

Touch and sight. Even before the rave, I was thinking about these things frequently. They have been on my mind almost since arrival.

The fact is that people touch each other much more in Spain than in the U.S. When I first observed classes at Varium, I was taken aback by how much teachers would touch students. Male and female alike would absentminded stroke the hair of the child standing nearby, or place a calming hand on the back of a rowdy kid to quiet them, or engulf someone who had drifted away from the group in a sudden bear hug to scoop them up and carry them back to the group.

But although this surprised me initially I now I find myself doing the same. After for weeks of working with kids at Varium, to touch feels automatic, natural and right. Now, I don’t hesitate to touch. Working in Spanish and Catalá, I often struggle express myself verbally. Touch and eye contact are two most clear and immediate forms of communication that I have at my disposal.

Outside the dance community (which is, granted, more touch-prone than most), it is the same. Parents touch their children more. Couples can get away with PDA of the highest degree. Even strangers can touch each other, for example when trying to pass behind someone on the metro. For example, the waiter at the restaurant where we take the Varium kids for lunch touches me when I am blocking his way in the narrow aisle between the two tables, to let me know he needs to come through. Even the Spanish greeting, two kisses on either side of the face, is closer and more intimate than the American handshake.

Similarly, I have been struck again and again here by how readily people meet each other’s gazes. Not just meet, but welcome, with radiating warmth. I see this a lot at Varium, between students and students, students and teachers, parents and staff. And I see it especially in conversations when people are speaking to each other in Catalá.

In the United States, we train ourselves into isolation. We are taught that it is rude to stare. Our eyes flit from the screen of our smartphones to the floor to avoid being caught on the splinter of another person’s gaze. We teach our children that their personal bubble reaches as far as their fingertips so that we can all keep each other at arm’s length. When we take our change from the cashier at the supermarket, the sudden warmth of their fingers is startling, an unwanted intimacy. A teacher who places his hand on the back of a restless student risks a lawsuit.

So at first it was hard for me to reciprocate, let alone to initiate, these moments of warm human contact. I would feel bashful or nervous and cast my eyes down, or stiffen my muscles. But I have been practicing, these last two months, and I have improved a lot. My skin sings when it is touched. My hands happily assure other people that I see and acknowledge them by finding their shoulders or arms. My eyes seek other eyes like magnets. What I did at the rave was like a marathon, but really I had been training for it ever since my arrival in Spain.

Now, with five days left in Spain, I find myself thinking heavily of my return to American culture, where it seems we are in a perpetual drought of touch, and avoid eye contact when we can. I think it will feel cold, and lonely.

I recognize that there are reasons to take care with these things, perhaps especially with touch. I know that touch, when unwanted, can invade and harm, deeply. Sexual assault and child molestation are devastating. And I know that for children on the autism spectrum, touch is frequently more disturbing than comforting. And I know that everyone has different sensitivities and preferences. And I know to always get consent. And I agree that staring at strangers (and being stared at) is creepy.

But I mourn the degree to which fear of inappropriate touch/gaze has so distorted our perception in the United States that we cannot seem to distinguish the natural from the perverted. I am angry that because of perverts and child molesters should have the power to remove the sense of touch from our schools. Most of all, I think there is enormous capacity for healing in the acts of touching and seeing. I felt that last week. What if every white police officer had to look for five minutes into the eyes of the black man or woman he is facing before he could put his finger to the trigger or his hands to the throat? What if every congressman and woman began the day by sitting and holding the gaze, or the hands, of their political opponents? I think many of our wounds could begin to heal.

This is what I dream about, after a morning surrounded by music and color, movement, touch, and gaze. But the reality is that today, in my country, the language of touch is spoken by few (lovers, mothers, dancers). How I wish that we were more multilingual.


Trying to look right at you.


…But good luck trying to look into THESE eyes! (Dali museum)

Written by Allyson Yoder, Performing Arts Abroad dance intern in Spain. This blog post is part of her internship capstone project. See her blog here. 

Island Time Volunteering in the Galapagos

My name is Jenna and I am a theater volunteer in the Galapagos Islands with Performing Arts Abroad.


One thing you hear a lot in the Galapagos is “island time”. This usually refers to the notion, that when someone says they will meet you at 1:30you should expect them closer to 2:00. While this can be frustrating it actually has a really good message. For me “island time” became a reminder to go with the flow and to not take yourself too seriously.


I landed in San Cristobal knowing absolutely no Spanish and ready to help in anyway possible. Originally I thought I would be teaching a theater class, but once there it seemed there was more of a need for volunteers to teach English. So, determined to combine the two, I decided one of the best ways to learn new words and remember them was through art. For two weeks I spent my mornings learning as much Spanish as I could and every afternoon I taught 45 students using theater games and art projects. Things are very laid back in the islands so I could really develop my lesson plans any way I wanted to.



Taking the idea of “island time” to heart, I also did a lot of amazing activities I never thought I would do. We hiked mountains, climbed volcanoes, and snorkeled in coral reefs. The beauty of San Cristobal is beyond compare. Once you step back and allow yourself to be open to new experiences you see truly amazing things.



While all of these adventures were fun the best part of this experience was working with the kids and the other volunteers. We became a family that shared each other’s frustrations and victories. To have students start out not really wanting to learn and with in a week seeing the same students come to class early and ask to sing the counting song, and bouncing out of their seats to tell you the vocabulary word and write it on the board, made me so incredibly proud of them!  Absolutely an amazing experience!


Written by Jenna Snyder, Performing Arts Abroad theater volunteer in the Galapagos Islands.

We Women in Barcelona, Spain

Bón Día from Barcelona. My name is Allyson and I am a dance intern in Barcelona, Spain with Performing Arts Abroad. This blog post is a part of my internship capstone project.

Apples. Laundry. High heels. Stones.

On Tuesday, July 7, I went to see Sol Picó’s W.W. (We Women), part of the GREC Arts Festival in Barcelona, at the Mercat de les Flors.

W.W. (We Women) investigates the status of women today worldwide. To make this piece, Sol Pico asked women artists and choreographers from many parts of the world to respond to the question:

“What does it mean to be woman?”

From this research, W.W. emerged.

I felt and wondered a lot of things going into this piece. Although I am a staunch feminist, I shy away from work that is overtly so because it so often seems too one-dimensional. I wondered whether I would feel preached at. Also, as a privileged, white, middle-class American woman from a progressive family, I am detached from the realities of violence and overt oppression many women in the world face. I wondered if I would see myself in the piece.

There are no curtains around the stage when I enter the theatre, allowing me to take stock of the scene before the performance begins. There are no wings and no curtains around the theatre. Sand covers the floor, and white military tents are set up onstage. I think of refugee camps, modern nomadic groups, and the book The Red Tent. Transient and ancient.

A stream of sand begins to waterfall from the ceiling. One by one, the women emerge from the central tent, dressed in bikinis and high heels, and walk a runway path to the stream of sand. They don’t walk like models, but like human beings. I take in each body as she walks.

Eight women enter: four musicians and four dancers.

Each body is strikingly unique. Of the dancers, Minako Seki is bird-boned and appears frighteningly breakable, with a curtain of hair that she can wield like a whip or retreat behind like a curtain. Julie Dossavi is muscled, dense, and earthy, with power coiled in her stance. Sol Picó has the compact and chiseled stature of a 1980s aerobics instructor. Shantala Shivalingappa’s svelt and graceful body holds surprising strength. I don’t remember the musician’s bodies so well, because I didn’t spend as much time looking at them.

Julie Dossavi, Minako Seki, Sol Picó, Shantala Shivalingappa. Photo from http://www.solpico.com/index.php/es/espectaculos/we-women

Julie Dossavi, Minako Seki, Sol Picó, Shantala Shivalingappa. Photo from http://www.solpico.com/index.php/es/espectaculos/we-women

The performers speak in many voices and languages. In addition to French, English, Spanish, Catalan, and Japanese, there are the precise languages of gesture and movement, and the voices of the violin and guitar. One woman sings.

It’s clear that although Sol Picó is credited as the choreographer of W.W., this is not “Sol Picó and Company.” Each woman is an artist in her own right, and a collaborator in the work.

The diversity of the performers reminds me that the world is bigger than me. Their individuality makes clear that within the broad strokes of culture, nationality, and religion each woman’s experience is different. The question “What does it mean to be a woman” is answered in different ways at different times. For example, Shivalingappa portrays a woman speaking with pride about a matriarchal culture she was raised in (but she speaks in English, so no one can understand her). Dossavi rants in French about the injustice of being given a bitter green apple as a prize for being the last one standing in a grueling dance-off. There are many subjective narratives, rather than a universal truth.

In time, as these experiences compile, themes and common threads emerge. Images and objects heavy with symbolism–apples, laundry, high heels, stones–anchor the stories and create a sense of continuity.

Take stones, for example.

There is violence in the piece. There are no men, and no external forces of oppression. All of the violence—explicit, symbolic, psychological—is inflicted by women, on women—on ourselves.

In one scene, the women silence each other. They put their hands over each other’s mouths, hold back the insistent motion of limbs, intercept the musicians hands that seek their instruments.

In another, which feels all too familiar, one woman, a cross between a drill-sergeant and a zumba instructor, goads the women to dance until they drop in a frenzied contest for the best bikini body.

One of the most disturbing sections of the piece is a duet between Julie Dossavi and Minako Seki. Dossavi embodies an abuser, her fury provoked by Seki’s insistent and childlike repetitions of a phrase. Seki’s bony frame is flung over and over again to the ground, and over and over again she persistently rises. The repetition is not defiant or triumphant; it is more like the repetitive bed-wettings of an anxious, fearful child. Out of her own control. At the end, Dossavi has tied Seki to a laundry line by her rope of hair. She hangs there, limbs flailing, a useless marionette.

I wonder about the gender of Dossavi’s character in this scene. Then I decide it doesn’t matter. Abuse is abuse. Sometimes women are the oppressor, sometimes the oppressed.

Minako Seki and Julie Dossavi

Minako Seki and Julie Dossavi

What else ties the piece together? Well, there is a lot of laundry.

Laundry lines span from the tents to the corners of the stage. When not dancing, the women are hanging, shaking, folding laundry. It is mostly quiet background music, except for one time when the crisp snap of a shirt takes center stage in a performance of domestic skill.

The women cling to their duties, never at rest. Always they are moving. Exhausted from the dance-a-thon contest, the women crumple to the ground one by one. When they can no longer dance they are given a broom to pick themselves off the ground and begin to sweep at the earth. They accept this task without question and sweep all the sand from the center to the edges with a resigned efficiency.

At the end of the piece, it seems the women will finally stop. They set a table for themselves: juicy apples and heaping plates of dirt—and call each other to it (“Por fin!”). With ceremony they fling a spoonful of dirt over their shoulders like a toast and take a bite of the apple. Just at that moment the roof springs a leak. Dust comes pouring down again from the ceiling. Someone springs to her feet to catch it with a bucket. The apples, half-eaten, remain on the stage.

Internalized violence. The demands of the mundane taking precedence over the beautiful or the extraordinary. The hands that never stop moving. Yes, that feels like woman.

I am surprised by how familiar it feels. Even if I may not have known the full depth of it, I can always recognize the taste: The inability to stop myself from doing the dishes, even when I come home exhausted and it’s not my mess. The strange self-punishing pride of standing so that others may sit when its your feet doing the hurting. The unexplainable rage I sometimes smother when I see other’s weakness, because it reminds me of my own. The petty stones I hurl at others and heap on myself. The sour apple I eat when what I really want is a slice of cake. And the wild nights of being pulled to dance by the full moon and the sadness I didn’t know I carried.

Is this it? Is that all? How sad.

I find myself thinking that there is something missing. I find myself thinking: Where are the mothers? Where is the comfort and safety in each other’s presences? Where is the joy? I have been blessed by friendships with incredible women. They are strong, giving, and compassionate. I hold these women close and dear to my heart, and I want to have this seen and celebrated.

There are moments that hint at it. They happen within the lit domestic haven of the tents; swapping stories and gossip in an easy companionship, quiet laughter, the undercurrent of hands on a drum. Or they happen in moments of rare solitude when women are pulled into dancing and their voices ring out suddenly and powerfully. But these moments are few and far between. More common is the sense of loneliness, competition, and isolation that keeps us from each other.

Maybe it’s impossible to tell it all. Maybe there just isn’t room. The performance is less than two hours. The stage is only so big. And pain is more interesting to watch than joy.

I leave the theatre feeling the weight of it all, not knowing what to do with it. I came with a group: five women and one man, and I am hungry to talk. I want to know if they saw themselves in the piece, too. But no one can seem to find the words. I can’t tell if my companions are afraid of diving in to the mess of emotions, or if they are genuinely baffled by the foreign language of post-modern performance and don’t know how to engage. (That happens).

I ride the metro home by myself, thinking of the women I would like to talk to at this moment. I wish they were here to listen, process, and share. Since they are not, the next best thing is to write it all down.

Written by Allyson Yoder, Performing Arts Abroad dance intern in Spain as part of her internship capstone project. See her blog here. 


Six Travel Tips for Your Summer Adventures

Six Travel Tips for Your Summer Adventures

Summer is an exciting time for us at Performing Arts Abroad. We have programs running all year, but LOTS of people go in the summer and it’s always thrilling for usto hear from them. Since so many people have already left and even more are getting ready to, I thought I’d share some travel tips for those of you planning to get some stamps in your passport this summer. (I’ll be stealing a bit from PAA’s pre-departure guide.)

Travel Tip #1: Keep a positive attitude and an open mind.

Flights get delayed. Luggage gets sent to the wrong hemisphere. At some point there will be some kind of hassle, and that’s just getting there! Keeping a positive attitude will make all the difference in the world.

Six Travel Tips for Your Summer Adventures

Just off screen a dog ate my backpack…but I’m staying positive and SMILING!

Here’s a quote right out of our pre-departure guide: “Unlike
tourist travel where resorts are set up to cater to the
Westerner, traveling to the real heart of a foreign land
often involves making many more adjustments. 
Meeting new people, eating different foods and
managing your own affairs are some of the challenges you will face. Although the adjustments and challenges may seem overwhelming, just remember to be patient with yourself and others.”

Travel Tip #2: Carry your passport, but don’t have it with you.

Six Travel Tips for Your Summer Adventures

DON’T LOSE YOUR PASSPORT. If, like a PAA participant you’re not just passing through all “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium” style, the best thing to do is to keep your passport in a safe place. It’s not recommended that you carry it around daily, but since it’s the most recognizable form of identification, you may be required to show it. The solution? Make a photocopy of it and carry that around with you at all times.

Travel Tip #3: 100 kilometers per hour isn’t that fast.

Unless you grew up using the metric system, you’re probably going to have to do a lot of quick mental calculations. My advice: find an app or bookmark this link in your web browser, lest you buy the wrong amount of carne and throw off the whole guiso.

Six Travel Tips for Your Summer Adventures

So does this things hold a pint or 473 milliliters or what?

Travel Tip #4: We never hear anyone complain about UNDER packing.

Be prepared, yes, but avoid over packing. They have stores there; you’re not going to the moon. If you find there’s something you wish you had, you can probably get it there. If you can’t, the locals somehow live without it, so you probably can too. Learning to pack light is a wonderfully freeing experience!

Six Travel Tips for Your Summer Adventures

Yep, pretty much anything you would need…

Travel tip #5: Get to know your local post office.

Social media has revolutionized keeping in touch with friends and family back home, and we should all be grateful that we don’t have to sit through the slide shows our parents had to after their neighbors came home from a trip to Europe. But no amount of Instagramming can take the place of receiving an honest-to-goodness postcard in the mail. Want to really blow someone’s mind? Write a letter and mail it in an envelope. When someone gets a letter in the mail with foreign stamps on, they fell like a million bucks. It’s science.

Six Travel Tips for Your Summer Adventures

Pictured: Brownie point generator.

Travel Tip #6: Being homesick does not mean you’re an uncultured swine.

Even experienced travelers can experience difficult culture shock. It’s natural to feel anxious when you don’t speak the language, know the customs, or understand people’s behavior in daily life. “Culture shock” is sort of a catchall term to help explain the bewilderment and disorientation. What’s more, it’s not unnatural to miss the familiarity of home where at least you know which way is up. Fear not! This is the time to push through and dive in deeper. The more you embrace your new surroundings, the faster you’ll adapt and the more fun you’ll have. Now you just have to brace yourself for the culture shock of coming home, which can sometimes be even more severe.

Well I think six is good for now. Obviously it’s not comprehensive, but hopefully that will get you started. Do you have any great travel tips we missed? Well look at that, there’s a comment section down there.

Safe Travels!!

Ben Abbott is the Outreach Coordinator at Performing Arts Abroad, an actor, playwright, and all around swell guy.