An Important Statement from our Executive Director

by Reynolds Whalen
Performing Arts Abroad Founder and Executive Director
January 30th, 2017

At Performing Arts Abroad, we promote cross-cultural understanding, embrace diversity, and encourage inclusiveness. We live at the intersection of two professional fields—international education and the performing arts—that exist for these very purposes.

We understand the need for a visa system that prevents those with malicious intent from entering our country. Part of our job is to make international travel as safe and meaningful as possible, and we support further development of processes designed with this intent.

However, the recent executive order to bar refugees and other citizens of specific nations from entering the United States stands in direct opposition to our mission of creating a more understanding world through artistic cross-cultural collaboration. It threatens the well-being of artists we know in our community and a number of PAA participants and their families.

This order further intensifies xenophobia and distrust of people based on their culture, religion, and appearance, and we adamantly oppose it. We urge the current administration to lift the ban immediately, and we encourage our colleagues and fellow artists to join us in doing the same.

If you are a student reading this who is concerned about your immigration status and how these policies may affect you or your family, I encourage you to read this excellent resource from the Office of International Services at Indiana University who is setting a great example in our field.

Now more than ever we encourage you to explore the world, push yourself out of your comfort zone, reach out to those different from yourself, and form relationships that challenge you to be a more compassionate person. Our society needs informed artists to boldly proclaim truth and stand up to oppression, and it needs it now. This is your moment to speak up.

PAA Music Volunteer Sarah Pinto embraces one of her students in Costa Rica

Special Series: Indian Festival Costumes Issue 3, “Dedication to the Art”

Emma Hollows is a student from Manchester, England, going into her final year at the University of Cambridge. From August 7th to September 24th she is spending 7 weeks of her summer vacation in India exploring Gujarat and Kerala to investigate the costumes and make-up of Indian celebrations. During her trip, Emma is writing a blog series for Performing Arts Abroad as she participates in various festivals and attends Kerala Kalamandalam, a performing arts university teaching students the music, dances, costumes and make-up used in festivals.  This is the third issue of this special series…

 Sorry for the delay in this next post, unreliable internet is definitely something you have to get used to in Kerala!

For the past 2 weeks that I have shadowed Veena to her Mohiniyattam classes at Kerala Kalamandalam and I have discovered just how dedicated you need to be to become a professional in this business. The students study for up to 10 years at KK with early morning starts from 7am for yoga (4:30am for Kathakali students for their full body oil massages in monsoon season), before a day of classes in their discipline, academic classes and more practice in the evenings. At uni we complain about having lectures at 9am, so these guys are champions for managing 4:30am every morning! But none of the students were complaining, they know what they want and they know that all of this practice is the way to achieve their futures. Next time I want to stay in bed instead of going to a 9am, I will think of Veena and her friends having been up since 5am and already done 2 hours of yoga!Picture 1

Kerala’s performing arts are most famous for the costumes of Kathakali and Kutiyattam with their large colourful headdresses and brightly painted faces. Facial expression is vital because no words are spoken but the actors tell the story through dance. The distinct make up highlights these facial expressions and determine the characters: Paccha (hero) have a green face, while Kathi have green with a red and white pattern across their cheeks and nose, and Kari (demonesses) have black faces with red cheeks and chin. Tati are the bearded characters, such as Hanuman (the monkey god) who is Vellattati (white bearded). Most characters also have a chutti which is made from stiff white paper glued to the face with a rice paste to outline the face and highlight the expressions.

A full size Kathi mannequin in the costume museum at Kerala Kalamandalam.

A full size Kathi mannequin in the costume museum at Kerala Kalamandalam.

The costume students at KK are taught how to make and repair the entire repertoire of Kathakali and Kutiyattam costumes. It takes hours to prepare an actor for their performance with the make up alone taking up to 3 hours attracting audience members to watch in the green room. Kutiyattam costumes have many accessories: armlets, bracelets, a kutalharam (a wooden panel hanging from the waist) and a …………. which wraps around the shoulders and waist. In the past all of this was made from silver and adorned with precious gems which was incredibly heavy and expensive, therefore modern day accessories are made from a light weight wood known as kumizh, covered in gold foil and colourful plastic gems. Even so, the Kathakali and Kutiyattam costumes can weigh 10-12kg! The Kathakali students say this weight can cause back and neck pain but it is eased with the oil massages.Picture 3

The Kerala performing arts have their roots in the Sanskrit theatre written in about 200 BC in the Natyasastra. They have been developing ever since but the masters safe guarding the arts are attempting to limit any evolution to maintain the meaning and spirituality associated with almost all Indian performing arts. Therefore very few of the KK students have studied other styles to avoid ‘pollution’. On the 18th I will be attending a traditional Kathakali performance in Kalamandalam’s N…………… running from 8pm until dawn which will be the first time I actually see the students in full costume, I am so excited!!

Written by Emma Hollows

Guest Blogger


Special Series: Music, Culture, and the World Cup in Brazil. Issue 3: Adventure v. Apprehension

When I travel, I often experience a mixture of adventure and apprehension. There are so many places to go, things to do, people to see. I am a rather adventurous person. Going somewhere to be locked in a room or to do and eat the same things I would at home are an absolute negative. The world is meant to be explored!

It is not, however, meant to be explored alone. I don’t mind being alone, but adventures are always more fun with friends. Being the “classic” friendly, extroverted American that I am, I have been able to make many friends in all parts of the world over my various travels. At the same time, I have also always traveled with friends or family. By participating in music tours, mission trips, or family vacations, I was ensured the “safety net” of those I knew loved and accepted me, allowing me to be more open and friendly with others.

Traveling to Brazil this summer was the first time that I have ever gone somewhere completely on my own, not knowing anybody ahead of time, unsure of the social climate being caused by the World Cup, and what’s more – uncertain of how I, as a “Brazilian,” would be viewed. I have dual citizenship, but I was born and raised in the States; my habits, thought processes, and accent are all American. True, my first language was Portuguese, I’ve been surrounded by extended family my whole life, and it’s not the first time I’ve been to Brazil, but I still wasn’t sure what to expect.

I am overwhelmed by how I have been received. My hosts are absolutely marvelous and treat me like family, the administration at Programa Aprendiz view and treat me as someone with valuable skills, and the student musicians are starting to consider me their friend. Even random people on the street think that I’m from São Paulo (my father actually is a Paulista), and say they would never guess I was American if it wasn’t for my slight accent (this phrase makes me so happy!).

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I am loving my time here in Brazil. All of my fears about being accepted as a Brazilian
have completely dissipated and have continued to make new friends and acquaintances almost every day, despite not having a “safety net.” Well, that’s not true. I do have one, but not my normal one; I have created a safety net of people from those I’ve come to care about and they’ve come to care for me. Knowing that my time here in Niterói is almost over, many have already started asking me when I will return. For me, there is no higher praise.

A mixture of apprehension and adventure – guess which one always wins? That is why I keep traveling. There is nothing like knowing that you have friends around the world. We may not always be able to be together, but the memories we make last a lifetime. That is why I am here.Copy of DSC02742


Written by Juliana Baioni

Performing Arts Abroad music intern in Brazil

Special Series: Music, Culture, and the World Cup in Brazil. Issue 1: Music and the Games

Juliana World Cup Game

Juliana Baioni is a dual citizen (American and Brazilian) doing a Performing Arts Abroad music internship in Brazil from June 15th to July 13th. During her time in Brazil, she is writing a weekly series for us on the World Cup, music, culture, and the intersection of the three. This is the first post of the series, and be sure to check back next week for the next post!

Me? Honestly, I’m not a big sports fan. I was always attracted to more artistic rather than athletic endeavors growing up. Sometimes I’ll pass a group of friends swapping statistics about this player or that game and mostly, it goes over my head. I understand that for many people sports are important and that there are some amazing stories that come from the sports world, but team against team is nothing special for me.

Insert country rivalry, and it’s a whole new ball game.

There is nothing on earth like the World Cup. Thousands upon thousands of individuals decked out in their country’s colors, all hoping for victory, are pouring into the stadiums around Brazil. Brazil’s second time hosting the World Cup–the last time being 1950 when the competition resumed after hiatus during the Second World War–has been filled with mixed emotions. Excitement and anger, passion, and frustration… Had you asked me last year if I was going to be in Brazil during the Cup, I would have told you absolutely not. Funny how things work, huh?
Walking in streets glowing yellow and green from passionate Brazilian citizens, I have to admit that I am glad I came. To know this country, my country¸ in its fervor, its joys, and its challenges was something I simply could not pass up. When will I ever get the chance to see Brazil like this again?

I found it refreshing, however, to find that not everyone in Brazil has a head filled with futebol. Programa Aprendiz, where I am interning, is an exciting and successful program initiating a culture of music education in public schools in Niteroi, a city just across the bay from Rio de Janeiro. Mostly, teachers of Aprendiz educate students in basic musical knowledge and theory. DSC01099Those who are interested participate in a strings class that prepares them for a chance to perform with an auditioned performing group that has gained national and international attention, with the organization having created strong connections with artists in Germany and Norway over its fourteen years of existence.

“One thing you must know,” Daniel, program coordinator for Aprendiz, told me during my orientation, “is that Aprendiz is not just about teaching kids how to play instruments but it’s about giving them confidenceDSC01110 in themselves and respect for others.” Confidence, in themselves as a Brazilian, as a musician, and as a human being. This is the power of arts education.

Me? I’m looking forward to the weeks to come, not only for the games, but for the culture that I’m coming to know and experience through the arts. I may be cheering, donned in yellow and green, but more importantly, I’m getting to know and love the people. Honestly, I couldn’t have chosen a better place to do so than Brazil.

Written by Juliana Baioni
Performing Arts Abroad Music Intern in Brazil

Wake-Up Call in Italy

Travel the world! It’s unlimited! But wait, is that really true? Am I limited by the color of my skin or where I come from when I travel? Or, in some cases, does it benefit me? Is this something I need to be cautious of when traveling?

Recently, I lived in Italy for two months while I interned with Performing Arts Abroad at a large well-known theater in Florence. It was a phenomenal experience and one of the best times of my life! The longer I stayed and the more ventured through Italy though, I began to become more aware of things about myself. It became a serious wake-up call in terms of identity, self-preservation, and confidence building.

Rather than posting a picture first, I want to describe one to you. Imagine a mix of a young woman: Black and Belizean, tall and slim, brown likPhoto Sep 20, 11 26 21 AMe caramel, big hair, with curls for days. That’s me, in a nutshell. Now, here’s a pic! Haha! Excited for my trip in Italy, I thought of the types of things I might encounter because of the way I look but I had no idea what the world had in store for me. From funny to heart-wrenching, the types of experiences I had because of the color of my skin ranged like I could have never imagined. So here’s what happened to me and a few things that I learned along the way:
FLOTUS visits Italy – I’m walking down the street and I get called out, not by my name, but the name of another wonderful Black woman. “Mee-shell Oh-bahhh-mah! Mee-shell Oh-bahhh-mah!” rang from the crowd and of course I looked around thinking she can’t be here, only to realize, this man was yelling at me! It was hilarious so I ran with it, nodded, waved ever so regally, and said “Si. Si.” I took him by surprise and he laughed so hard. What I learned: Have fun. Take being compared to the First Lady as a compliment. Of course, all black people don’t look alike and this could have been an awkward moment, but I decided to walk taller! Michelle Obama is probably one of the most famous and respectable African American women in the world. So, I’m pretty glad I could represent her in Italy.
Life is like a bowhenitalianspickmeupx of – Chocolate, in Italy! It’s quite the irresistible flavor, if I may say so myself, and I’m not talking about the gelato. What I learned: Yes, you will get hit on. I think has something to with the hair. The bigger I wore it, the more attention seemed to follow me. Italian men can be so polite and helpful sometimes to the point where it can get a bit overwhelming. So remember to keep yourself together, don’t get swept up in the Italian suaveness, and exit situations that don’t feel right, immediately! As long as you keep it moving, they will eventually give up.
Inside the looking glass – Are there black people in Italy? Yes, but most of them are from Africa and work on the street selling toys, purses, and knick-knacks to make ends meet and send money back to their families. Emotionally, I found myself feeling guilty. They were reflections of me and it saddened me to see how hard they worked for so little. What I learned: No matter what skin color you have, everyone is just trying to make it. They inspired me to continue to push forward no matter how many people say “no” to me. I am the only person that can hold me back. Skin color may be an attribute used to define me but I am truly the one who defines me. Travel with security in yourself.

Cinque Terrerized – My Facebook status update – from the day the wake-up call rang. “Today is a day that will be forever marked in my life. Today I experienced harassment and racism first-hand in Italy. This place is not entirely rainbows and butterflies as it may seem. On what started out as a wonderful trip to Cinque Terre ended in one of the worst moments I have ever had in my life. As my friends and I began to leave the beach a man who had been talking to us the entire time we were there started telling my other black friend and I to pick up our trash, which we had already done. After we didn’t pick up the trash that he claimed was ours, but wasn’t, he proceeded to (call us “disgusting black women”) throw his beer in our faces and all over our bodies. We stood in shock and then it hit me that I could not just stand there and just take that treatment. I stood up! I told him how disrespectful it was for him to do that to women! I fought back! Even through him grabbing my arms and manhandling me while everyone around literally just stood there and watched like it was a movie, I knew I need to speak out no matter what! As I feel proud that I did this, there is a part of me that feels broken and helpless. I want better for people like me and although this may not seem like much I hope I can continue to find my strength through the struggles of life.” What I learned: After over 70 likes and 50 comments of support and caring words from my friends, I had a moment of clarity. Everything happens for a reason. I may not have wanted something like this to have happened to me but the fact that it did still leaves me feeling proud. In that moment, I saw my strength and gained a deeper sense of self than will never be rattled. Despite experiencing such an intense moment of racism, I learned the importance of having a noble character, trusting your instincts, and protecting yourself.

I hope, in the slightest way; reading about my experiences abroad as a woman of color, helps you to travel with a better understanding of when to exercise caution, as a person of color, and when to remember to just have fun! Best wishes on your travels! And remember, living life in fear is just an excuse for your confidence not to thrive. Know yourself, love yourself, and let that person lead the way!Photo Oct 16, 9 24 21 PM

Written by Elena Muslar
Performing Arts Abroad Marketing Intern
To read more about Elena and her background, go here.