Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Student Pia Lopez-Morton attends staibdance intensive in Italy

Junior dance and business double major Pia Lopez-Morton received a Sally A. Radell Friends of Dance Scholarship to attend the staibdance Summer Intensive in Italy this past July. Read on for a reflection on her experience.

There are few moments in one’s life when you realize that what you are doing, where you are, or who you are with will make a significant change in your life, or rather, that it has changed your life. This past summer at the staibdance summer intensive was one of those moments, and I could not have experienced it without Emory Friends of Dance. While I knew it would be a wonderful experience when I applied, I underestimated the greatness of the classes, faculty, location, how close I would get with the other dancers, and how much fun the final performance would be.

For two weeks, we had four classes every day, and each class was in a different style or technique. I have pages of notes for myself on new prompts and exercises that I found useful and what I learned from them. Our faculty for the first week included two talented dancers from staibdance, who asked us to get in touch with each other and our emotions on a deeper level than I previously thought possible. Another faculty member was Oliver Robertson, a dancer with J. Wilton Dance Company, who was not only great at teaching us new “tricks” and giving us challenging repertoire, but was immensely talented himself. We also learned from Elita Cannata, a beautiful and swift dancer from Italy, who taught us Countertechnique which is based on the principle of having a problem-solving toolbox for the mind and body. 

Near the end of the program, we learned material from past works by George Staib, and learned to adapt and change them. On the final evening, we performed in Sant’Agata, for the local community in the open air in front of a church. It all came together. The performance not only looked and felt great, but the public loved it and ended up joining us at the end just dancing with the music and the lights. It was a great ending to all the dancing and hard work we put in. The professors absolutely made this program what it is, not one was like the other, and each one was exceptional.

Waking up every morning and seeing the ocean and mountains right outside our balcony was another privilege that this intensive gifted us. We stayed in the town of Sant’Agata, where we would walk its streets every other day to get to the studio, grab food and explore. By the end of the intensive, not only did several locals take us under their wings and teach us the helpful words in Italian, but we also became friends with the owners and workers in the area. It felt like our home away from home. 

On one of our free days during the intensive, I had the opportunity to see Cyrano at the Ballet in Naples, Teatro San Carlo. As we sat in our box seats, I looked around the magnificent gold and red theatre and the artwork on the ceiling. It felt like a dream come true, as I have loved and dreamed of ballet since my youth. I know everyone who was part of the intensive was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be exposed to something so new and refreshing. Having the ability to be among the Italy locals and the magnificent historical art was completely enriching.

We became a family at the end of the two weeks, all 50 attendees and the faculty. Because everyone came together from dancing around the world, there was a plethora of new material and creativity that is difficult to experience otherwise. 

Thank you for sharing this reflection Pia! Click here to learn more about The Friends of Dance at Emory.

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