By Katherine Moore.
Summertime is rarely a time of rest for aspiring dancers. Instead of lounging by the pool, young dance students often opt to spend weeks, possibly months, at intensives and workshops hosted by top dance companies, where students use the long, sweaty days of summer to learn and push themselves toward bettering their craft. These intensives attract students from across the country, and in some cases, from across the globe.
One such institution is World Dance Movement, an international workshop event that takes place in Castellena Grotte, Italy, where students have the opportunity to invest in their dance future and lounge by the beaches of the Adriatic Sea. As an institution dedicated to uniting cultures through dance, WDM brings students from 25 countries to study with internationally-renowned dance teachers and choreographers.
Founded on the idea of creating a global forum where dancers can grow both artistically and culturally, WDM’s overall mission is “to become a leader in the international dance scene – a respected source for bridging cultures through dance,” according to Michele Assaf, founder and director of WDM.
For three weeks, from July 8-29, students from the age of 6 though 17+ will study a myriad of dance techniques and styles while residing in the beautiful Puglia region of Italy. The curriculum includes standard offerings such as jazz, ballet, and contemporary, but also more unique topics such as acrobatics, Yamuna Ball Rolling, and the opportunity to participate in workshops/seminars about auditioning and career development.
Assaf is especially excited that Cirque du Soleil will be joining them as a workshop partner this year. “WDM dancers will have an opportunity of a lifetime,” Assaf said. “The Cirque du Soleil senior artistic talent scout will hold dance workshops and seminars, as well as visit select WDM classes in search of future Cirque du Soleil artists.”
With innumerous summer intensives to choose from, what makes WDM a distinctive option for aspiring dancers is the versatility of so many different teachers and choreographers from around the globe at one event. The faculty roster includes the likes of Desmond Richardson, Dana Foglia, Jason Parsons, Igal Perry, and many, many more.
WDM strives to keep class sizes small, which gives students the rare opportunity to interact intimately with international choreographers and their fellow students, many of whom will be speaking different languages.
David Marquez, a Broadway choreographer, director, and WDM faculty-member, mentioned the importance of gaining this international perspective as a young dancer. “Exposure of any kind is helpful, in anything, specifically with dance. Dance is such a universal thing. It comes from everywhere and belongs to everyone. Therefore, those who are doing it in America differ from those who do it in Istanbul, or Lisbon, or Sydney. And creativity is like perspective, everyone has one, and everyone’s is different.”
The opportunity to gain new perspectives on dance is furthered at the conclusion of each week of the event, when families and teachers gather to watch students perform what they have learned in an outdoor gala.
WDM gives over $65,000 in international dance scholarships to ease students’ and parents’ financial burden of taking part in this artistically and culturally-immersive opportunity.
Past students have felt that WDM’s unique location, international faculty, and overarching goal of bridging cultural gaps through dance, creates a summer filled with inspiration.
“On top of being in one of the most beautiful places in the world and being surrounded by amazing people from all different countries, you are taking classes from a diversity of the most talented, giving teachers. I made so many close new friends who now seem like family,” one student said.
Similarly, Marquez, who described himself as “the musical theater, Broadway expert in the WDM family,” enjoys teaching his passion just as much as he relishes the close time spent with students, parents, and teachers from around the world.
He said, “For a week or three you are doing what you love, in a beautiful setting, in the company of other people who love doing the same thing you do, while learning about different cultures, making new friends, speaking new languages, and sharing an experience that is un-duplicated anywhere in the world.”
Top photo: Students take class with Desmond Richardson at World Dance Movement Italy. All photos courtesy of World Dance Movement.