A Student Perspective on Temple University Dance Department’s Study Abroad Program in Rome

Dancing in Italy

By: Meghan McFerran

On May 11, I embarked on my first journey traveling overseas to Europe to study abroad at Temple University’s campus in Rome, Italy! I was fortunate enough to have a very unique experience compared to the average student studying in a classroom setting. While most of my peers studying at Temple Rome packed textbooks and pencils in their backpacks in preparation for class abroad, I packed my Theraband, water bottle and a new leotard. I was going to spend the next six weeks studying dance in one of the most artistic and historic cities in the world.

As a dance major, my classroom was the dance studio at IALS, located just a few short blocks from Temple Rome’s main campus. Every Tuesday and Thursday at 9:00 am, after a quick Italian breakfast of a cappuccino and Nutella croissant at the café next door, nine of us dance majors walked into the cozy sized dance studio feeling energized and ready to move.

IALS (pronounced “yalls”) has a studio concept similar to Broadway Dance Center in New York City; you sign in at the front desk and pay to take one of the various genres of classes offered each day such as Latin, ballet, contemporary jazz, etc. Us dance majors at Temple were privileged to have our dance professor from Temple, Jillian Harris, come along on the trip with us and teach us a two-hour modern class.

Due to the small studio space, our class focused on stretching and strengthening exercises as a warm-up, and moved into floor-work, footwork and a center combination. The class focused on proper alignment, gestures, shape making, dynamics and timing. This was a nice change from our usual modern classes at Temple because we had to work with the resources that we had and be more aware of our spatial patterns. We were lucky to have Jillian’s husband, Chris Farrell, accompany us with live music, which made class more fun.

At 11:00 am, us dancers grabbed lunch at the small deli around the corner, walked a few blocks down the road to Temple Rome campus, and got ready for Creative Process. This course required us to create an original piece of choreography drawing inspiration from a piece of artwork that we saw at the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art. From this inspiration, we were to choose one theme to stick with throughout our creative process. The painting I chose was a piece called “Cielo e Mar” by Italian artist Baldo Diodato. I focused on the theme of pushing and pulling of gravity for my piece. Each class we developed our themes by creating phrases and variations of phrases, presenting our work and getting feedback from other students. For three hours, all nine of us worked in a different creative space, from the park in Villa Borghese to the small parking lot outside campus to the empty classrooms on the fourth floor. We each kept journals to document our process and to hold onto ideas that we may want to use in the future.

After a day of dancing and letting our creative juices flow, we grabbed our water bottles and journals and headed out to explore the beautiful city of Rome. Just a half mile down the street from campus was the popular Piazza del Popolo. Here you could find your way to famous hand pressed pizza, Gelateria Della Palma with over 150 flavors (my favorite was Bacio), explore the ancient ruins, stand in the forum of the Colosseum, and make a wish in the Trevi Fountain all in one day. Having class twice a week also enabled us to travel on weekends. I had the privilege of traveling to Croatia, Tuscany, Florence, Perugia, and Greece while abroad.

At the end of our six weeks in Rome, we presented our creative process pieces to the faculty and other students. The walls of Temple Rome were decorated with beautiful photos, sculptures and artwork that the other Temple students had created. Being able to share the artistic space with other students was a fulfilling experience, and each piece of art expressed our journey of growth, exploration and unforgettable moments in Italy.
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