1st Addition Guest Blogger- (Jessica Frazier)
While watching morning class at Philadelphia Ballet School in South Philadelphia, it’s hard to see why Concetta Colanero would stand out in class for reasons besides her dancing. She fits in with the rest of the company visually, wearing black tights over a dark blue leotard with a matching tie-dye blue skirt. She works just as hard as the other dancers, sweating their guts out to do more pirouettes, jump higher, or balance longer. Her face is serious but neutral in concentration while learning the combinations, which can be tricky for anyone in BalletFleming Director, Christopher Fleming’s class.
What you do not see while Colanero is working hard in class is her vibrant personality that comes out instantly once she starts talking with the other dancers. She has a cheerful voice that makes everyone smile. Her eyes light up and hand motions become more animated especially when talking about her home, Italy. Colanero came to the United States for the first time this past October after she won a scholarship to study at The Philadelphia Ballet School. The director of the school, Christopher Fleming, discovered her while teaching at the Alto Jonio Dance Festival in Italy over the summer.
Since coming to the United States, Colanero has faced several challenges including: learning english, adjusting to the culture shock, adjusting to new dance teachers and styles, and conquering home sickness.
When asked about how hard it was to tackle the English language, Colanero said: “Dun dun dun. It is very hard to get pronunciations and listening to people talk, especially when they talk fast or use slang. Reading and writing is easy since I can see the word, making it easier for me to learn.”
Taking ballet class in English is a challenge within itself. Most Italians, like many Europeans, start learning English when they are in the American equivalent of elementary school. However, Colanero feels she learned barely enough English in school to survive in the United States. Even with her doubts, she is still able to speak well enough that her fellow dancers and teachers can understand what she is saying. Though sometimes her pronunciation will slip, and she mixes up simple words such as chicken and kitchen. But she is a good sport since she easily laughs off her mix-ups and mistakes. She found taking ballet class in English somewhat challenging at first, since she was accustomed to being taught in Italian.
“Dancing is a language of the body, you don’t need to know every word the teacher is saying.” said Colanero “Understanding corrections from teachers can sometimes be hard, but I understand what my problems are with dance when they [teachers] work with me.”
While living in the US for the past four months, Colanero has found Americans to be kind and inviting, even to total strangers. Walking into stores and being pleasantly greeted by a store clerk seems odd to someone who is used to the Italian cold shoulder. To her, Americans seem to be more easy going and relaxed, which is common among friends in Italy, but not to strangers, customers, or tourists.
What astounds Colanero is that everything in the US is big. Food, clothing styles, cars, cities and people are bigger in the States. The quantities of food served are often too large and overwhelming even for a pasta-loving Italian. She often misses the freshness of Italian food that has a healthier quality than almost all American food. However, Colanero has found she enjoys American cakes, such as red velvet cake, even though they are not the healthiest.
Even though Colanero has lived in the city of Milan while attending school, she finds Philadelphia to be considerably larger and much nosier than Milan and certainly larger than her home town of Guastameroli, Italy. Guastameroli is a small town of about 800 people in central Italy near the east coast. It’s one of those small towns where everyone knows everyone and everything is within walking distance.
What Colanero loves most about America is the large number of learning opportunities the country offers, especially for dance. Currently in Italy, there is not nearly the same number of dance companies and dance opportunities as there are in the US. Having a dance career can be much harder in Italy than in the United States, but that has not stopped Colanero from dreaming.
“I don’t care what type of dance or what position I have in a company,” said Colanero “I just want to dance!”
And that she does. When Colanero was young, she wanted to be like one of older sisters who studied dance. After graduating scuola superiore (high school), Colanero moved to Milan to attend the University of Milan and study business part time, while continuing to dance. She is working towards her degree with the understanding that no one can dance for forever. After her performance career is finished, Colanero’s goal is to work in a bank or work on the business and accounting side of a theater, dance company or school.
Colanero loves the US, but often misses home, feeling lonely when there is no one to talk to in Italian. She misses her family: two sisters, a brother and her parents, and many friends from school. Though she does her best by staying in touch as much as she can Skyping or Facebook messaging her loved ones often.
When she returns to Italy, she plans on finishing her degree and start to audition for dance companies in Europe. No matter what, she will continue doing what she loves most: dance.
My Best- Jessica Frazier