L.A. based dancer, Keltie Colleen, goes to a little town in Italy and is inspired by the big love of dance she finds at La Luna Dance Center.
This past October, I was given the opportunity to teach a series of master classes at La Luna Dance Center in Ancona, Italy. The studio offers open classes like Broadway Dance Center in NYC or EDGE Performing Arts Center in L.A., but the vibe is much more laid back. While master classes at EDGE sometimes feel like an audition—with the best dancers being pulled to the front and sometimes even offered jobs on the spot—at La Luna there is virtually no hope of landing a professional gig. The students attend my classes 25 at a time with wide eyes, and determination, simply because they love to dance and it enriches their lives.
La Luna is a giant dance center is shaped like an octagon. In between classes, open studios are filled with small groups of dancers trying new techniques or practicing combinations. At any given time classes in Bollywood or ballet could be in session or a group of b-boys could be spinning on their heads. It’s truly a dance cornucopia. Delicious.
There are nine giant televisions in the Wi-Fi enabled rest area so students who aren’t dancing can watch classes, old dance shows or dance movies. Outside, there’s an open-air courtyard with picnic tables set up for lunchtime and an outdoor studio. Yes, an outdoor studio! And one of the coolest parts about La Luna is that there is a huge cinema room where dancers take dance history classes. In Ancona you have to subscribe to the television, and most people don’t. I met only three students who knew what “So You Think You Can Dance” was! So during my classes, we watched a DVD of music videos and award shows that I had worked on.
One young boy came up to me with wide eyes and said something I couldn’t understand in Italian. I asked Cristiano, the director of La Luna (the only person in Ancona I met who spoke English) for a translation. “He said, ‘She speaks like Hollywood,’” said Cristiano. “He wants you to take him back to Los Angeles with you so he can visit Michael Jackson’s house.” Michael Jackson is an inspiration to all the dancers I met in Ancona. Brilliant!
In Italy, there is a beautiful respect for older generations and the arts. At La Luna the students hugged their parents when they got dropped off for class and asked politely if their parents would “porfavoree” buy them one of my Sugar and Bruno tank tops at the end of class. I never saw even the slightest amount of sassiness, only a great deal of respect for their parents. I felt like the dancers saw my classes as a gift, and never took even one moments we had together for granted.
Inside my classes, the energy was incredible. Not one of my students understood English, and my Italian was limited to “Ancorra” -again, and “dumandi” -questions. But it didn’t matter. Dance is universal. As dancers, we have the ability to make people understand our emotions with our body. I would explain a movement in lyrical class and grab my chest and close my eyes, and that was enough. When the group performed my choreography I knew that they understood exactly what I wanted to see from them—heartbreak, joy, longing. It was mind blowing.
On my final night at La Luna I decided to put on an impromptu “show” for the parents and town. Directly next door to La Luna is a huge theatre where they produce all kinds of dance shows throughout the year. Class by class the students came onstage and showed their parents what we had been working on all week. In the middle, I performed a solo that I had thrown together that morning. I can’t think of a time I loved performing more. The energy I felt can’t be explained.
Every summer La Luna hosts a two-week summer camp, with an international faculty of amazing teachers from all over the world. This summer I will be joining their roster and I can’t wait to go back! After only a week at La Luna I felt reborn as a dancer, as if all the years of rejection, competition and self-doubt melted away. La Luna wrapped its inspiring arms around me, as it does all of its dancers. La Luna taught me that the love of dance and passion should always come first. Rocco, Cristino’s 10 year old son, said it best when he and I were alone in the studio while I was rehearsing my solo, “Bellisimo!”— Keltie Colleen, dancer and Dance Spirit April 2009 cover girl, is a guest blogger for dancespirit.com