Study abroad moves student further in the professional and personal growth

As an active and adventurous person I like to try new things. I try to educate in what I enjoy and it moves me on. These incentives has led to interest in study abroad. After a long time I was the first student from the Dance Department, who has shown interest in the Erasmus scholarship.

The idea of an educational experience I had in my head already for a long time. Study abroad through the Erasmus program I knew from my friends from different Universtities. I have been informed by my school about opportunities for dancers. Following the meeting, firstly interview, then the approval of the commission and the language tests and eventually I managed to get an internship. My Erasmus program started, when I was in the third year of my study at Academy of Performing Arts, summer term, during the period of completing the bachelor’s degree. My original plans to study somewhere in the Netherlands or Italy could not be fulfilled, because our school did not have contracts with universities in these countries. Although we have established contact with a school in the Netherlands, I finally decided for a school in Vienna, only a few kilometers from Bratislava, because it had its great advantage especially in practical terms. That time I got an opportunity to dance in a new show in Bratislava, so I could travel easily to Vienna and back. Plus I could take a part at classes at my home Academy when it was needed.

What the focus of my host school in Vienna is, I knew in advance. In June 2011 I visited their performance at the end of academic study, which presented the work of teachers and students. The performance consisted of techniques of contemporary dance, rhythm, improvisation, musical interpretation and choreography. At first I was a bit frightened, because their work was vastly different from my ideas about self-expression through the movement that time, but nevertheless I said, why would I not try something new and different.

Konservatorium Wien is located right in the center of Vienna near the beautiful Stephanplatz. The building, which is for dancers is to Bräunerstraße. For dancers, there are reserved two floors, one of which is for student teachers of contemporary dance and the next floor be taught to students of dance interpretation.

Approach of students and teachers to me , as to Erasmus students was extremely accommodating. They provided me the freedom in the choice of subjects, they were very open, friendly and helpful in everything. I had the opportunity to choose from among a variety of subjects, I chose choreography, repertoire, rhythm, early training, which took place almost every day in the form of warm-up exercises, conditioning exercises and progressed into a short technical phrases. Next, I chose dance technique – it was a general name for contemporary dance, it was not any specific technique. Each dance technique taught by another teacher, so each time I met with a different approach to contemporary dance. Some of these techniques are like fusion of modern dance with contemporary approach to dance. For instance  Rosalie Chladek technique or M. Cunningham technique that in certain phases of training overlapped with contemporary dance.

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Practical and theoretical lectures I attended with student of dance pedagogy – zeitgenössisch Tanzpädagogik, as well as with the students who studied dance interpretation – Buhnentanz. I had the opportunity to observe the different demands placed on students of two different areas of study in terms of dance technique. From my perspective, were at the students  “teachers” placed lower performative and technique requirements , but in contrary, they had to be mature enouh to create and build not only a good dance class , but at the same time in terms of making choreography and short performances. Their art work was more close to physical theater. There was a spoken word, music, visual arts and the natural movement. This is an area with which I previously had less experience. At first, I have to admit, it was a bit problem for me. My experience was by then more about expressing myself through aesthetically “nice” dance.. Their movement material was based on more natural moving of the body and of course on the main compositional idea. Although I previously favored a different kind of dance work and creation, it was a great experience for me.

The reality is therefore the fact that at Konservatorium Wien study students of higher age. I was 23 but my classmates were 26, 27 years and some more. As I have already mentioned, they had to be more proficient mentally and emotionally and after time I can undestand why. I had to grow personally, I needed to go through more experiences as a dancer to get to the point of understanging physical theater and variety of approaches to contemporary dance.

I had the opportunity to work with such an excellent teacher Nikolaus Selimov, Beata Bauder, Virginia Royl – Nigl, Christina Medina, Martina Haager and not least Luptak Elena, originally from Slovakia, which has been a great support for me.

During my stay took place at the school competition – Fidelio – in which could be engaged all students of the school, not just dancers. It was interesting to see the projects in which performed actors, musicians and dancers all together. Everyone was part of the process, has specific role in it and the result was a complex performance. From this we could learn at our school, because we need to learn how to cooperate with other artists, how to use them in dance performance, we can inspire each other and learn from each other in the real process.

During my stay in Vienna I have gained significant experience and at the same time I wondered which direction as a dancer I would like to go. I would like to say that I particularly liked the professional approach and dedication as students as well as teachers to prepare the final performance – Konsidance – held in the school theater, in which I was involved too. School theater is housed in one of the buildings at Johannesgasse. The performance lasted two hours. Each was personally involved, intense rehearsals took place two weeks before the performance, we performed several times day by day. Before each rehearsal and before each performance, there was special warm up directly on stage. I think it is really important to get ready, so called psycho-physical preparation for dancer.I find it like a professional attitude and responsibility of each performer and dancer. During the performance I realized that exactly a year has passed when I saw as a spectator final performance. I enjoyed the fact that now I can participate in it in the position of dancer and student of that school. It was for me extremely joyful, but at the same time strange to think about how quickly time goes. When you want to achieve something, you must go for it and step by step fill your dreams.

As I mentioned in the introduction, I realized Erasmus stay in the summer semester of the third year, the period of completing the bachelor’s degree. Today, I can state that I chose quite happy term, although there were moments when I felt that the responsibility and duties is too much to handle. What I can say is, I figured out, the more responsibility a person has, the more you can catch and handle. I feel more ready and more resistant to stress. I managed the exams at my host university, at my home university, I danced in theater in Bratislava and I successfully got my bachelor degree. Students who are interested in the future to travel to more distant country, they should make a stay better in the second or fourth year of study. I can not fail to mention that the students of Erasmus exchange from Academy of Performing Arts must take exams at home school as well, which is not easy to organize, but for sure it is possible.

The most important experience for students in addition to the acquisition of a new experience and knowledge, is the communication in a foreign language. The lessons were held in German language and English as well, I communicated mainly English, but here and there I managed something even German. And because as I noticed, one teacher, she was from Slovakia, it was very easy for me, I could use also my mother language, when I was too tired to speak english. Different culture, mentality and lifestyle of people from different country is no doubt reflected also in school system and teaching approach, but it is just because of work and study conditions. It is interestig to compare it with your own experience, but I can again say, we are good in Slovakia 🙂  I do not think, level of our education and classes are worse. Just probably school system in general could improve and could be more open to a new way of education and could create such an environment to motivate teachers and students to go higher. I would just say, that Erasmus student represents home school abroad, which means that advertises “alma mater” to perspective exchange student . Many students of the Austrian school have asked me and was interested in the events and study at our Academy of Performing Arts, which all of us can enjoy. Of course I found a lot of friends here with whom I stayed in touch till now. Few of them honored us with their visit in September of that year at the festival Bratislava in Movement, I was very pleased by that mobility. Many of them are different nationality than the Austrian, such as German, Poland, Egyptian, Indonesian…etc. What I appreciate the most and what I have learned is the mutual tolerance.

To all students I would recommend at least one semester of study abroad, not only for its professional growth, but also for the personal development. It is a type of study that pushes the person further very fast. Every new opportunity regarding a development of a potential is good to use! Do not forget “move-you”!!

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