Leah Esemuede ’24: Orosolina28 Summer Intensive Program

Summer 2022

About the Program

Located in the Monferrato Astigiano region in Italy, Orsolina 28 is a school that merges the study of dance with the importance of one’s overall well-being to cultivate artists who are in tune with themselves and can relate their movement to the world around them. Through the Benenson Award, I had the opportunity to travel to Italy and participate in the O28 Summer ’22 Intensive Program at this institution from July 31 to August 14. Alongside approximately 60 other participants, I studied and explored repertoire by Jiří Kylián and Marco Goecke, which was supplemented with ballet and ballet lab classes. Auditioning for and eventually enrolling in this program, I looked to Orsolina 28 as an environment where I could grow as both a dancer and person, and a place that could offer me a wealth of knowledge that would inform how I move and view dance throughout the rest of my academic time at Duke University, and into my professional career.

Each morning, at 7 am, I woke up to light streaming through the ceiling of Tent 16, which I shared with four other dancers in the program. After counting the new mosquito bites I had acquired throughout the night, my tentmates and I took turns using the bathroom and taking a shower in a cabin, or outdoor shower stall, a few steps behind our tent. Immersion into nature and a sense of community were central to this program and were evident in each moment of our day. Once we were all ready, we walked up a hill, past the outdoor dance space, The Eye, and to the kitchen, where we ate each meal made with care and vegetables from the school’s garden. Following our first meal, we had the option to participate in a horticulture class, a Gravity Training class, or rest before the day truly began with either ballet or ballet lab followed by repertoire classes until 6 pm.

During my two weeks here, while difficult, I felt as though I was living my dream learning the repertoire of artists I have admired for quite some time and being surrounded by like-minded people. Even in moments when it felt like my limbs were going to fall off and my mind was confusing the information we had received, I felt fulfilled and excited for what was to come. As I reflect on this experience, I am touched by memories of improvising with new friends after class, bike rides in Moncalvo, and the notion that we as human beings are not meant to hide our presence. In a short amount of time, I experienced tremendous intrinsic and technical growth emerging from these two weeks with more clarity regarding my values and life path.

What changes did you notice in your summer experience due to COVID-19?

Similar to several other dancers, Orsolina 28’s O28 Summer ’22 Intensive was my first summer intensive following the COVID-19 pandemic. There was a noticeable difference in energy in the air as Italy’s COVID-19 regulations allowed us to participate in this program without restrictions. Each dancer and teacher in attendance was eager to engage in the material fully without restrictions on space and the ability to touch. This brought about feelings of excitement and hunger to learn and perform to our fullest capabilities. In some ways, it was like falling in love with dance all over again as we were reminded of how precious this art form is, along with the community that accompanies it.