First steps into a wider world
Gisella Filice’s life plan is to travel the world doing what she loves most — dance.
The 17-year-old starts out on that path next week when she leaves for Spain to pursue a bachelor’s degree at the Institute of the Arts Barcelona.
She is doing it with help from the National Dance Foundation, which recently presented her with the $7,500 Argo Foundation Award in honour of Madame Ana Roje, a founding member of the Bermuda Ballet Association.
Both “excited” and “surprised” on learning she had been successful, she is eager to get going.
“I want to do company work in the future,” said Gisella, who has taken classes with United Dance Productions since the age of 3. “I know as dancers we don’t necessarily make a large salary, but it’s what I love and the company work would give me the opportunity to travel and experience the world.”
From her very first class, she was hooked.
“The teachers made it very fun — obviously from a young age. But it’s kind of just always called to me I guess you could say.
“I started in ballet and tap only and then when I got a little bit older I started getting into other forms of dance like jazz, tap, hip-hop, modern as well.”
Eventually, she was taking lessons “almost every single day”, which gave her little opportunity to get involved in other extracurricular activities. She is thrilled that her time with UDP also gave her exposure to the wider world: a two-day dance conference in Philadelphia, “which was really nice” and a dance intensive with the world renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.
The 2020 Bermuda High School graduate stumbled upon the Institute of the Arts Barcelona while considering dance universities in Britain.
“It was kind of a fluke,” she said. “They have a connection to Liverpool John Moores University and that’s kind of how I found it. And, obviously, being in a European country I thought it was very exciting and different and I kind of wanted to step away from England and Canada, so I thought it would have been a great fit for me.”
Also “exciting” was the campus itself and the dance programmes it offered.
“It’s very young,” the teenager said. “It’s very new, so the facilities are beautiful. The types of classes that they do, I feel like would have been a really good fit for me coming from United Dance Productions. I feel like it’s kind of similar styles of dance whereas in the UK it’s more contemporary based. And in Barcelona, at this school, I’ll be able to experience all types of dance genres instead of one or two.”
Although she has been to Spain before, she has never visited Barcelona where she is likely to improve her Spanish.
“I took it in high school, but I’m not sure how well I’ll be able to do with native speakers,” said Gisella, who, as far as she is aware, will be the only Bermudian at the university.
Hearing she had won an award from the National Dance Foundation, along with seven others, was the icing on the cake.
“I was told that I was very outspoken and that I had a great interview,” she said of her meeting with the charity’s board. “I had also had to have another similar interview, a Zoom interview with Institute of the Arts Barcelona, to get into university. So I kind of knew what to expect — dance questions, why I was interested and stuff like that. But it was still very nerve-racking.
“I did try to anticipate some of the questions, some of the questions you already know you’re gonna get — some of your weaknesses, your strengths, how you can improve, things like that.”
Having only ever spent a month away from home, she’s looking forward to the independence of being in a city on her own. With Covid-19 in mind, her biggest immediate hurdle is getting there.
“I don’t think I have to quarantine. I think I’m all set for everything as long as I take the Covid test before I go.
“It’s a little bit scary, but I’m hoping that the school that I’m at is imposing as much as they can to try to protect us students against [the coronavirus]. I know that the town that I’m in, Sitges, [hasn’t been too badly affected], but the thought of travelling there is a bit nerve-racking. But I’m going no matter what.”
National Dance Foundation award recipients
• Vidya Cannonier-Watson, a student at the Tring Park School of Performing Arts in Hertfordshire, England, received the $5,000 Chairman’s Award contributed by Don Kramer, chairman of the Dance Foundation and Brian O’Hara, the acting chairman.
• T’aja Williams, a student at the Grier School in Pennsylvania, received a $5,000 bursary donated by the Chubb Foundation.
• Ava Joy Moreno and Rhianna Evelyn, also students at the Grier School, shared a $7,500 bursary sponsored by the Argo Foundation.
• Gisella Filice, a student at the Institute of the Arts Barcelona, received a $7,500 award from the Argo Foundation.
• Jasiri Minors, a student at University of the Arts in Philadelphia, received the $7,500 Arch Reinsurance Scholarship given in honour of Georgine Mary Russell Hill, an honorary board member of the National Dance Foundation.
• Zoe O’Connor, a student at Sheridan College in Ontario, Canada, received the $7,500 BF&M Scholarship in honour of John Profit, the late founding member of the Bermuda Ballet Association.
• Ravi Cannonier-Watson, a student at the Royal Ballet Junior School in London, England, received the $15,000 Catherine Zeta-Jones Scholarship in honour of Patricia Calnan, another late founding member of the Bermuda Ballet Association.
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