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A Semester in a Small Village in France

By: Camey VanSant

By Sadie

Embarking on a gap year is more than just a break from routine; it’s an opportunity to discover new facets of yourself and broader your horizons. I spent this semester living in a small village in France, where I delved into culture, language, art, and independence. My year began with a profound realization — it’s not just about being a dancer; it’s about learning how to be a person who dances. This shift in perspective became the catalyst of a quest for a richer sense of identity.

Walking down Rue des Cordeliers

Dancing at the EBB Dance Company in Pau, France, was an enriching experience marked by the presence of accomplished guest choreographers. Culminating the semester in December, we had the privilege of performing “Women,” a piece choreographed by Jean-Philippe Dury and an excerpt from the Ballet “Etudes,” choreographed by the Danish maestro Harald Lander.

Theatre Saint Louis, where we performed in October
The company with the artistic staff

This holistic approach to dance education not only broadened by technical skills but also ignited a newfound interest in discovering more about the choreographic process, making my semester in this small village truly unforgettable.

Beyond the dance studio, my time in France was a fulfilling adventure. One significant aspect involved continuing my French studies, immersing myself in the language and enhancing my linguistic skills. The prospect of navigating a foreign country, absorbing a new culture, and adapting to a different way of life initially felt daunting. However, the challenges turned into opportunities for personal growth and exploration.

Church in Bordeaux
Michelangelo sculpture in the Louvre museum

In an effort to maintain a sense of community, I sought connections within the local Jewish community. Despite the limited presence of Jewish students and only one synagogue in the city, I found solace in forging bonds with the Jewish orthodox families. Our shared traditions and values became a source of connection, and I often spent Shabbat immersed in their warm hospitality, creating meaningful relationships that transcended cultural boundaries.

Orthodox Jewish synagogue in Pau

Winter break in New York City with my family was a comforting blend of family time and a deep dive into the world of the Gaga movement language. I participated in the GagaLab at the Mark Morris Dance Center, where I had the privilege of learning repertoire from the renowned choreographer Ohad Naharin. I delved into the intricacies of Naharin’s works, specifically “MOMO” and “2019,” which was a transformative experience. As I reflect on this semester, I hold a profound sense of purpose and belonging in my communities, making my gap year an invaluable chapter in my life’s narrative.

Categories: Sadie