Tradition takes centre stage at Accademia Teatro alla Scala

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The indescribable scents of history, beauty and art emanate from the stage and then go on to smack you in the heart. Harmony created from a chorus born from a passion: a passion for theatre. Founded in 1813, the Ballet School at Teatro alla Scala is one of the most prestigious institutions in the world for learning the art of dance. The progressive diversification of the curriculum resulted (in 2001) in the establishment of an autonomous institution, the Fondazione Accademia Teatro alla Scala. It was a pleasure to have a chat about it with Director General Luisa Vinci.

What are the principles and philosophy behind the educational programmes at Accademia Teatro alla Scala?

Ours is the Theatre School, the space where Teatro alla Scala preserves its priceless heritage: Italian opera, the history of ballet, music and that savoir faire that makes us unique in the world. Our main mission is to pass on this trove of knowledge to future generations. To this end we let our students experience the world of theatre side-by-side with staff and experts working in the field. We teach them all the elements that go into putting together a live show through our four departments: music, dance, stage workshops and management. Helping our students grow, not only from an educational perspective, but particularly from a human perspective, is our daily objective.

In 2016 you will celebrate your tenth anniversary as Director General of the Accademia Teatro alla Scala. Have there been any initiatives that have particularly gripped you?

Ten wonderful years. When I was first appointed, the Accademia had strong foundations but lots of building work to do. First and foremost we had to find a place for the institution’s courses in the market. This meant identifying our teaching strengths and creating our own language and work style: in other words, creating our identity. Word-of-mouth about what we do has had an incredibly positive effect. And the figures speak for themselves: in 2006 we had 350 students and we currently have 1,200. This growth consisted of a multitude of voices, the loudest being the strong bond with our colleagues, a relationship based on friendship and professionalism. Our supporters also made success possible, for instance the Fondazione Bracco which, a founding member since 2012, promotes numerous initiatives for students at the Accademia, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that provides study grants for foreign students.

Each and every one of your courses is based on learning by doing, which promotes direct contact with the world of work. How is this possible?

Our philosophy is based on savoir faire, or rather learning a profession by doing it. In some of our courses the student-teacher relationship is very close, just like in a Renaissance workshop, such as our scenography courses which only have eight students. To ensure our students get the most out of what we offer, each course has a limited number of places. We do require our students to have skill, but more important to us is that they demonstrate passion and commitment. Experiencing an emotion and presenting it on stage to the public is the magic of the theatre! All our courses are applied to art media such as concerts, ballet, photography exhibitions or costumes. Every year we run about 200 internships in Italy and abroad, nurturing the principle of mobility promoted by the European Union. Currently 20% of our students are foreign, the future spokespersons of Italian culture throughout the world.

To ensure your students inherit a great tradition while remaining up-to-date with the changing tastes of the public, your courses are constantly evolving. Which ones in particular?

The courses evolve with the evolution of society. Many courses, for instance executive management courses for performing arts, were launched in the 1990s and continue to run to this day, but their content has been adapted to meet the changing requirements of the market and profession, which are researched in partnership with the Theatre. New technologies have also obviously had an impact on more technical courses, such as sound design, as well as on special courses such as hair and make-up.

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