Dancing on the Edge of Innovation: MMIAM Graduate Leaves Italy to Join Dance Therapy Team at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens

Anna AgliettaAnna Aglietta graduated from the MMIAM program in 2017. Originally from Turin, Italy, she is one of the first two graduates of the program to have received a double Master degree in international arts management from both Bocconi University and HEC Montréal. Anna became interested in arts management, because she wanted to be more in contact with people and work in a field using the arts to directly help society. She decided the MMIAM degree would offer her the academic and cultural experience to help realize her goal. Laura Adlers recently caught up with her at her new job in Montréal, Canada.

 

Where are you currently working and what are your primary responsibilities?

I am an Assistant to the National Centre for Dance Therapy at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. The centre’s mission is to support dance intervention and dance for the well-being of people, and they also conduct research and support other research projects about the health benefits of dance. For example, we offer services in dance therapy through hospitals, schools and prisons, and we are starting a new program in a youth prison here in Quebec. We also offer classes in our studios for anyone who wants to take dance classes adapted to their needs. For example, we offer ballet classes for children with Down Syndrome, or hip-hop for people with physical and intellectual disabilities.

Adapted Danse at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Photo: Patrick Pleau.

Adapted Danse at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Photo: Patrick Pleau.

As the Assistant, I coordinate the day-to-day activities, but in particular I provide marketing support and help to organize events. I also help with fundraising and grantwriting. We are a small staff of three in this department, so we are all doing a bit of everything!

What aspect(s) of the program were the most valuable to you for your career and why?

I certainly use a lot of tools I learned in marketing and fundraising, but I think the most important aspect was the international nature of our class. We came from eight different countries. We all learned a lot from one another and our shared experiences from our home countries. It forced me to challenge myself and others and to look at things from different perspectives.

What did you gain personally and professionally from living and studying in four different countries with students from around the world?

Being flexible, adapting to working with others in new environments and learning to compromise in a team environment, especially with students from different parts of the world. Our cohort had students from Italy, China, India, Canada, the United States, Mexico, Iran and Japan.

Which campus abroad was the most memorable for you and why?

Definitely Montréal, so much so that I stayed! I arrived and I fell in love with the city, the vibe of the people, their openness. I was reluctant about the Montréal part of the program before I applied, I was worried about the snow and cold, coming from Italy, but I really love it!

How did your studies in international arts management change your perspective of arts management practices in your home country?

It has shown me that Italy still has some work to do in terms of exploring new ideas. Young people need to find their own place and find a way to combine the status quo, which is based on a more traditional system, with more contemporary approaches, to best highlight what our beautiful country has to offer.

ILL Abilities at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Photo: Kien Quan.

ILL Abilities at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Photo: Kien Quan.

The arts world is changing, but it is slow and it requires changing the way people think there, which will take time. I didn’t realize this until I did the MMIAM program, met other arts managers and learned about arts organizations in other countries. The program allowed me to see the differences between Italy and other parts of the world. Montréal in particular is really lively, very open to debate and challenging common opinions, to innovation and new ideas by the public, not just at the high level in the institutions. Les Grands Ballets, for instance, really tries to connect with the general public through its programming, that tries to offer something for everyone. Moreover, the multicultural aspect of Montréal, and the fact that so many different cultures live peacefully together, is so interesting and inspirational to me.

What is one of the greatest challenges facing arts managers in Italy today?
How do you think these challenges need to be addressed and by whom?

The current government in Italy (with a populist leader) seems to be focusing its investments in support of an older part of the population, to the detriment of youth programs, culture, and education. Artists and arts organizations are doing a really good job at encouraging public opinion and trying to open up debate. I think arts managers are trying to find their role in supporting Italian values, as well as human values. An example is the immigration debate, which at the moment dominates Italian politics. Many artists and arts organization have come up with initiatives and performances supporting cultural diversity and inclusion. For instance, the Egyptian museum in Turin offers free entrance to Arabic natives (in acknowledgement of the origin of the museum’s collection). To me, the fact that this was debated goes to show the importance that arts can have in promoting social change.

What is one of the challenges you face in your role at Les Grands Ballets?

What Les Grands Ballets is trying to do is change the way people think about dance and the way that dance can affect people’s lives.  We want people to know that this is not just high art. We also provide a safe and accessible space for people to come and heal through our dance therapy program. It is also a challenge to convince those who don’t understand the benefits of the arts and dance therapy that it can really help to improve people’s health. For example, some of the populations we serve suffer from chronic pain or mental health issues,  and research has shown that dance therapy is very successful at alleviating their symptoms, so we are always working on communicating the benefits to the public and promoting the program.

The members of the MMIAM's 4th cohort visit Jacanamijoy in Bogota.

The members of the MMIAM’s 4th cohort visit Jacanamijoy in Bogota.

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