Southern Hospitality is Contagious: My Dance Experience in Atlanta

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It was March 2014 when I received an email that I was selected as a Fulbright-Schuman grantee. It was hard to believe that, knowing that there were many candidates hoping for the same opportunity. Only after buying a direct flight Madrid – Atlanta, I knew that this is for real.

Full Radius Dance in 'Forgotten'. Photography by Roger and Elliot Benson.
Full Radius Dance in ‘Forgotten’. Photography by Roger and Elliot Benson.

My research entitled Integrated dance education – Joint Best Practices between the EU and USA was an opportunity to compare and learn new dance approaches and introduce them at my work for mixed ability dancers in Spain and EU. Full Radius Dance company agreed to accept me for period of 5 months to work with them, understand their company model and above all, to see their educational and dance programs. I had great chance to experience and see how is integrated dance evolving in US and how art and disability interweave. My host institution has a long dance background, existing for long 25 years and that is unusual in dance world. Arrival in Atlanta was easy and I felt very welcomed, but first trial was finding a place to stay as I didn’t know how complicated is to get an apartment or a room for just a few months. Everything is based on 1 year lease. Also, not having a car in this big city with not very good public transport was a bit of a surprise and I felt I was the only pedestrian. My co-workers/dancers made my everyday easier, offering me car lift or providing all the information that I needed to move around. What made everything easier in Atlanta were people, the smile on their faces and positive attitude or what is called ‘southern hospitality’. My free days were filled with BBQ invitations, music events, one day hiking trips, tasting southern food, sometimes I just had to say no – schedule full. download_20150207_173948

My time there was really productive and I have just positive experiences. Although dance education in US is not that different from Europe, I found a big difference in dance pedagogy with integrated groups, teaching dynamics at the rehearsals and workshops, dancing styles and student commitment. Besides working with an integrated dance group, i was trying to see what is new in the field of integrated dance and education. I have joined a Dr. Madeleine Hackney group and volunteered in the program of adapted tango for people with Parkinson Disease, older adults and those with serious mental illness.

It was a lot of work, busy days, but it’s not all about work. I was exploring and discovering many new places. I did a night bike ride in Atlanta with my flatmates and it was convincing enough to get my own bike. I had a great American thanksgiving experience in Alabama, enjoyed Christmas in Florida and i finally understood what Halloween is all about. I know the difference between country, americana and bluegrass music, why hip hop is big in Atlanta, different taste of peanut butter, that y’all is really southern thing and that it’s not all about American football. It’s the little things that made my days amazing and it’s the people, new friends and colleagues that made my staying in Atlanta memorable. For now I can say that the whole idea of southern hospitality is true and contagious and it was easy to bring this back to Europe.

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I have been living in different countries and travelling extensively in past 10 years. Still i have to admit that Fulbright Schuman grant, besides that it was my first grant, was the best thing for my professional career and also cultural expansion. I am very happy that they support my passion and commitment as a dancer and integrated dance teacher. So what is next? In my agenda 2015/2016 says: Full Radius Dance visiting Europe.

– 2014-2015 Fulbright Schuman  Grantee Monika Pozek

Scholar Information

Title: Artistic Director
Discipline: Education
Specialization: Education
Home Institution: MeetShareDance Association
City: Madrid
Country: Spain

Grant Information

Scholar Type: Non-U.S. (Visiting) Scholar
Academic Year: 2014-2015
Program: Core Fulbright Visiting Scholar Program
Program Country: Slovenia
Grant Type: Research
Start Date: September 2014
End Date: February 2015
Project Title: Integrated Dance Education, Joint Best Practices between the EU

U.S. Host Institution

Full Radius Dance

Faculty Associate: Mr. Scott Douglas
City: Atlanta
State: Georgia
Country: United States