In conversation with our empowering alumni, Giorgia Valenti –
1. Where are you from?
I was born in Trento, Italy. I moved to Treviso when I was one year old and moved to India when I was ten. My mom’s family is from Milan. It is honestly really hard to pin-point exactly where I am from; but in short I would say Italy.
2. Where did you do your schooling? What did you graduate in?
I did elementary school in Italy (Treviso). I moved to India at the age of ten where I attended Bangalore International School (BIS) for my middle school and high school. There I graduated with an IB Diploma in 2016. After that I jumped to yet another continent and started my BFA in Drama at NYU Tisch School of the Arts in New York City. By the age of seventeen I had attended school in three different continents!
3. Do you still dance? If you are still dancing, what dance form?
Of course I still dance! I am a Dance Minor at NYU Tisch and have done a semester of each of these styles: African, Modern, Hip Hop, Indian, Jazz and Contemporary. Also, I never miss a weekend night to shake things off on the dance floor to Latin music!
4. How long did you train with The Lewis Foundation of Classical Ballet? How many years did you spend in India?
I spent seven years in India (from the ages of ten to seventeen), out of which I spent three and a half at The Lewis Foundation of Classical Ballet.
5. What did you love most about your ballet training?
I loved how it challenged me in every single class. I started my dance training with contemporary dance, and I have to admit that I was not looking forward to what I thought of as ‘rigid dancing’ with ballet. However, with every class I could feel myself struggling and struggling, until one day I looked at myself in the mirror doing an across the floor exercise and I said to myself: “Look at that. You are doing that. Your body is in that beautiful shape”. I can only thank ballet training for that vision and the dedication that it teaches you as an artist.
6. What is your earliest memory about ballet class?
It was my first class with Yana Lewis and we were doing barre work – I think we were specifically doing grand battements. I was sweating an embarrassing amount and my face was frowning from the effort, Yana came next to me and I kept thinking: “Oh please don’t touch my back sweat, please don’t”, and needless to say – she did. Then she looked at me and said: “You are a natural”. One of the best moments of my life.
7. Where are you living right now?
I live in a flexed corridor/hallway (which has been clumsily turned into a bedroom) in a small apartment in the East Village, Manhattan, New York City, USA.
8. What career have you chosen and how did that come about? Inspiration?
My first approach to art was through dance when I was only a little child in Italy. At the gym De Ferrari of Treviso I discovered my talent and passion for dance and movement. Life took me by surprise however and at the age of ten, my family and I moved to Bangalore, India. There I chased my passion for dance, trying to assimilate into another culture, other people and other ways of going about movement in general. In India, I also got an opportunity to make my debut in cinema when (at the age of twelve) I starred in Teenage, a local Sandalwood movie, at the side of the youngest director in the world: Kishan Shrikant. However, dancing and acting for film did not satisfy my thirst for art, so I threw myself into modeling at the age of fourteen, and I worked with Prasad Bidapa’s agency for about four years. Around the same time I started my first introduction to acting training at The Bangalore School of Speech and Drama (BSSD), with a wonderful teacher and director Dr. Zulfia Shaikh.
Naturally, with all this, I longed to take my under-the-shower-singing to the stage, so I also attended several musical theater singing classes throughout high school. Bangalore School of Speech and Drama gave me a lot (directing experience too!), including the wonderful role of Ms. Honey in Matilda the Musical. However, my real full-time journey in acting training started at Tisch School of the Arts, NYU. I had NO IDEA what was coming for me. I knew I had gotten accepted in the Meisner Studio, but I had never heard about it before. There I was, seventeen years old, alone in New York City, jumping once again into a completely different reality.
Well, NYU did its job well – the Meisner Acting technique was exactly what I needed to understand what real acting was all about. Here I had wonderful teachers such as Nate Flower, Victoria Hart, Gigi Buffignton and Shanga Parker who through scenes, movement classes, voice coaching and clown exercises taught me not only how to develop my craft of acting, but also how to become a more adult and better version of myself. I hung out at the Meisner studio for quite some time, hugging myself in its familiarity and in teachers who believed in me and pushed me everyday.
My NYU journey took me to Florence too, where I touched my roots by learning Commedia dell’Arte with Jim Calder. I proceeded to challenge myself at the Experimental Theater Wing where I had new teachers who showed me how to approach the work in a completely different way – expanding my understanding of how one can go about the art and especially encouraging me to create my own work for the first time. Currently, I am a Senior studying Method Acting at Less Strasberg – what can I say, I never settle in one place. I think the two most valuable elements of my training so far have been the courage and risk taking I earned from Clown work, and the discipline I earned from Voice and Speech work.
9. Did your ballet training help you in any way in your chosen career?
Of course! It made me a much better and stronger dancer! Ballet REALLY IS the foundation for all dance and movement. I feel a lot more able to control my movements, even if they are supposed to be stylistically out of control from the choreography point of view. Ballet also helped me in choreographing my own pieces and making them look neater. Dancing is a core part of being an artist and an actor – it taught me a lot!
“The relationship a performer has with their body is key to knowing how to live on a stage and relate to your scene partners and to the audience. Not only that, but self awareness of what your body can and can’t do is extremely important in order to maintain your health in the crazy and tiring business of the arts.“
Most importantly, ballet taught me how to endure pain and fatigue in order to achieve an inexplicable sense of reward and success. It also taught me how to talk to my own body and how far to push it and it gave me confidence that I know what I am doing in a dance or movement class.
10. What are you most excited about currently work-wise ?
I recently created MY OWN theater company with my most trusted and inspiring friends. We all respect each others’ artistry so much and work really well together. We started Et Alia Theater: an artistic organisation founded and led by international womxn. We strive to create an accepting community that inspires artists to create beyond their comfort zones and collide with an array of international voices which may be culturally unfamiliar. Et Alia is Latin for ‘And Other’: we are inspired to create art for the other, by the other, and about the other. We have already put up three productions in the last 5 months and are now close to opening a new show on February 22nd called ‘On How To Be A Monster’ by our member Maria Müller.
11. What is your main responsibility at work? What are you most proud of?
I have several jobs at the moment. I am part of the Front of House Team at the largest downtown theatre in Manhattan: The Skirball Centre of Performing Arts, and I also work as an event assistant at Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò. However the work I am most proud of is definitely the one with my theater company Et Alia. Here I serve the roles of Co-Artistic Director, Associate Artist, Marketing Director and Co-Executive Director: which means that I do A LOT. I am honestly proud of all the work we do: starting from our shows, to involving other international artists, to reaching out for press partnerships ; all of it is so exciting! We are also collaborating with the International Women Artists’ Salon on an event glorifying women from the past on the 8th of March.
As an art company, we are looking to support growing and struggling artists just like us. We have recently started a crowdfunding campaign which will help us expand as a company, hire new members to our team and improve the aesthetic quality of our productions.
12. What are the main challenges in the career path you have chosen?
To be honest, acting is a huge challenge once it becomes A BUSINESS. Not only is it hard to keep yourself healthy, both emotionally and physically, because you use your body as your instrument literally everyday as your job; but you also have to deal with type-casting incidents, corruption in the industry, criticism, press and money. Not to mention the fact that with the recent MeToo movement, being a woman in the industry means a huge responsibility and risk. Every time you think you have made a solid connection or a good impression you always have to doubt the other party’s intentions, and it is REALLY important to learn how to say NO.
13. Can your project make the world a better place?
I really believe that Et Alia Theater (and all other art) can be the key to changing the world. With the money we will raise and earn we will pay actors who are frequently exploited for really hard and tiring work with no proper compensation. We are also going to build connections and collaborations between international artists, where they can share and learn about each others’ individual struggles with regards to their culture, tradition, history and identity. Moreover, by not putting a limit to what our company can produce in terms of art form; we are creating a space where anything is possible, and controversial topics from all over the world can be expressed in the best and most creative ways. The world is struggling because of miscommunication and misunderstanding amongst all its differences; Et Alia Theater wants to be the place where difference is celebrated and brought into artistic conversation that will feel relatable to all our audience. We want to make sure that nobody feels alone in the world.
14. Why did you choose this project?
My colleagues and I came together this summer with many ideas of making art that we felt strongly represented us. When we sat down our conversations had to do with our interests, cultural backgrounds, languages, upbringings, and how all of these tied to our contemporary lives in New York. From these conversations we opened a theater company that would allow us to explore all these aspects over longer periods of time and with the preference of giving space to our voices in fluidity of the roles we take in art. We were eager to express and unite our culturally diverse backgrounds and feminist lenses through the performing arts. Our desire to expand our horizons and engage with the worldwide storytelling scene led us to leave our countries and become global citizens. The group was born from its members’ shared belief in the power of theater to build connections that go beyond nationalities and labels, as well as ambition to tell the NYC audience stories they have not heard before.
15. How can one help in making your project successful ? Why should one support your project?
There are many ways to help us and support us! The first, would be to donate to our campaign:
Second, if you can’t donate but would love to support us anyway, follow us on our social media and share the link to our fundraiser with your friends and family!
Instagram – @etaliatheater
Facebook – EtAliaTheater
Third, we are opening play submissions for our future projects: if you have anything that you are writing/working on/have written send it to firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to take a look at your work and make it come to life!
Last but not least, if you hear of any opportunities for upcoming artists such as residencies, free theatre spaces, festivals, press partnerships etc. do reach out to us and let us know about it! We have absolutely no limits to where and what we want to produce.
The reason you should support us is because writing, directing, acting, casting and managing actors and crew members is only part of the battle of running a theater company.
We need to source props, maintain our website, pay our actors, and keep our books in order (because we’re a business). We are also a group of very committed and passionate international womxn eager to help other struggling artists.
16. What are your plans for the future?
I am graduating in May 2020 and after that I get a Visa that will allow me to stay in the USA for another year while working on the field of my studies. After that I will have to apply for my O1 Artist Visa. Unfortunately, because of these circumstances, my plans are only going to be surrounding the Visa application and gathering enough proof that I am a working artist. Though this is stressful, I also see it as a very big motivator for me to push myself and always be involved in new projects. Et Alia Theater has big projects such as partnering up with The International Women Artists’ Salon and collaborating in their events such as radio podcasts, fundraisers and performances around the city. Moreover we are waiting to hear back from a lot of art festivals for which we have submitted projects, and are starting a partnership with Casa Italiana in the Fall. We are also in the process of touring in Europe (Vienna, Milan and Bucharest) this summer with a show that I will choreograph. In general, I am looking forward to creating more work where I can incorporate and explore my artistry as well as auditioning for films, theater and modeling agencies. Overall, I am looking forward to making art my JOB in any way I can and be good at what I do.
17. Will you be visiting India any time soon?
I certainly hope so! Unfortunately my mom just moved back to Milan a few months ago and my dad travels quite often, so it is less likely that I will visit. However I have tons of friends there who I always want to see, as well as a modeling career I would like to keep pursuing and wonderful teachers who are a core part of my past.
18. Any word of advice to our young talented students?
I would tell them to never stop feeding their curiosity. Curiosity is key for any artist. Indulge in your curiosity for people, for art, for animals, for the behaviour of children, for the movements of nature etc. Do this by observing and taking in everything around you – it’s going to keep you inspired and motivated. Also, stimulate your imagination by writing, reading or whatever it is that you like to do, and never waste a minute of your time in a studio (especially if working with outstanding teachers). Most importantly, do not be afraid to create your own work if you get a spark of passion for a project. Do not wait for someone to hand you opportunities, create your own! Surround yourself with other artists you trust and admire, follow your impulses and do not be afraid to make mistakes.
While we may speak different languages, art speaks to everyone in a language they can understand. Be a part of our creative process and support us!
To support Giorgia’s campaign, click here!
Inspired? Keep an eye out on our upcoming blogs featuring our alumni students – conquering the world!
Excellent! Lovely initiative. The Lewis School was a great school for my daughter Shanti too, still dancing with amazing career ahead. Thank you Yana!