Dancing without borders

On the tips of their toes, Vivian Delchamps and her newfound peers pranced their way across the studio in perfect step, despite the instructions bouncing off their ears in a different language.

Stevan Grebel, owner of Grebel Dance in Pelham, began hosting international dance workshops last year. He said traditional barriers of cultural exchange don’t matter as much to dancers.

“Once you walk into a ballet studio it’s the same. Dancers don’t even have to speak the same language for the teacher to tell them which movement comes next,” Grebel said. “Dancing is dancing whether you’re in Pelham or Paris.”

T
his particular trip took four local dancers to Novi-Sad, Serbia where Grebel grew up. When the girls arrived in the former Communist country they were greeted by smiling faces of other young dancers keen on making their guests feel at home.

“I actually went [to Serbia] last year for four weeks so I learned then just how sweet the people are and how much they want to please you,” Delchamps said. “I’ve done other intensives in America, but this gives you the chance to experience a whole new culture.”

Both the dancing and sight–seeing occurred on an intense level.

Four Serbian students that received scholarships from Grebel Dance joined the girls in the studio. Warm-up began around 10 a.m. with instruction from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Each day meant a different genre, from classical ballet to jazz.

The end of the two weeks culminated in a performance for parents and friends. Stevan’s wife, Debbie, said they always hope to return to America with better dancers who have left an impression on their Serbian friends.

“I think our dancers have really been great ambassadors,” Debbie said. “They [Serbians] think everyone is like what they see on American television — uncaring and selfish.”

In between sessions, the students got to spend down time with their new friends and explore. They saw castles and mountains on one side of the Danube and the beach on the other.

“Its like a tradition for dancers to go somewhere and dance during the summer,” Stevan said. “I have the opportunity to share where I come from with them through family and great teachers there. There are a lot of things the kids have not seen, have not touched — there’s history in it.”

Stevan and Debbie agreed that dance breaks down barriers and that all the dancers involved gain maturity and broadened horizons.