Student dancer Nicolette Alberti travels to Istanbul

In the summer of 2014 I was given the opportunity to dance in Frozen Dream, an immersive dance theater project under the direction of choreographers Julia Ritter (also the Dance Department chair and artistic director, as well as a Mason Gross alumna) and Ayrin Ersoz. The production took place at the Santralistanbul Museum of Energy, a converted power plant in Istanbul, Turkey. 

It is truly amazing how much you can learn about yourself, your craft, others, and the world in just three short weeks. The cast consisted of 15 performers, half being American and the other half being Turkish. We spent every day together rehearsing. We quickly had to master the entire piece, which included learning how to dance on huge industrial machines all over the museum.

I learned so much from my Frozen Dream family. I learned that we’re not all that different even though we are from completely different parts of the world. One thing I took away from my Turkish friends was to never forget how strong our voice is and how we as individuals can make a difference. Sometimes it is easy to forget and easy to take life in the United States for granted.

Erdem Gunduz, one of the participating Turkish dancers, is internationally known as the “Standing Man” for his 2013 act of nonviolent resistance: He stood silent and alone for hours in Istanbul’s Taksim Square to protest the Turkish authorities’ attempt to ban gatherings there. It was so inspiring to work with young people who have the courage to take a stand for what they believe in. Hearing their stories influenced my dancing tremendously: It became easier for me to take risks and follow my instinct.

You feel such a rush while performing when you fully commit and put your whole heart into every movement without second-guessing yourself once.  I felt a stronger sense of self, making me a stronger artist. 

The immersive dance-theater aspect of this project has also changed my views of performance. Our audience walked through the museum while we performed, truly as if they had entered our world or dream. The wall between performer and audience was broken. I remember the moments that I and another person would lock eyes for just a few seconds, but it would feel like forever. This type of work is beyond rich and fulfilling. 

Frozen Dream was a living, breathing thing. Each performance was unique in its own way. The audience had the opportunity to influence the work, so you had to be prepared for anything.  It fine-tuned my problem-solving skills. If an audience member was in my way, I had to find a sensible alternative while remaining in character. The challenge was thrilling!

Some days by the end of the eight-hour rehearsals both my brain and body would feel like Jell-O. But nothing was more satisfying than finishing at the end of the night, looking at my dirty hands and saying, “I did it. I got through it.”

—Written by Nicolette Alberti

Posted October 2014