Six BTW Magnet students taking summer journey to Pietrasanta, Italy
Montgomery Advertiser. Shannon Heupel. June 08, 2019.

As six Montgomery students prepare to fly across the world to our sister city in Pietrasanta, Italy, a familiar face is awaiting them there.

“Our hearts are open to receive you in this marvelous land,” Adria Ferrali said in a message to the Booker T. Washington Magnet High School students - Abigail Perkinson, Naomi Tyson and Ahsha Gray (dance magnet), Zoe Davis and Yaelyn Ha (visual arts), and Brianna Moore (creative writing).

“You are about to enter another dimension on the other side of the pond,” said Ferrali, who spoke to the Montgomery Advertiser from Pietrasanta on Friday.

She knows Montgomery well, since she spends part of her time here as director of the modern dance department at Alabama River Region Ballet and as a visiting professor for Troy University.

Ferrali was in Montgomery this past March for the premiere of her original ballet “Creek Indian Odyssey,” danced by Alabama River Region Ballet downtown at Troy University's Davis Theatre. 

The six young BTW women are anxious to make the journey. Two of them, Abigail and Brianna, spoke Thursday at a briefing by Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange. 

“I’m really excited to go and experience the art and the culture over there,” said Abigail, a BTW senior. 

The students will be traveling to Italy in two groups this month - the three dancers in a few days, and the rest toward the end of June.

“These girls Abigail, Naomi and Ahsha will be with me soon,” said Ferrali, who has two major roles going on now in Italy - one as the director of the DAP (Dance in Art in Pietrasanta) Festival (June 16-29), the other as a liaison for Troy University, a partner in the study abroad program known as DAP College. 

Along with Troy University, students will be attending DAP College from the Kemerovo State University of Culture and Arts (Russia) and the Royal Danish Theater Odense Denmark. Students will receive college credit for participating. Last year, 29 U.S. students attended.

Strange said Montgomery and Pietrasanta have had a beautiful relationship since 2009. 

“We’ve been over there on a number of occasions,” Strange said. He and former Pietrasanta mayor, now senator, Massimo Mallegni are close friends. Strange is continuing that relationship with the Italian town’s new mayor Alberto Stefano Giovannetti. “The new mayor was here in December,” Strange said.

BTW is one of only two high schools in Alabama that are in this study abroad program, according to a release from Montgomery. All six Montgomery students received scholarships for the trip.  

“When you talk about art and culture, what better place than to turn to BTW?” Strange said.

Abigail and Brianna both said their goal is to bring back what they learn to share with Montgomery students. “To bring it back and help our community out,” Brianna said.

That fits in with BTW principal Quesha S. Starks’ message. She said this trip isn’t just about her school. “It is about keeping the arts alive in Montgomery,” she said.

Ferrali agrees. “Come to experience the arts with us throughout a month of music, dance, performing arts and much more,” Ferrali said. “I love Montgomery and I know that you will enjoy Tuscany and Pietrasanta as well.”

In the DAP Festival’s promotional material, Ferrali describes Pietrasanta as “the fulcrum of visual arts, creativity, and intellect,” a place where “the passion and physicality of dance are combined with artistic thought, strength, and symbolism of sculpture to give life to an innovative movement.” 

Visiting students will be greeted by sculptures from Uruguayan Maestro Pablo Atchugarry around Pietrasanta’s historical center, as well as the pier of Tonfano. 

Among the many activities planned during DAP, Abigail, Naomi and Ahsha will join the other dance students for Colleges of the Globe, performances in the Square of the Cathedral.  They’ll be under the leadership of another familiar face - Curran Tellilian, a dancer and associate artistic director at Alabama River Region Ballet, who is also serving as an artistic assistant at the DAP Festival. The students will present a variety of classical and contemporary dances. 

On June 22, Ferrali’s choreography will be part of an International Dance Gala “Say No! No Violence Against Women,” a series of shows that celebrate femininity through performing arts. 

Ferrali said DAP is a world where art, dance and music leave the confines of traditional theater space with performances by artists from across the world. 

“I wish you a safe journey and God bless you,” Ferrali said.

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