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Career Transition With Alberto Fiammengo

Founder & Director, ALSA BALLET a.s.d

Alberto discovered his passion for dance in Mogliano Veneto where he took his first ballet steps. Discovered by Steve LaChance, at a workshop in Treviso, he was introduced to Sabrina Massignani's school where he later received his professional training. During his formative years, Alberto won several awards and numerous scholarships from the most prestigious ballet institutions in Hamburg, Milan, Munich, Paris, and New York. Thanks to the scholarship he received from the Heinz-Bosl Stiftung, Alberto moved to Munich to study at the Ballet Academy - the University of Music and Performing Arts Munich founded by Konstanze Vernon.

Defined by Vernon as her "black swan" and protégé, Alberto worked with many choreographers and danced in productions of the Bavarian State Ballet. He competed in the competition for the Arts in Bavaria and won Best Dancer. At the young age of seventeen, he graduated with a Diploma and joined the Junior Company of the Bavarian State Ballet where he became a soloist in "Troy Game" and performed with the most important stars in the dance world.

Alberto then returned to Italy and danced with Astra Roma Ballet under the direction of Diana Ferrara where he performed in the production of "Aladino 2000". Expressing his desire and passion for teaching, Alberto began teaching at the Venezia Balletto School before founding ALSA BALLET a.s.d., teaching many dance disciplines with the intention of discovering new talents in his city. He also collaborates with the "Margarita Hack" school for the expressive workshop using dance to prepare students for productions. Alberto is also a soloist with the Venezia Balletto.

We asked Alberto to reflect upon his career transition.

What was it like dancing in the Junior Company of the Bavarian State Ballet under the direction of the late Konstanze Vernon, one of Germany's greatest ballet names?

Alberto Fiammengo: I graduated early (at 17) so it was a shock when I first entered the professional world. It was also very unexpected as I was told by Vernon to attend the audition which was the very next morning. I was young, injured, and very confused about her request but I did it anyway because I trusted Vernon and knew that she only wanted the best for me. She was like my German mother, she even said so to my parents whenever she met them; so it was only natural that I did the audition.

When I started working in the Junior Company, I felt a little more pressure put on my shoulders. I was the youngest and I often believed that I was not ready nor worthy of being in the ensemble but Vernon always reassured my place saying that each dancer earned their spot in the company. I think the insecurity I experienced was due to the fact that I had missed my school exams in Italy since I had to start work in the company—which forced me to repeat the year. I had expressed this concern to Vernon and how I'd unwillingly sabotaged my education to pursue my ballet career. I think she always felt sorry but grateful that I made the sacrifice.

Life in the company was fast-paced and we had to learn the choreographies of our own ballets and also the ones of the main company. It was hard but oh so rewarding! We were trained mostly by Prof. Alexander Ursuliak who taught us about the history of the ballets and many other things. We were constantly learning in the company and under Vernon's directorship, we were really well taken care of and we were always pushed to the max in a good way.

When did you decide to quit and what were the events that followed?

Alberto: I decided to quit in January as my school back in Italy offered me the chance to enroll in a class that combined two school years into one. It was an amazing opportunity but it also meant that I would have to study extra hard in order to catch up with my peers. Back then, I was studying on my own and taking exams at the end of each school year. It got to a point where I didn't want to fall behind in my academic education anymore. My academic record had always been impeccable and I was damaging it to pursue ballet. I couldn’t leave the company until the last show in March so I decided to leave after that, my family came to Munich to help pack up my life and I said all my goodbyes before leaving for Italy. Once I got back to Italy, I was honestly a little depressed. Despite having given it all up to complete my high school education, I'd left an environment that I had sacrificed most of my life for—and a job that had given me life! I enrolled in the school program as soon as I arrived back home and left for Rome to take my exams. I passed and I was reintroduced to my regular classes that following school year. After high school, I received my diploma and I enrolled in a university in Milan with the intention of majoring in communication, media, and advertising. I dabbled a little into modeling and put ballet on the back burner.

At what point in the semester did you realize that teaching was, in fact, your passion?

Alberto: Though the years passed, I still felt a strong desire to want to dance again. I dropped out and returned home where I attended classes at my former ballet school and joined my ballet teacher's junior company to help me find my motivation again. A life-changing figure was Sabrina Massignani who mentored me and welcomed me into her ballet school in Venice (Mestre) which helped me to grow and be seen. Sabrina was the one who offered me my first teaching opportunity as a substitute teacher for her classes. I loved it! After expressing to her my passion for teaching she assigned me to more classes and two years later under Sabrina's tutelage, I decided it was time for me to open my own ballet school in my hometown! Having worked for Sabrina I understood just how to run a ballet school and with the help and support of my family, I founded ALSA BALLET! The first year of ALSA BALLET was hard. It was difficult to get the word out and to attract new students but I was determined to keep going and told myself that over time I'd build trust in the local dance community and get recognized as a teacher. Things quickly changed soon after when a local middle school reached out and asked me to lead a new dance project teaching teenagers about expressivity and movement through the art of dance; I still teach it to this day!

What have you learned since becoming a dance teacher?

Alberto: Being a good dance teacher is so much more than just teaching. It's about creating a safe space for the students where they can be the best version of themselves. Teaching takes a lot more than just being a professional, you are a friend, a parent, a confidant, and a trustworthy respectable figure.

Do you think your former mentor, Konstanze Vernon helped shape you into the teacher you are today? Alberto: I remember a peculiar anecdote that is still very much engraved in my head, and I’m sure it's still clear in the minds of those that were there with me that day. It was when the Academy in Munich was holding auditions for the new directorial chair and, we, the students, took class with each of the candidates while the faculty judged. After an awkward and brief class with one of the candidates (who was a well-known dancer), Vernon stood up and asked him to approach the judging panel. She told him to keep dancing and to never venture into teaching! It was a profound moment for me because I completely understood what she meant. During the class, as a student, I felt that he didn't seem to care for any of us taking his class, he was too preoccupied showing off his combinations in front of the judges. I will never forget what it felt like to be a student in his class and ever since that day, I vowed to never make any of my students feel like they are a commodity. What advice do you have for dancers thinking about career transition or about to go on the journey? Alberto: As a dancer turned teacher, founder, director, and all the other hats you have to wear as an owner of a ballet school, I encourage you to be brave and jump. Even if you have reservations, it doesn’t hurt to give it a try; you will have to put in the hard work but that is nothing new as a dancer!