In recent years, Limerick has stepped up as a home to music, art, and film with the fledgling Fringe festival shaping the culture of the city.
It’s a bustling, edgy event that works because of the passion.
It’s that same passion that brings students, both national and international, to the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, a centre of academic and performance excellence housed at the University of Limerick.
MA Contemporary Dance Performance student, Mariela Argüello Retana, is from Costa Rica and she’s made Limerick home – both for academics and her passion for dance.
“This programme has what I was looking for,” she says. “It has helped me find new ways to approach movement and to surprise myself finding different paths to connect with myself and my body.
“I’m from Costa Rica and I am doing my Masters in Contemporary Dance Performance. I did my BA in Dance in Costa Rica. I was looking at programmes across Europe and I was attracted to this one because it emphasised performance and there is a focus on solo work and solo mentoring which is what I need.”
Unlike some performance-type courses, the Academy emphasises a mix of performance and academia. Providing a space where musicians, dancers, composers, singers, conductors and choreographers explore together, the Academy mixes research and live performance.
The bustling arts scene in Limerick city itself overlaps with the Academy: festivals of music and dance and public seminars take place at the Academy throughout the year, which adds relevance and an informational boon to students who want to bolster their performance with learning.
The depth of learning and cooperation appealed to Mariela in particular. “The programme incorporates ensemble work so you don’t miss out on that. There is interdisciplinary work too, for example, an independent study on something that interests you – say an instrument, singing or photography and you can have a mentor from another part of the Academy,” she says.
“I chose to study experimental anatomy. We are encouraged to write and document our own creative process, something I have always done but it is really important to the work. It is important to see how you have changed and developed.”
UL has become a hotbed for international students, with intake from around the globe. Every year, 600 international students arrive at Campus Life Services at UL.
Many of the students opt to live in one of the six village communities with other students in programmes like Study Abroad or Erasmus.
It’s that sense of welcome that helped Mariela find a home in Limerick.
“The university has been really nice to us,” she explains. “The International Education Division helps us get set up so we are not lost; they make the process easier. This Academy is like a big family.
“I am the youngest in the programme at 23. One of my classmates, the eldest, is nearly 40. We come from all over: Iran, Israel, Palestine, Ethiopia, Canada, Ireland, the United States.”
As much as UL has provided a second home for Mariela, it’s also given her a unique experience and technical understanding of her craft.
The Academy offers a suite of taught postgraduate programmes across a range of genres and disciplines – and students have the added benefit of working closely with industry professionals and events, such as the Irish Chamber Orchestra, Dance Limerick, and the Light Moves Festival of Screendance.
For Mariela, the combination of technical nous and pure craft and passion has given her a unique experience.
“Our modules include Media Technology,” she says, “where we learn to edit music and video. We study somatics, the imagery of your own body, about going inside yourself and this has helped my technique, my performance.
“This programme […] has helped me to find new ways to approach movement and to surprise myself finding different paths to connect with myself and my body. I am interested in exploring more about the different possibilities that my own body has, choreographing, starting to develop an independent group for young people – teenagers who are getting interested in dance and start sharing what I have learned.”
UL’s postgraduate courses are developed and reviewed with industry leaders, to make sure our students have the most up-to-date skillsets for up-and-coming careers.
The University boasts exceptional facilities and the highest quality academic standards, all in the vibrant and affordable city of Limerick.
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