Irene Paci – a multiple award-winning dancer talks about NYC dance scene and how it shaped her as a dancer

Irene Paci. Photo by Nir Arieli

Irene Paci is a multiple award-winning professional dancer born in Pistoia, Italy. As a soloist, she won the first prize (gold medal) at the 2012 Baletu de art jazz International Dance Competition, and the third prize (bronze medal) at the prestigious Tanzolymp Dance Festival in Berlin and the 2012 Rieti International Dance Festival.

After 11 years of training at Axe Ballet directed by Antonella Tronci, Irene moved to Paris to study at the Institut de Formation Professionelle de Danse Jazz Rick Odums. During her year at the Institute, Irene performed as a soloist and featured dancer in Les Jeunes Ballet Jazz and Le Jeunes Ballet Moderne de Rick Odums. Her close teachers and mentors included Rick Odums (Former member of the Houston Ballet Company; Choreographer of National Broadway Touring of Guys and Dolls featuring legends, Debbie Allen and Maurice Hines; Director of the school IFPRO in Paris), Geraldine Armstrong and Bruce Taylor.

In 2015 she was accepted at the prestigious world-renowned The Ailey School in NYC, where she graduated in The Certificate Program. During her three years at The Ailey School she was chosen to perform for the January Explosion at the Baryshnikov Arts Center (serves approximately 500 artists and more than 22,000 audience members annually through presentations and artist residencies) by highly respected Darshan Singh Bhuller, and for the Spring Concert at The Ailey Citigroup Theater (state-of-the-art performance space that can seat as many as 275 people) by award-winning choreographer Brice Mousset. She was also featured to dance choreography by award-winning Earl Mosley, by acclaimed Darrel G. Moultrie, Amy Hall, and Winston D. Brown. Her choreography (a duet choreographed and danced with Ailey II member Adrien Picaut) was selected amongst hundreds to be performed at The Ailey Citigroup Theater for the Global Harmony 2016.

Irene Paci. Photo by Noel Valero
Irene Paci. Photo by Noel Valero

Irene has been privileged to perform at BAM Fisher Fishman Space (BAM’s latest addition, home of the BAM Professional Development Program, 250 seats theater ) with Bloodline Dance Theater for the TWW Inc.’s Nina Simone Tribute, at Dixon Place (a Bessie and Obie Award-winning non-profit institution, presenting over 1000 creators a year) with international choreographer Grazia Capri, presenting her new creation, TERRA FIRMA- I’m Breathing under Water, and with award-winning choreographer Gwen Rakotovao for the  International Human Rights Art Festival 2019. She was featured by choreographer Whitney Janis to perform with Artists by Any Other Name, at The Sound of Arts Festival 2018, at the Fertile Ground New Works Showcase 2018, at Center for Performance Research and NYU Langone Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital.

Some of her key credits include a collaboration as Associate Performer with Marie-Christine Giordano Dance in her Public-School lecture-demonstrations Program, a collaboration with Brittain Ashford, performing as principal dancer in her new Music Video I Could Have Danced All Night, and a collaboration with the French company N’kialeko Dance Project, in the realization of the video clip Leko Ler.

While in Italy, Irene was involved in many video productions by MBVision and Animation Light Project, directed by Massimiliano Pinucci, including the outstanding New Year Concert Good evening. Let me introduce you Giacomo, performed at the famous Renaissance Tuscany Auditorium Teather Ciocco (with more than 1000 people capacity, the theater saw the birth of the first European music television).

Irene Paci. Photo by Marta Colombo
Irene Paci. Photo by Marta Colombo

She is a member of the company Cross Move Lab, directed by Guanglei Hui, a member of Caterina Rago Dance Company, and she was offered a position as Guest Artist with Boston Dance Theater by award-winning choreographer Jessie Jeanne Stinnett (Boston Dance Theater Co-Artistic Director) for their upcoming commission with Goethe Institut Boston (First Goethe-Institut in the US with a worldwide language-learning system, promoting ongoing exchange between American and German culture for over 40 years). Irene has been invited as a Guest Artist by Albano Ballet Company of America (founded in 1974, directed by highly respected Joseph Albano, the Founder and Artistic Director of Hartford Ballet) to perform for their famous Nutcracker season, and for Ballet and Horton technique workshops across US and Italy.

She is a recipient of many scholarships, including one by Dominique Lisette (most fashionable Choreographer of TV sets, especially Michel Drucker’s Vivement Dimanche and Champs Elysées show; Choreographer and Producer of the Opening of the World Cup 98, the RFM Party 80 show, fashion shows for brands such as Puma, Reebok and Levi’s; Teacher at IFPRO) for a value of 4 classes per week for the Academic Year 2014-2015 at the IFPRO in Paris.

Irene is excited to continue and grow her career in the US, and be inspired as a performer.

Irene Paci. Photo by Nir Arieli
Irene Paci. Photo by Nir Arieli

What brought you to NYC?

Since little, I knew that right after finishing high school, I would have left my country to pursue my career in dance. After being accepted into the professional program ‘Artiste – Interprete’ at the Rick Odums Institut de Formation Professionelle de danse jazz, I decided to move to Paris to continue my professional dance training. I knew it would be a very formative experience, especially in preparation for a possible future jump to New York.

The main reason that brought me here was the attraction of the ‘Unknown’. Even though in Europe I have my family and my friends, the desire to see what was on the other side of the ocean and discover a different culture won any kind of doubts. I knew it would be a life-changing experience.

What makes the NYC dance scene unique? 

The unique thing about NYC is that here you will always have the chance to see performing the greatest dance companies in the world without worrying about going somewhere else. New York City allows you to wait for them to come to you, instead of you looking for them. For this reason, it is true for me that this city makes you feel at the centre of the world. 

Irene Paci. Photo by Noel Valero
Irene Paci. Photo by Noel Valero

How has NYC shaped you as an artist?

The fact of coming from a small city like Pistoia and moving to a city with 8 millions of people certainly changed my mindset. Probably one of the biggest realizations for me as an artist is the importance of seeing things from different points of view. Meeting people from all over the world helped me to have a better understanding that each of us has his background, his own story, his way to see and experience things. And to be able to accept diversity you have to listen, to be humble and to be curious. 

But this city helped me become a better listener not only of others but of myself too. 

As it is inevitable in NY, competition is something that you cannot escape from and that you surely will have to face. Being surrounded by all these people sometimes can make you feel like insignificant, “one of the many”; but at the same time, it teaches you to go back to your roots and to deepen into your self-exploration. It makes you feed on freedom by allowing you to be who you decide to be, as an artist and as a person. 

What do you hope to gain from dancing in NYC?

I hope to keep enriching myself with new exciting experiences, to build a strong network in the dance community, to link with beautiful souls and great artists, and to learn as much as I can, before going back to Italy and sharing my experience with my family, my friends, my supporters, and my country.

Irene Paci. Photo by Sai Rodboon

What has been the most challenging about NYC to you as an artist?

One of the biggest challenges I always faced as an artist is how to find extra time, not only to keep up with work but also with my personal life. 

Moving to NY and having my family in another country with 6 hours time-difference hasn’t made anything easier. Especially at the beginning, being international challenged me a lot. I had to face language barriers, cultural differences, and homesickness as it can be very easy to begin feeling homesick when everything around you is so unfamiliar.

But to manage simultaneously these two worlds of art and personal life has been quite hard for a second reason. 

The choice to be an artist takes a tremendous amount of courage and requires enormous strength. To get to the source of your art, you have to work deeply and go to a very profound place, which means most of the time to pull your skin off, to make yourself “naked“ to others’ eyes and accept to be vulnerable. 

To be able to survive in a city like NY, you absolutely cannot be undefended. You always have to run all over the place, as it is a city that never sleeps, and to keep track of everything can be exhausting. 

With time, I learned how to use those moments of vulnerability, turning them into a tool form me: moments of light that help me to keep going.