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Jodi McMahon Bergman was my dance teacher for many years growing up. She taught me everything from classic jazz to contemporary and tap. She was not only qualified to teach all of these styles but refined and highly skilled at each. She was particular and thoughtful in her choreography, always finessing every beat. I remember Jodi not only as an exceptional teacher but as an inspiring woman. Being in a tight-knit group of girls, she nurtured us as dancers and young women. She instilled in us self-respect, confidence, kindness, grace and a strong work ethic. She was a no nonsense teacher with a huge heart and an infectious sense of humor. We loved spending time with Jodi, as she always treated us as equals and respected us as artists and individuals. After training with Jodi, I studied theatre at Northwestern University. I went on to perform professionally in numerous shows including Grease, Happy Days, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and in the National Tour and Broadway productions of Mamma Mia! I know that the lessons I learned from Jodi were integral in preparing me for a career in the business. Jodi is an asset to the dance world and I feel truly blessed to have been one of her students.
Acting has always been a huge part of my life and I have been fortunate enough to live in both New York and Los Angeles where quality acting classes were abundant. I was fearful that I would never find as good an experience here in South Florida. Was I ever thrilled to have found the UCPA. Working with Gigi is a unique and wonderful journey. She teaches unlike any instructor I have ever studied with and each week I leave class feeling extremely fulfilled and satisfied, not to mention exhausted and exhilarated. The warm and inviting environment has been extremely condusive to my growth both as an actor and a person. I look forward each week to laugh, to cry, to really feel alive. I am grateful to have found this gem in South Florida.
Claudine is a teacher that goes beyond the technical aspects of dance and helps the student to build a foundation from a more logical aspect. She not only understands that dance begins from the inside out, but also has to make sense to the dancer and does a good job explaining this. Challenging the technique of the dancer, as well as their intellectual understanding of the art is evident in any class she teaches, whether it be Ballet or Horton.”
I really enjoy Rossella Lamendola’s Adult Voice class at the UCPA. She offers a fast pace class, that encompasses music from the 1960’s through today’s hottest contemporary hits. One minute you may be singing Beatles classics and the next might be Alicia Keys, Katie Perry or even a song by Nirvana. The class is not just for those looking to further their vocal education, it is also for those simply looking for a fun, entertaining Tuesday night. You take away what you put into the class, whether it is getting ready for a voice audition or something as simple as working on improving your voice for a night out at karaoke. There is something for everyone to take away from this class. The class is held in a small intimate setting, with piano and guitar accompaniment by Rossella. She works with individuals on improving their control, pitch, teaching harmonies and breath control, as well as working to improve singers confidence levels. On a personal note, I find Rossella to be open, honest about expectations and eager to assist singers in improving their vocal skills.
When I moved to Miami, I was looking for an opportunity to learn how to act and mostly, express myself and become less inhibited. My first class was terrifying. All for good reasons. Gigi was very experienced and I felt like she already knew us. She knew just how much to push me to expand myself. At the end of 6 weeks I felt refreshed, more myself. I felt like I could finally express myself and not be afraid to be who I am. I loved the dancing, yelling, crying, laughing and fighting. It was all acting, but it all seemed so real. My experience was incredible, and I wish I would have stayed longer to take more classes, but Chicago was calling my name.
Annie, now in Vermont
Since my daughter, Lexi, enrolled in Ms. Gigi’s beginning acting class earlier this fall, she has eagerly looked forward to class each week. Lexi loves the role playing she gets to do each week and, as her mom, I am so proud of how well she takes direction. Lexi did not know any of the other students in her class before she began at the UCPA but, with Ms. Gigi at the head of the class, Lexi is comfortable and vivacious. Lexi has really found her niche and I couldn’t be more grateful. Thank you Gigi and UCPA.
The University Center for the Performing Arts is one of the few institutions, in my humble opinion, that truly offer a rare experience, education, and opportunity to learn your craft whether it be as a dancer, actor or singer. I am a student of acting. Gilda Pianelli is the most inspirational and influential teacher I’ve ever studied with. She is someone who truly cares about your evolution as an actor and, more importantly, as a person. Her classes are innovative, intimate, and instrumental in your development as a professional actor. Each class is disciplined to enhance, develop, explore and distill the acting process into simple theories of application that stimulate your creativity and success as an artist. I have witnessed people come into her classroom with years of “experience” and within moments realize they know very little. Her classes are challenging, vigorous and, most importantly, truthful. These classes insist upon an in depth analysis of your entire person, which I promise you will be an adventure in itself. You will get to know yourself in ways you’ve only dreamed. She accepts no less than truth and honesty from you as a person and an actor. These classes are about truth, life and listening. Gilda teaches you how to live truthfully in the moment, not to indicate behavior and fake life or “act”. Your craft and work as an artist become finely tuned so that you can take the practical lessons and apply them to your work as an artist or just as general principles in your life. The classroom structure, and the UCPA in general, is friendly, open, creative, intuitive, and welcoming to any and all new faces. This institution is alive with some of the most professional and personally accepting professors and talent I’ve ever encountered. It’s been an honor to be a member of the UCPA. It’s been a privilege to study under Gilda. My education as a student of the arts, via Gilda and the UCPA, cannot be priced. It’s the difference between diamonds and glass. Self discovery is the product afforded to me by means of the University Center for the Performing Arts
My sister began taking Flamenco classes at UCPA when she was 7 and I was 11. I had an interest in performing since the third grade but was extremely shy. I enrolled in Gigi’s (Gilda’s) children’s acting class and was immediately welcomed by both Gigi and her students. I continued taking her classes and workshops in addition to voice classes with Vindhya for 3 years. I was auditioning for my school’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof” when Gigi asked me if I could audition for the UCPA’s production of “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Of course I said yes and auditioned. I got the part of Anne and we had a very successful run in March. That was an incredible experience for which I thank Gigi and our amazing director, William Butland. Prior to “Anne Frank” I had another very big audition coming up for a musical theatre conservatory held at Juilliard. Vindhya worked very hard with me to get my voice into shape for the audition. I flew up to NYC in January and was accepted into the program. The artistic director even complimented Vindhya on what a wonderful job she’s done with my voice with only a year and a half of training.
Gigi has allowed me to assist her in teaching her children’s acting classes for some time now and that experience has helped me a tremendous amount with my leadership skills. I now run the entire drama program at the just-opened West Broward High School. I would never by where I am artistically and as a person if it weren’t for the skills and friendships I acquired at UCPA. Thank you so much Gigi and Vindhya for your guidance and friendship. I love you!!!!
Alli Reich, 14 years old
I met Gilda Pianelli at the UCPA in August, 1993. I was running a very succussful delicatessen/catering business at the time and I’d never taken an acting class in my life until that night…Originally planning on just sitting quietly and just observing what transpired during an actual “acting class”, I reluctantly got up on the stage. Onstage and semi-blinded by the lights, I answered as Gilda, several rows back in the audience, began asking me questions about why I was here, what I did for a living…and then about my family. Little did I realize at that time how incredibly skillful she was in her pursuit of an emotional level she was hoping to extract…and within 2 minutes, she got it out of me. Gilda led me down an emotional memory path so vivid in my mind…and at the precise moment of her choosing, she led me right into the monologue, which was the purpose of that exercise that night. After the class, Gilda came to me and…I remember her exact words as if spoken to me just last night…”if you give this up you’re a fool.” I understood. Completely.
I began studying with Gilda once a week and, whenever I could, two nights a week. After a year and a half, Gilda did something that, in retrospect, was one of the most unselfish and kind acts anyone has ever done for me. Before class one night, Gilda asked me to stay after the class so she could talk to me. Afterwards, when everyone had departed, we sat down to talk. She told me I had to leave. Leave UCPA.
That it was in MY best interest to leave. Gilda continued talking, praising, encouraging, imploring, and ultimately “convincing” me…that it was time for me to USE what she’d taught me…in the real world. That Los Angeles was where I needed to be. That I had more than enough skills and a mastery of the craft to handle myself with absolutely ANYONE in any scene, episodic or film anywhere. She said she HATED to see me go…but seeing me at UCPA every week, instead of seeing me on television or in the movies every week was not an option I should consider. That was an emotional and tearful time for me. Let’s face it…I wasn’t a kid..and I was about to completely up-end my entire life, which included my wife’s life. Sell my business. Leave that “comfort-zone” behind. Start over..in a career with…what?…98%+ enemployment rate? Yet here was this incredible woman…this amazing, passionate human being…telling me it was time for me to leave the roost, because MY time had come to go out and absolutely prove myself against the best the industry has to offer.
Gilda may not remember that night…not sure…but I will NEVER forget that night, EVER. It was an epiphany. That conversation; that pep-talk; that heart-felt plea to go out and use what I’d learned and do what so many others were hesitant to do…afraid to do…
And I did. Guest Starred on LAW & ORDER and COSBY in New York, then left for Los Angeles. Guest Starred for Steven Bochco 3 times; David E. Kelley 3 times. As of this writing, I’ve just wrapped my 45th Guest Starring on network TV, CRIMINAL MINDS (CBS).
Gilda, you’ll be my mentor, my teacher, my inspiration for this craft, and most of all…you’ll be my dear, dear friend…for life. I love you, G. You gave me the skills. You gave me the inspiration. I could never ask more of anyone.
My two kids have been going to the UCPA for the past 8 summers and there’s no other place that I would send them. The staff is so incredible. There’s no other theater program in Broward County that does what they do for your child in just weeks. All the children, every year, walk away so happy and say it was the best 4 weeks they ever spent. What more could a parent ask for?
There are not enough wonderful things to say about the University Center for the Performing Arts! My daughter, Kaity, has gone to camp here for the past two years. Thie first year she had such a wonderful time that she BEGGED to go back the next summer (and…please, Mommy? Can it be for BOTH sessions?!) The time and effort that everyone puts into the kids is awesome! The INCREDIBLE shows at the end of each 4 week session are better than some of the shows I have paid a lot of money for! The best part is when your child comes to you and they are so proud of the work they have accomplished. The self-esteem burst could not be better. Kaity also attends all types of classes during the year. She was VERY excited about the belly dancing class and has really been enjoying it. So, we live at UCPA 3 days a week and we wouldn’t change a thing! Thank you to ALL of the staff for building up the confidence of not only my daughter, but for all of the kids who are lucky enough to be a part of such an amazing place! We tell all our friends about UCPA and will continue to do so!
There is an old expression that says, “If it is not broken, it does not need to be fixed”. This statement applies to the University Center for the Performing Arts summer program. My now 20 year old daughter attended the camp for several years and loved every moment. My 11 year old daughter is about to complete the first session of the same program. She has enjoyed it as much as her big sister. The warmth and care shown by the staff was always, and continues to be, a primary ingredient of this enjoyable formula which embraces the talent that each of our children possess. Thank you for helping mold both of my girls’ creative beings.
I cannot find enough words to express my gratitude…
Andrea’s achievements and the interest that she has developed for the arts makes me so proud, and I thank you for this wonderful opportunity to share with great performers and teachers that you provide your students with.
UCPA sets very high standards and the support that you give to all the companies that you are affiliated with is an inspiration to all of your students who learn about team work, honesty, generosity and family.
Thank you for opening the door to the wonderful world of the arts.