Training

How to Survive the Rest of Your Summer Intensive

Students in class at the Kirov Academy of Ballet. Photo by Paolo Galli, Courtesy Kirov Academy

It's August, so two things are pretty much guaranteed: 1. It's really hot out. 2. If you're a bunhead, you're nearing the end of your summer intensive.

By now, you've gotten used to the early morning alarm, followed by the inevitable reminder that your muscles are (still) sore as you roll of out bed. But the excitement of arriving at an enticing training destination full of challenging instructors and fellow dancers may have faded. What's left is the hard work in the studio from dawn till dusk.


If you need some motivation to finish your intensive strong, follow these tips.

1. Start each day fresh.

School of American Ballet's summer intensive. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy SAB.

Use your first technique class of the day to hit the refresh button. Check in with your body, and assess any soreness. If you had a bad class or frustrating rehearsal yesterday, leave the negativity behind. Do you best, starting with the very first plié.

2. Fuel up and stay hydrated.

It may be tempting to stock up on junk food to stay energized, but don't forget about the crash that accompanies a sugar rush. Whether you're dining at a campus cafeteria or you're cooking for yourself, make healthy choices throughout the day. High-fiber foods, like oatmeal for breakfast, will keep you fuller longer. Remember to pack your bag with quick snack options, like fruits and nuts, to nosh on between classes. And water is your number-one friend. You'll be sweating all day, so don't go anywhere without it.

3. Practice gratitude.

Students in Miami City Ballet School's summer repertory performance. Photo by Ella Titus, Courtesy MCB School.

Take a moment daily to acknowledge the fantastic opportunities you've encountered throughout the summer. Are you training with world-class faculty? Dancing at a professional company's school? Learning a variation from your favorite ballet? Getting more partnering experience than usual? Yes, intensives are tough, but they also come with many positives that help you grow as an artist.

4. Remember self-care.

Photo by Nathan Sayers

Taking care of yourself is essential all year long, but it's especially important during strenuous training periods. Find time to nurse your tired body, even if just for a few minutes daily. If you have access to a bath, soak in Epsom salts. Lying with your legs up the wall can do wonders for tired legs—many say the inversion promotes circulation. At night, grab some friends for a foam-roll and stretch party.

If you have any choice in your course load, don't eschew somatics classes because they're "easy." A restorative yoga session, for example, can be just the reset you need to conquer the next day with restored energy.

5. Explore the area.

While you're understandably at your summer program to focus on ballet, don't ignore the incredible opportunities around you. If you're in an urban environment, explore city parks one last time or check out another historical attraction before it's time to go home. If you've been dying to see a certain show, look into student rush tickets. If you're in a more rural setting and your program offers weekend field trips to nearby attractions, sign up for any remaining events.

6. Monitor your body for potential injuries.

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When you're several weeks into a schedule of all-day classes and rehearsals, feeling fatigued is normal. But that's also when dancers are at risk of injury. Listen to your body and conserve your energy when possible—pushing at 200 percent isn't sustainable. If something feels wrong or you suspect an old injury may be flaring up, notify your teachers and speak with the program's physical therapist, if possible.

7. Don't forget about your goals.

While it's easy to get swept up in the flurry classes and end-of-program performances, now's the time to reflect on why you chose this intensive. What did you want to get out of it when you registered several months ago? Perhaps you wanted a deeper dive into a style like Balanchine or Vaganova, or the chance to improve your petite allégro or be a less tentative turner. Ask yourself if you've accomplished those goals. If you've strayed from them, try to realign your priorities before you leave.

Many of us take our ballet training for granted. But for dancers living in Puerto Rico, which is still reeling from the devastating affects of last month's Hurricane Maria, pursuing a ballet career or simply taking class must now feel insurmountable. What do you do when Mother Nature not only destroys your dance studio, but your home and the majority of the city you live in? Priorities must shift to those of basic survival.

Now, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School is trying to help six Puerto Rican dancers resume their training. The students, whose studio in San Juan was badly damaged, had recently attended SCBS's summer intensive. School directors Ariel Serrano and Wilmian Hernandez have started a fundraising effort called "Sarasota And Puerto Rico Dance Together" to temporarily relocate the dancers. While they can easily offer them scholarships, Serrano and Hernandez must raise an additional $36,000 to provide housing, food and living expenses for one year. (SCBS has a dormitory for female students, but not for male students.)

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When the choreographer Alexei Ratmansky joined American Ballet Theatre as artist in residence eight years ago, the company hadn't had a house choreographer since the days of Antony Tudor. The gamble seems to have paid off handsomely. In that time Ratmansky has either made or restaged 12 ballets for the company. In 2011, the company extended his contract to 2023. Such commitments are practically unheard of at a time when top dancers and choreographers hop from company to company, continent to continent. The scale and ambition of the works Ratmansky is making for ABT is a rarity too, in a world of tight budgets, scant rehearsal time and pared-down esthetics.


Set design for new "Harlequinade." Courtesy ABT.

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Houston Ballet's Jared Matthews and Sara Webb in"The Sleeping Beauty." Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

Despite the devastation and pain that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have left in their wake this fall, it's been encouraging to see dancers step up in aid of their communities: When the future of Houston Ballet's Nutcracker seemed uncertain, venues around the city pulled together to allow the company to produce the show on a "hometown tour." And when Florida ballet companies had to evacuate, Atlanta Ballet and Charlotte Ballet welcomed them with open arms. In addition, New York City-based studio Broadway Dance Center offered community classes in September with proceeds donated to the American Red Cross.

The next in this series of good deeds is Hearts for Houston, a benefit performance bringing dancers from seven major companies together at New York City's Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater to raise money for the United Way of Greater Houston's Harvey Relief Fund. Scheduled for Sunday, October 22, the evening will feature members of the Houston Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Texas Ballet Theater, The Washington Ballet and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Hearts for Houston is imagined and produced by Houston Ballet principal dancers Yuriko Kajiya and Jared Matthews (both formerly of ABT) and funded by patrons Phoebe and Bobby Tudor and sponsor Neiman Marcus.


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Catherine Conley. Photo by Alex Garcia.

When I was 4 or 5, I told my mom, "I want to go to a real dance school with barres and a mirror." My preschool recommended Chicago's Ruth Page Center for the Arts. That's where I trained until I left for Cuba a year ago. I went to regular school during the day, and then had ballet class for four or more hours per day during the evenings and weekends. Nobody in my family has a dance background, but they've been supportive through all of it.

My school in Chicago teaches a technique that draws on Vaganova, Cecchetti and Bournonville. I went to very different summer intensives, as well: American Ballet Theatre, the Royal Ballet School in London and Boston Ballet. Then, two summers ago, Ruth Page School of Dance director Victor Alexander, who is Cuban, arranged an exchange with the Cuban National Ballet School. A group of eight Cubans came to Ruth Page's summer intensive. I had to learn an entire pas de deux as well as a contemporary ballet piece in 10 days, and then perform them. I'd never had to do anything that quickly; it was hard work but exciting. I then realized that if I could dance professionally, I wanted to.


Conley in class at the Cuban National Ballet School. Photo by Alex Garcia.

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Photo by Paul Kolnik, via Instagram

Zachary Catazaro is ending his New York City Ballet Fall 2017 season on a high note. NYCB's ballet master in chief, Peter Martins, announced Catazaro's promotion from soloist to principal on Oct. 12th, just before the company's evening performance.

Catazaro had a stand out season, making his debut as Prince Siegfried alongside principal Sterling Hyltin's Odette/Odile in Martins' Swan Lake. He also debuted in featured roles in Martins' The Red Violin and Jerome Robbins' In Memory Of... as well as George Balanchine's La Valse.

Catazaro, originally from Canton, Ohio, joined the company as an apprentice in 2007, and has quickly moved through the ranks.

Principal dancer Rebecca Krohn retired from the stage earlier in the season, and Robbie Fairchild is set to give his farewell performance with NYCB this coming weekend, so we can't wait to see Catazaro tackle his new rank (and the feature debuts that come along with it) in the coming seasons.

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Eleanor Rodriguez. Photo Courtesy RAD.

"When I compete, I'm the type to get nervous and shaky," says 19-year-old Eleanor Rodriguez. Growing up, the Phoenix, Arizona native had competed in figure skating and archery, but last month she got her first taste competing in the ballet world when she traveled to Lisbon, Portugal for the Royal Academy of Dance's Genée International Ballet Competition. Rodriguez, who has been most recently studying at the Russian-based Master Ballet Academy in Scottsdale, trained mainly in the RAD style under Mary Mo Adams. "I've been working in the curriculum my whole life, and the Genée is the height of that experience."

Rodriguez was also the only American participant, adding to the pressure. "I definitely feel like I have to represent," she said a few days before leaving for the competition. "But I've been training really hard. I'm as ready as I can be." She prepared two solos ahead of time—the second Shades variation from La Bayadère and a "Dancer's Choice" neoclassical solo choreographed by her Master Ballet Academy teacher Albert Cattafi. Once in Lisbon, Rodriguez enjoyed four intense days leading up to the semi-finals that included classes, coaching sessions with RAD faculty and learning another solo created especially for the Genée by Portuguese choreographer César Augusto Moniz.


Photo by Ed Flores, Courtesy RAD.

While Rodriguez, who joins Ballet Arizona's Studio Company this fall, did not make it to the final round, she felt the experience was well worth it. "I loved receiving coaching and having an opportunity to perform." We asked her to share how she stayed calm and maintained perspective during the competition, below.

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Herman Cornejo in "La Bayadere." Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy American Ballet Theatre.

A double tour, says American Ballet Theatre principal Herman Cornejo, "is the step that defines a male dancer." Here, he shares his thoughts on mastering this necessary trick.

Don't anticipate: "The takeoff is hard," Herman Cornejo acknowledges. "You want to take all your force around, and that twists your back to the side and your fifth out of place." Instead, the impulse for the rotations comes from the bottom of the plié. "Be calm to start. Prepare to a relevé, plié, and the moment the heels touch down, then you take the force."

Use your glutes: A common error Cornejo sees is "sticking your butt out and your chest forward in plié so that you're not on top of your hips. You'll never make it to the other side!" Your glutes, he adds, are "so powerful that when you engage them, it really makes a difference."


Cornejo in a double tour en l'air. Photo Courtesy Cornejo.

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