For preprofessional ballet dancers,the new year means one thing: summer intensive audition season. As you start thinking about which auditions to add to your 2012 calendar, consider your professional and technical goals. What do you want to achieve this upcoming year? Your dance resolutions should be at the top of your mind when deciding where to seek out summer training.

Resolution: Land A Contract
If you’re going to be looking for a job soon, consider attending a summer intensive affiliated with a professional company—particularly one that you’re interested in dancing for. Studying at a prospective company’s studios can serve as an extended audition, since it gives the artistic staff a few weeks to observe your technique, demeanor and performance skills, and determine if you would be a good fit for the company. Skyler Lubin decided to take this approach when she was a student at Miami City Ballet School. She stayed at MCB for the summer to show her dedication to the institution—and to have an extra chance to prove her talent in the program’s culminating performance. “I really wanted artistic director Edward Villella to see me onstage in the final show,” Lubin says. She believes the opportunity aided in her acceptance into the company, where she is now a corps member.

This strategy can also help you learn about the company. By working with a faculty made up of current and former company members, you’ll get an inside look at exactly what the dancers are like. Rehearsals and variations classes will let you discover how the company’s repertoire feels on your body. You’ll get a sense of the atmosphere, and be able to decide whether it’s a place where you could thrive as a dancer.

Resolution: Find Better Year-Round Training
If you’re still a few years away from company life but want to set yourself on a path to get there, you could use the summer to scout out a top-notch conservatory. When Joseph Steinauer discovered his love for ballet in college, he knew he needed to fast-track his ballet training if he was going to bring his technique up to par. So he spent the summer after his sophomore year at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. The 5-week intensive helped him decide to leave college to study year-round at CPYB.

“I was attracted to the classicism and intensity of the training,” explains Steinauer, now a corps member at the National Ballet of Canada. Although the summer is less intense than CPYB’s year-round program, it gave Steinauer a good taste of what the conservatory had to offer. He felt the male training was especially strong, citing Laszlo Berdo’s men’s classes.

If you have specific needs, whether it’s teachers who can help you with your jumps or strong modern classes to improve your versatility, use the summer as a trial period to investigate whether a particular program might fit the bill.

Resolution: Expand Your Repertoire
Do you want to grow in a particular style that your home studio doesn’t offer? If you dream of joining a contemporary company but train at a Vaganova-based school, for example, prepare yourself by seeking out a program where you’ll learn more modern, cutting-edge ballets. During her summer at San Francisco Ballet School, Nicole Ciapponi had a chance to receive coaching from former SFB principal Tina LeBlanc on the renowned William Forsythe work The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude. “I had always loved Tina’s dancing and everything by William Forsythe,” says Ciapponi. Most of Ciapponi’s previous experience was in classical choreography, so working on a Forsythe ballet gave her a chance to challenge herself with more contemporary movement—a skill she knew she needed to cultivate before joining a company like SFB. In addition to developing a unique relationship with LeBlanc, the coaching helped prepare Ciapponi for company life: She performed Vertiginous this past year as a corps de ballet member with SFB (see “Best of The Best,” page 60).

Aside from considering a program’s company and school affiliations, style of training and repertoire, don’t forget about the environment fostered by its faculty. As Lubin advises, “There has to be a balance of good people and good ballet.” Speak to friends about their past training experiences, read dance blogs and reach out to potential programs of interest to find a summer intensive where you will be both encouraged and challenged. 


Scholarship Savvy
For many dancers, the stress of summer intensive auditions is centered around getting in. But others are looking for more than that. “I wouldn’t have been able to attend The Joffrey’s summer intensive without a scholarship,” Dara Holmes, now a member of The Joffrey Ballet, states frankly. She encourages young students to audition for programs where they believe they have a good shot at a scholarship. Think about which summer programs tend to accept dancers with your training background, style and body type—or, as in Holmes’ case, programs that have already shown an interest in your dancing. Those are the ones that are most likely to entice you further by sending some money your way.

Even if you don’t need the financial assistance, earning a scholarship indicates that the school is especially interested in working with you. You are bound to receive quality attention and exposure at a program that is willing to cover some or all of your summer training costs. For schools affiliated with a company, a scholarship could also mean, as it did for Holmes, that the company’s artistic director views you as a potential company dancer.

Alexis Branagan is a dance writer based in Princeton, New Jersey.
























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Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's 'The Nutcracker.' Photo by Rich Sofranko

Catching a performance of The Nutcracker has long been a holiday tradition for many families. And now, more and more companies are adding sensory-friendly elements to specific shows in an effort to make the classic ballet inclusive to children and adults with special needs.

While the accommodations vary depending on the company, many are presenting shorter versions of the ballet with more relaxed theater rules. Additionally, lower sound and stage light levels during the performance, as well as trained staff on hand, make The Nutcracker more accessible for those on the autism spectrum and others with special needs.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's performance will take place on Tuesday, December 26th, and they are one of the pioneer companies in presenting sensory-friendly performances of The Nutcracker (their first production was in 2013). PBT also offers sensory-friendly versions of Jorden Morris' Peter Pan and Lew Christensen's Beauty and the Beast throughout the year.

See our list of sensory-friendly performances, and check out each site for all of the details regarding their offerings.

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Your Best Body
Pilates hundred intermediate set-up, modeled by Jordan Miller. Photo by Emily Giacalone.

The Pilates hundred is a popular exercise used by many dancers for conditioning and warming up, but it's also one of the most misunderstood. Pumping your arms for 100 counts sounds simple enough, but it requires coordinated breathwork, a leg position that suits your abilities and proper alignment. Marimba Gold-Watts, who works with New York City Ballet dancers at her Pilates studio, Articulating Body, breaks down this surprisingly hard exercise. When done correctly, the benefits are threefold: "If you're doing it before class," she says, "the hundred is a great way to get your blood flowing and work on breath control and abdominal support all at once."

To Start

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Nod your chin toward the front of your throat, and reach your fingertips long.

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Pointe Stars

At just 16 years old, the Bolshoi Ballet's Maria Alexandrova already had the makings of a great artist. In this variation from Coppélia, she portrays the carefree Swanilda with blithe, youthful ease.

When she bounds on stage in her perky pink tutu, you immediately notice her legs–they just go on forever. In the first sequence of steps she keeps her jetés and développés low, but then the phrase repeats and she lets her gorgeous extensions fly. She sails through Italian fouettés and whirls around in piqués en manège that get faster and faster. While she nails all the virtuosic movement, Alexandrova also pays beautiful attention to detail throughout the variation. Even the simplest steps become something exciting, like her precise pas de bourrées beginning at 1:03 that sing with musicality.

Swanilda has been one of Alexandrova's signature roles throughout her career. For a fun side by side, watch her perform the same variation almost 20 years later in this video. Although Alexandrova formally retired from the Bolshoi in February, she still performs frequently in Moscow and internationally as a guest artist. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!


Pointe Stars
Ingrid Silva and her dog, Frida Kahlo. Photo by Nathan Sayers for Pointe.

You're probably already following your favorite dancers on Instagram, but did you know that you can follow many of their dogs, too? We rounded up some of our favorite dog-centered accounts and hashtags to keep you pawsitively entertained (sorry, we can't help ourselves).

Cora and Maya (American Ballet Theatre's Sarah Lane and Luis Ribagorda)

Sarah Lane and Luis Ribagorda's pups Cora and Maya update their profile pretty frequently. Often accompanying Lane to the ABT studios, they can also be seen using tutus or piles of pink tights as dog beds.

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Pointe Stars
Vladislav Lantritov and Ekaterina Krysanova in "Taming of the Shrew." Photo by Alice Blangero, Courtesy Bolshoi Ballet.

If you haven't checked your local movie listings yet for this weekend, hop to it. The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema series and Fathom Events is broadcasting a performance of Jean-Christophe Maillot's The Taming of the Shrew to theaters nationwide on Sunday, November 19. (To see if it's playing near you and to purchase tickets, click here.) While the rest of the Bolshoi's cinema season features 19th- and 20th-century classics, The Taming of the Shrew gives audiences a chance to see the revered Moscow company in a thoroughly modern, 21st-century take on Shakespeare's famous play.

Aside from a limited run in New York City this July, American audiences have had little exposure to Maillot's 2014 production. To learn more, check out these two exclusive, behind-the-scenes webisodes below. Principal dancer Ekaterina Krysanova, who stars as the hotheaded Katharina, gives an intimate play-by-play of two major scenes in Act I. The first is her fiery rejection of three potential suitors (who all would prefer to marry Katharina's younger sister Bianca).

The second scene breaks down Katharina's first encounter with Petruchio (danced by the larger-than-life Vladislav Lantritov), the only man who seems to be able to challenge her. Here, too, we see the shrew's heart start to soften. (Don't miss her time-stopping attitude turn at 4:27.)

The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Series continues through June; for more details on upcoming screenings, click here.

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Smuin Ballet dancers Erica Felsch, Rex Wheeler, Mengjun Chen and Tessa Barbour in "White Christmas," choreographed by dancers Ben Needham-Wood and Michael Smuin. Photo by Keith Sutter, Courtesy Smuin Ballet.

Nutcracker-ed out? Or just can't get enough holiday ballets? These unique Nutcracker interpretations and non-Nutcracker productions will make your season bright.


The Hip Hop Nutcracker

Through December 30

Tchaikovsky's masterful Nutcracker score isn't just for classical ballet…

Hip Hop + a live DJ + an electric violinist unite in The Hip Hop Nutcracker, currently touring the U.S.

Familiar characters such Drosselmeyer, the Nutcracker, Mouse King and Marie (here called Maria-Clara) dance through an updated New York City storyline with choreography by Jennifer Weber, artistic director of the Brooklyn-based theatrical hip hop company Decadancetheatre.

Premiered in 2014, The Hip Hop Nutcracker is produced by New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

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