When Pacific Northwest Ballet School student Madison Abeo was accepted into San Francisco Ballet School’s summer session on a partial scholarship, she was thrilled. But then she added up the remaining cost for the program and realized she didn’t have the funds. “I really wanted to go,” she says, “but we just couldn’t make the other half of it work.”

Ballet training is expensive. For many families, a trip to a dream summer intensive simply isn’t in the budget. SFB was $2,500 out of Abeo’s reach. But she was determined. At the suggestion of her aunt, Abeo created a Facebook fan page where she asked for opportunities to babysit or perform odd jobs, and included a link to a PayPal account where friends and family could make donations. Two local dancewear businesses, Vala Dancewear and Class Act Tutu, offered to outfit her for fundraising photos, which a photographer took for her Facebook page for free. By June, Abeo had raised enough for tuition—plus plenty of pointe shoes.

Affording your dream intensive isn’t as difficult as you might think. There are a surprising number of eager dance supporters out there. Case in point: On Kickstarter, dance projects have the highest success rate of any type of campaign, with dancers receiving over $4 million in donations through the site since it began. You can also apply for need- or merit-based grants and scholarships, either through your summer program or an outside foundation. Most dancers who want it badly enough can make it happen.

Take Your Cause to the (Online) Streets

The concept of crowdfunding, or accumulating donations from many small sponsors, isn’t new, but the internet has revolutionized its potential. While the most famous site, Kickstarter, is meant for groups and specific projects, sites like Indiegogo, GoFundMe and RocketHub allow individuals to launch campaigns for almost anything.

To crowdfund your summer, sign up on a site, set a funding goal and deadline and write a personal statement. (Most sites include tutorials on how to use their particular setup most effectively.) On some sites, you must reach your goal to receive any of the money your supporters have pledged, but on most, the donated funds are deposited directly into your bank account regardless of whether you meet your goal.

Showing your personality on your donation profile is key. Upload photos and maybe even a video about your summer goals. Most of all, show your gratitude. Offer something to sponsors in return for their donations, such as a weekly update email about your experience at the intensive. If you’re hesitant to ask for donations, ask for jobs like Abeo did. And don’t be afraid to tell everyone you know about your page, both through social media and in person. Ultimately, Abeo says that the majority of her funding came from people she knew.

Find Free Money (It’s Out There)
A number of foundations offer need- and merit-based scholarships that can be applied to any summer intensive. The Dance Council of North Texas, for example, offers more than 20 scholarships for summer intensives that are available to dancers anywhere in the country. Each month, the American Harlequin Corporation offers a $250 scholarship to four dancers who post their performance videos on its website. (See sidebar on page 108 for a list of opportunities.) Just be sure to check the application deadlines early—many fall in February and March.

To increase your chances of winning a grant or general scholarship, you should also look for local foundations and donors who support young artists. Metropolitan Ballet Academy student Sophie Lane, for example, attended Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet’s summer program on a full scholarship awarded by the local nonprofit Philadelphia Dance Access in 2011. Last summer she received free housing for American Ballet Theatre’s summer intensive through a New York City family who sponsors MBA students each summer. Check with the director and teachers at your home studio to see what opportunities they know about in your community.

Go Straight to the Source

In some cases, your chosen summer intensive can play a key role in your funding campaign. Some schools offer need-based financial aid you can apply for if your family qualifies. But almost every program also offers merit scholarships, which any student with enough talent can win. For these, schools look for more than killer technique—you must show that you’re a good investment. “When we pay a student’s tuition, it’s because we are looking at them long-term,” says Shelly Power, academy director at Houston Ballet Academy. Schools typically offer merit scholarships to dancers who show potential to be a good fit for their school, or even their company, in the future.

One of the best ways to increase your chances of earning a scholarship, according to Power, is to build a relationship with teachers and administrators. If the school is new to you, consider visiting and meeting them. “It shows a reciprocal interest,” says Power. Later at the audition, the administrators will remember you, and if you are a contender for a scholarship, that extra commitment might be what raises you to the top of the list.

Returning to an intensive where you’ve already had a great experience also increases your chances of earning a scholarship—and can boost the amount of that scholarship. “We invest slowly in students, to make sure they like it here as well,” says Power.

Some schools, like Canada’s National Ballet School, take a personal interest in helping students with their fundraising. Although NBS does not offer merit scholarships and first-time students are not eligible for summer financial aid, it provides fundraising models and ideas to students who request them, as well as written endorsements that students can share on their websites or in community newsletters. “We are certainly happy to provide letters of support that say, ‘This is a young person that we really believe deserves this opportunity,’” says Mavis Staines, artistic director of NBS. Just last summer, the school had several students who initially thought that they could not afford the program, but by getting creative—such as asking family and friends to donate unused air miles or hosting community garage sales—they were able to attend.  
Staines’ suggestion? “Pursue the program that you’re most excited about, and then money challenges generally can be worked out,” she says. “It’s amazing how creatively we can get through constraints.”

Ashley Rivers is a frequent contributor to Pointe.

It’s About More Than Technique...

When schools decide whom to award merit scholarships to, they consider a number of factors beyond technique. Here are three that can have a major impact on your chances at an audition.

Appearance: Studies show that people subconsciously form opinions about others within seven seconds of first seeing them. This means you must make a great impression before you even start dancing! A neat, secure hairstyle and a clean-cut, attractive leotard demonstrate respect for the school and a readiness to learn. 

If 90 percent of the dancers are in black leotards, don’t wear neon. “People think it gets noticed—and it does, but not for the right reasons,” says Melissa Bowman, assistant principal at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre. Don’t wear eye-catching clothes that could make you look like you’re desperate for attention—and possibly a troublemaker in the classroom. Bring extra supplies in your dance bag so you can change into a different look if necessary.

Responsibility: Bowman sees a surprising number of students at January auditions who have fallen out of shape over the winter break, which leads auditioners to wonder if the student will fall out of shape again before the intensive. Yawning or looking tired can make the adjudicators wonder if you’ll be able to handle five weeks at the school. Arrive alert and in shape to show that you’re ready to take on any challenge.

Personality: Auditioners look for students who are excited, eager to learn and happy to be at the audition. From the moment you step in the building, smile and be friendly with the audition organizers (you never know how much power they may have). “After you’ve seen so many dancers, your eye goes right to the dancer who listens. She’s someone we want to work with,” says Bowman. Once you reach the dance floor, show that you’re more than a technician—you’re an artist. Shelly Power, academy director at Houston Ballet Academy, says, “Students with that sparkle in their eyes, that deep involvement in their classwork—those people are going to rise to the top first.” —AR

Win a Scholarship!
These opportunities offer money that can be applied to almost any summer intensive.

Costume Gallery
Beverly Miller Scholarship: $500–$1,000
Number awarded: 19
Contact: info@costumegallery.net

Dance Council of North Texas
Natalie Skelton Scholarship: $1,000–$5,000
Number awarded: 1
Nathalie Krassovska Memorial Ballet Scholarship: $500–$1,000
Number awarded: 1
Contact: Pam Deslorieux,

Eurotard Dancewear
Annual Performing Arts Scholarship: $250–$500
Number awarded: 13
Contact: Mia Holtzman,

Harlequin Floors
Monthly Scholarship Video Contest: $250–$500
Number awarded: 4 per month
Contact: Karla Johnson,

Jessica Karrat Dance Scholarship Fund
Jessica Karrat Dance Scholarship: $500
Number awarded: A minimum of 1
Contact: Barb Klinger,

National YoungArts Foundation
YoungArts Award: Up to $10,000
Number awarded: Up to 700
Contact: Donna Lane Downey,

New York City Ballet in "George Balanchine's The Nutcracker." Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy Lincoln Center.

Nutcracker season is upon us, with productions popping up in on stages in big cities and small towns around the country. But this year you can catch New York City Ballet's famous version on the silver screen, too. Lincoln Center at the Movies and Screen Vision Media are presenting a limited engagement of NYCB's George Balanchine's The Nutcracker at select cinemas nationwide starting December 2. It stars Ashley Bouder as Dewdrop and Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz as the Sugarplum Fairy and Cavalier.

While nothing beats seeing a live performance (the company's theatrical Nutcracker run opens Friday), the big screen will no doubt magnify some of this production's most breathtaking effects: the Christmas tree that grows to an impressive 40 feet, Marie's magical spinning bed, and the stunning, swirling snow scene. Click here to find a participating movie theater near you—then, go grab some popcorn.

Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet rehearsing for "The Sleeping Beauty" for the 2017/18 season. Photo by Arian Molina Soca, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet.

Today the Pennsylvania Ballet's board of trustees announced the appointment of Shelly Power as its new executive director. Having been involved in the five-month international search, company artistic director Angel Corella said in a statement released by PAB that he's "certain Shelly is the best candidate to lead the administrative team that supports the artistic vision of the company." Power's official transition will begin in February. This news comes at the end of a few years of turmoil and turnover at PAB, including the departure of former executive director David Gray in June.

Keep reading... Show less
Pointe Stars
Tiler Peck with Andrew Veyette in "Allegro Brillante." Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy New York City Ballet.

"I was particularly excited when I saw my name on casting for Allegro Brillante in 2009," remembers principal dancer Tiler Peck. "Balanchine had said Allegro was, 'everything I know about classical ballet in 13 minutes,' and of course that terrified me." To calm her fear, Peck followed her regular process for debuts: begin by going back to the original performers to get an idea of the quality and feeling of the ballet and ballerina. "It is never to imitate, but rather to surround myself with as much knowledge from the past as I can so that I can find my own way," says Peck.

Keep reading... Show less
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.

Keep reading... Show less
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.

Keep reading... Show less
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.

Keep reading... Show less





Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox


Win It!