Looking to maximize your summer training? Then keep your calendar open in August. Aside from the plethora of standard five- and six-week programs, August “mini-intensives” have started popping up within the last few years. More streamlined than a typical summer course, these one- to three-week sessions give dancers an extra edge. Some polish your technique with in-depth coaching, some hone a specific style and others immerse you in repertoire and performances. While each has a different focus, they’re all intentionally smaller and geared towards students on the cusp of a professional career. And they can help you start off the fall a step ahead.

Putting the “Intense” in Intensive
These shorter intensives are not for the faint of heart. Kaatsbaan’s three-week Extreme Ballet program in upstate New York enrolls only 35 students. After a combined technique class each morning, dancers split into groups for pointe and partnering, and then even smaller groups—fewer than 10 students—for detailed coaching sessions. These give students an opportunity to focus intensely on aspects of their technique that they wouldn’t normally have time for in a regular ballet class. “We can get very specific,” says director Martine van Hamel. “Often we’ll work on running or walking—in a contemporary way or a classical way, as a swan or as a person. Or we’ll work on pirouettes or port de bras—whatever I feel they need.”


 

“You never get to really work on ballet runs in class, but they’re one of the hardest things to do!” says 17-year-old Karen Moscato of Princeton, NJ, who attended last year’s intensive. “I realized I was running all wrong, but now I can do it quite well.”

 

The intimate class size is another bonus. “A lot of attention is focused on individuals,” says Moscato. “You can be seen by teachers like American Ballet Theatre director Kevin McKenzie.”

 

Philadelphia’s Rock School offers one-week Coaching Intensives in June and August for approximately 30 students. The faculty splits dancers into two levels for technique, pointe, men’s class and Pilates. The latter part of the day includes an hour-and-a-half coaching session with video analysis, where
students perform short exercises across the floor, two at a time, while teachers videotape them.

 

“They watch themselves and say, ‘Oh! I see it now!’ ” says Stephanie Wolf Spassoff, who directs the intensive along with her husband, Bojan Spassoff. “The video reinforces the corrections we’ve been giving. They see it and it clicks.” Themes for analysis might include jumps, turns or even pas de bourée. “The goal is to get to the nitty-gritty that they don’t get in class,” says Wolf Spassoff. “It’s not about the tricks, the 32 fouettés. It’s about breaking everything down, making it cleaner and better.”

 

“Although,” Bojan Spassoff adds, “by breaking it down, you have a much easier time getting to the 32 fouettés!”
   
Performance Opportunities

Some mini-intensives give dancers a chance to enhance their performance skills. At Nutmeg Conservatory’s Apprentice Program, which offers two weeks of classes, rehearsals and performances, “the atmosphere is more like a dance company,” says principal Ronald Alexander. While Nutmeg’s other summer courses break students into smaller groups, the Apprentice Program keeps students together for their morning classes, with the exception of pointe and men’s class. “Then the rest of the afternoon is repertoire, repertoire, repertoire,” says Alexander.  

 

The dancers learn classical and neoclassical variations, original choreography and contemporary works by choreographers such as Momix’s Moses Pendleton. Last year, rehearsals culminated in a performance at Jacob’s Pillow’s Inside/Out stage. “It was the highlight of the summer to perform at such an internationally renowned venue as Jacob’s Pillow,” says Alexander. “We hope to do it every year.”

 

“The program attracts mature students looking to supplement their summer training or prepare for auditions,” he continues. “They want to participate because the idea resembles a professional company.”

Exploring a Different Style
Other programs simply offer a quick immersion in a particular technique. Ballet Chicago’s Advanced Intensive, for instance, attracts students curious to explore the Balanchine style. The two-week course includes a rigorous daily schedule of technique, pointe, variations, pas de deux and men’s class. The intensive also partially functions as an audition period for those interested in Ballet Chicago’s year-round studio company, which performs Balanchine ballets as well as new choreography. “It’s not exclusively an audition,” says artistic director Daniel Duell, “but it does give us a chance to see what students have artistically and technically and a sense of how they are to work with.”


 

At Ballet Chicago and other August intensives, the majority of dancers enrolled arrive fresh off a six-week program. To avoid burnout or injury, dancers must be smart and listen to their bodies. “I wouldn’t recommend going for more than six weeks unless you’re older and truly want to be a professional,” says van Hamel. 

 

Moscato, who trained for nine straight weeks last summer, knows the feeling firsthand. “I was exhausted, but it was worth it,” she says. “I’ve gotten so much better, and it prepared me for the company experience, where I’ll always be working that hard.”
   
Amy Brandt is Pointe’s Ask Amy columnist.




Elizabeth Abbick as the Snow Queen in Butler Ballet's "Nutcracker." Photo by Brent Smith, Courtesy Abbick.

Pointe caught up with three college dancers last spring to see what it's like juggling ballet, academics and a social life on campus. First up is Elizabeth Abbick, a student at Jordan College of the Arts, Butler University getting her BFA in dance performance and her BA in mathematics.

Abbick studying in the library. Photo by Jimmy Lafakis for Pointe.

Leawood, Kansas, native Elizabeth Abbick faced some tough choices her senior year of high school. Equally talented in math and ballet, she wanted a professional dance career but also desired to plan her post-performance life. "Butler University had always been on my radar because I knew the faculty was stellar and the students are the best of the best. I realized it could offer me both worlds," she says. Now a senior majoring in dance performance and mathematics, she hopes to work on the business side of the ballet world after her stage career.

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popular

If you're in the NYC area and are in need of weekend plans, you might want to consider heading to the Film Society of Lincoln Center to see Jean-Stéphane Bron's documentary, The Paris Opéra. While the film was originally released in France this past spring, it just made its way to the US on October 18th, and it chronicles the 2015-2016 season at the Paris Opera.

Encompassing the entire institution (which was founded in 1669 by King Louis XIV!), dancers will particularly enjoy an inside look at the Paris Opéra Ballet—both in rehearsals and onstage. Most notably, Bron captures the then POB director Benjamin Millepied as he decides to leave his position with the company barely a year after his appointment.

Check out the full trailer below, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center's full listing of showtimes here.

Your Training
Thinkstock.

Bianca Bulle was always prone to ankle sprains. When she was 18, her recoveries became more complicated: She started experiencing Achilles tendonitis due to muscle weakness and fluid buildup in the ankle. "The last thing to get back to normal would be my Achilles, which was so incredibly tight and painful," says Bulle, now a principal at Los Angeles Ballet.

The Achilles is the body's largest tendon, attaching the bottom of the calf muscles to the back of the heel. It contracts and releases as you relevé and plié, as well as when you jump and even walk. Tendonitis, or inflammation, of the Achilles is one of the most frequently reported overuse injuries among active people, according to the American Physical Therapy Association. You'll know it by the pain or tightness at the back of the heel. If the condition gets bad enough, the tendon can rupture, which requires surgery to fix.

Achilles tendonitis is especially common among dancers on pointe, but it's not inevitable. With rest and proper conditioning, you can work to avoid it with careful technique and a commitment to cross-training.


Boston Ballet School pre-professional students. Photo by Igor Burlak Photography, Courtesy Boston Ballet.

What Causes It?

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New York City Ballet in Marc Chagall's costume designs for Balanchine's "Firebird."

I am a self-confessed costume nerd who really needs little persuasion to travel nearly 3,000 miles to see a costume exhibition—which is what I did when I set off for California for the new exhibition at Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage. I knew Marc Chagall primarily for his sumptuous blue swirling paintings featuring violin-playing goats, his incredible ceiling at the Paris Opéra's Palais Garnier, and murals at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, so I was intrigued to see his work with ballet.

Marc Chagall (1887–1985), was born Moishe Zakharovich Shagal in Belarus. He later moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, to study art, apprenticing under famed Ballets Russes designer Leon Bakst. Chagall's work in ballet and opera, however, did not begin until he and his wife Bella arrived in the U.S. as World War II refugees in 1941.

Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage, adapted from an earlier exhibition at the Montreal Music of Art and curated by Yuval Sharon and Jason H. Thompson, is an exciting opportunity to see 41 costumes and nearly 100 designs. But it is the costumes that really steal the show. You won't see any tutus here, but instead amazing, almost cartoon-like realizations of Chagall's artwork. LACMA's exhibition runs through January 7, 2018. For those of you who can't make the trip like I did, here's a rundown of highlights.

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Tiler Peck in "Who Cares?". Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck and Emmy-winning actress Elisabeth Moss (of Mad Men and Handmaid's Tale fame) may seem like unlikely friends, until you dig a little deeper into their backgrounds. Both attended Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica and spent summers at the School of American Ballet in their youths. Moss and Peck's career paths diverged when the former fell in love with acting and Peck went on to study at SAB full time, eventually becoming the star we know today. Now, the pairs' artistic pursuits are uniting in an exciting new project.

According to Deadline.com, Moss will produce a documentary featuring Peck and her work curating BalletNOW, last summer's star-studded, critically acclaimed program at Los Angeles's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Peck was the first woman to lead BalletNOW's programming, and she brought together dancers from companies including The Royal Ballet, Miami City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and the Paris Opéra Ballet, putting them on stage with tappers, clowns and break dancers (sometimes simultaneously).


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Your Best Body

Looking for creative and healthy ways to get your pumpkin fix this fall? First, back away from the pumpkin-spiced latte—the season's unofficial drink is often laced with sugary syrup and comes with a complimentary mid-rehearsal crash. Instead, try these simple snacks with puréed pumpkin. It's high in beta-carotene, which converts to immunity-boosting vitamin A, and is a good source of vitamin K, iron and fiber. You can buy it canned or make the purée from a "sugar" or "pie" pumpkin (they're commonly available at grocery stores or farm markets).

Fruit-and-Spice Toast

- Spread purée onto whole-grain toast.

- Top with sliced pear.

- Add a dash of cinnamon.

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Pointe Stars

When Maya Plisetskaya first toured abroad with the Bolshoi Ballet, she stunned the world. Her dramatic and technical abilities were far beyond what anyone outside the Soviet Union had seen before. She quickly became an icon, symbolizing Russian ballet.

Plisetskaya was the perfect ballerina to play the Tsar Maiden in The Little Humpbacked Horse when choreographer Alexander Radunsky and composer Rodion Shchedrin recreated the classic Russian folktale in the 1960s. This vintage clip of the ballet offers a glimpse into an era gone by. Although ballet technique has advanced since then, Plisetskaya's performance is still electrifying. She is daring and agile in her manèges and fouettés, while she shows gentle purity and authentic emotion in the pas de deux with the wide-eyed Ivan. Even half a century later, this magnificent artist continues to transfix us with her radiant presence onstage. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!


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