When San Francisco Ballet corps de ballet member Elizabeth Powell was a student, summer intensives were her way to explore the ballet world. Each July, she ventured out in search of new experiences. She attended Boston Ballet School, the School of American Ballet, Chautauqua Ballet and eventually San Francisco Ballet School—which ended up taking her year-round and later offering a company contract. Powell loved gaining new perspectives on her training and glimpses of life as a professional. “You have to learn so much so quickly because summer programs are only a few weeks,” she says. “That’s exactly what you do in a company—you get a few weeks to learn a new ballet.”

An intensive can offer unrivaled opportunities. With the right focus, you can radically transform your technique. Or, like Powell, you could find your future job. But that all depends on how much you put into the program. Unlike at home, where you’re surrounded by a network of support, you are the only person in charge of how your summer goes.

List Your Goals

In addition to a packing list, write down everything you want to accomplish this summer. What weaknesses do you need to address? Think back to why you selected the program you’re attending. Perhaps you’re trying to master a new style, or want to strengthen your feet by wearing pointe shoes during technique class. If you clearly define your expectations, you’ll be more likely to see concrete improvement. Bring the list with you and refer back to it periodically—and let yourself modify it if your goals change. It will refocus you whenever you get distracted by a bad rehearsal or a noisy roommate.

Attract Attention

In every class there’s a student the teacher loves—and she’s not always the most talented. Usually, this dancer is simply rewarding to work with. Teachers instinctively focus their attention where they feel they’ll make the most impact. Marjorie Grundvig, codirector of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School, says she gravitates toward students who are “motivated, focused and who pick up combinations and the corrections associated with them quickly.” This means every correction—not just those directed at you. When a teacher does correct you, accept the advice and try not to get frustrated. “Even if you’re struggling, show a desire to achieve and ask questions,” advises Grundvig. Thoughtful questions indicate that you’re engaged and willing to work. Don’t be afraid to approach a teacher after class for one-on-one advice.

Speak Up for What You Want

No one can read your mind. If you’re interested in staying year-round, say so. A good first stop is the office administrator: He or she will be able to tell you the school’s policy. You may need to make an appointment with the director, or put your name on a sign-up sheet. Seek out this information as soon as possible so the faculty has time to seriously consider you.

Don’t Sweat Level Placement

Stewing over the level you’re placed in doesn’t help you improve; it simply wastes time. Often, levels have more to do with grouping students who need to work on the same things, and less with who’s better than whom. “It’s not about age, or where dancers are in their regular school,” says Lynne Short, principal of the Ballet Austin Academy, “but what we feel they need to work on.” Most schools will adjust placement if it’s clear they’ve made a mistake. But if they don’t, trust their judgment and dive into the work, soaking up what your classes have to offer. It’s the only way you’ll be moved up next year.

Follow the Rules

It happens every summer: Someone misses curfew, or cuts a class, or does any number of irresponsible things. “A lot of kids get sent home, some on the very first day,” laments Short. The freedom of being on your own in a new city can be seductive. But behavior outside the studio counts more than you might think—no director wants to hire a troublemaker. Don’t let temptation tarnish your reputation.

Be Up Front About Injuries

Teachers always prefer to know about anything injured so they can help you work through it. If you don’t speak up for fear of appearing weak, you’re simply presenting yourself as a lesser dancer. Don’t tough it out—you could prolong your recovery time, or even cause long-term physical damage.

Network

The dancers you meet this summer could become lifelong friends. But they will definitely be resources. Your peers can offer invaluable insights about other schools and companies. Ask them what they love and hate about where they train. Share stories about the best performances you’ve seen. Just don’t lose focus. “Friends should be a great part of summer, but you can’t let the social aspect take over from your sole purpose of being there to dance,” says Grundvig.

Keep a Journal

Take a few minutes every night to chronicle the technical and artistic problems that came up that day—and their solutions. New teachers offer new advice. By writing it down you’ll absorb the information better. A journal doubles as a record of your progress. When you flip through it two weeks later, are you seeing the same correction repeatedly?

Learn From Your Competition

“Take advantage of observing the dancers you like,” says Grundvig. It’s easy to resent the girl who has it all, but don’t waste your time being jealous. Instead, ask yourself what makes that dancer so good. Analyze her movement, then apply what you learn to your own dancing.

Take Alternative Classes Seriously

Every class offering at your program is there to benefit your training. With repertoires growing more diverse every year, other genres offer an opportunity to prepare for company life—and to show off what you have to offer. You never know who will happen to be paying attention while you’re working on Graham contractions.

Get Noticed

Use this opportunity to open doors for your career. “You don’t want to be pushy, but you should get yourself out there and noticed,” says Powell. In a room full of promising dancers, no one is going to seek you out—it’s your responsibility to make your talent known. Stand in front for at least a few combinations every class to demonstrate confidence in your dancing. Be aware of the messages you are sending from head to toe. Avoid leotards with awkward shapes or multiple colors that distract from your line. Keep your hair neat. And while it may sound cheesy, remember to smile. Directors don’t hire sullen-looking technicians; they hire performers.

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Training Opportunities:

Top of the Class

Imagine learning from Paris Opéra Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and Maryinsky Ballet principals all in the same place. That’s precisely the premise of the International Ballet Masterclasses in Prague. The workshop, organized by English National Ballet senior principal Daria Klimentová, draws advanced students from around the world to study with a renowned faculty plucked from the highest ranks of top ballet companies.

Teachers: ABT’s Herman Cornejo, POB’s Nicolas Le Riche and Clairemarie Osta, the Maryinsky’s Daria Pavlenko, former Nederlands Dans Theater dancer Natasa Novotná, Hungarian National Ballet artistic director Tamás Solymosi and choreographer Christopher Hampson, among others.

Daily Schedule: One 90-minute ballet class, followed by a “virtuosity” class, and a rotation of pas de deux, contemporary and repertoire

Session One: August 6–11, 2012

Session Two: August 13–18, 2012

Levels: Candidates must be at the professional or semi-professional level, and at least 16 years old.

Enrollment: About 100 dancers per session

Location: National Theatre in Prague, Czech Republic

Application Deadline: July 6, 2012

Cost: $1,300 per session or $2200 for the whole program (including accommodations)

Website: balletmasterclass.com

Take a European Look-See

Want to dip a toe into Europe’s contemporary dance scene? You can explore the continent and advance your technique at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London. The school’s one-year independent study program allows students to curate a curriculum that best advances their professional goals. Choose from technique classes in Cunningham, Graham, Limón, classical ballet, release techniques and jazz, as well as choreography, Pilates, dance history and sound scores for dance. With no compulsory components, students can earn up to 120 credits by taking the classes they’re most interested in at a pace that suits their timetable. See trinitylaban.ac.uk.

Dance With the Stars, Under the Stars

The Vail International Dance Festival brings top dance talent to Colorado every summer. In addition to the popular star-studded performances at its outdoor amphitheater, the festival also hosts a series of lesser-known offstage events. Advanced and intermediate dancers are invited to take master classes in everything from tap to tango—and ballet. Last year, New York City Ballet’s Daniel Ulbricht taught a class. You can also dance alongside artistic director Damian Woetzel and festival artists during the program’s

interactive Dancing In The Streets nights, where anyone can join the dancers in Vail Village. The 2012 program runs July 29 to August 11. See vaildance.org.

An Extra Week of Summer

No matter how long their summer intensive runs, many dancers still want more. Take an extra week to brush up on your Italian style this August with Cecchetti USA’s one-week program, which features guest teacher Evelyn Cisneros-Legate, a former principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet who now heads Boston Ballet School’s Marblehead location. Dancers don’t need to be familiar with the Cecchetti method to attend, but must have at least three years of ballet training.

Dates: August 5–11, 2012

Registration Deadline: June 1, 2012

Location: University of California, Santa Barbara

Classes: Cecchetti technique, pointe, variations, pas de deux, evening lectures

Tuition: $575, plus $395 for room and board

Website: cecchettiusa.org/summer-school

Technique Tip:

“Never doubt yourself when you’re executing a step. Whether you’re onstage alone, next to a huge star or in the corps de ballet, if you convince yourself that you’re a prima ballerina, your movement will take on the confidence of one.”

Melissa Hamilton, The Royal Ballet

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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