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.


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.


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

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.

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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