Eighteen-year-old Sarah Patterson (foreground), with her classmates at New Ballet School. She's decided to stay home this summer to take advantage of outdoor, in-person classes. Courtesy New Ballet School.

Why Planning Summer Study This Year Is More Complicated Than Ever

When it comes to navigating summer intensives, 2021 may be more complicated for ballet students than last year. On the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic's spring spike in 2020, summer programs went all-virtual or had very limited capacity. This year is more of a mixed bag, with regulations and restrictions varying widely across state and county lines and changing week by week.

Between vaccines and variants, can students aim for a full calendar of intensive training at local and national summer programs?

In-Studio Classes, Lower Enrollment

Many schools affiliated with major companies are finding ways to make in-person intensives possible, with some offering housing. However, they're doing so at smaller scales to enable social distancing. For instance, at San Francisco Ballet School, administrators have decreased enrollment by 25 percent compared to normal years. Boston Ballet School's Summer Dance Program is expecting to land at two-thirds enrollment overall in both its classes and housing, as compared to a non-pandemic year. While in-person classes are a big improvement from last year, smaller enrollment at major schools means that a large number of students can't be accommodated.

This stressful situation may be heightened by waitlists for those coveted in-person slots. "Yes, waitlists are longer. That said, we've never used one before, so we don't have a good comparison to base that off of," confirms Dave Czesniuk, managing director of Boston Ballet School, over email. "We are sensing a lot of 'wait and see' from the population. We won't be allotting any additional acceptances, since we filled our enrollment and waitlist so fast."

Luckily, the pandemic uncertainty has also meant that some programs are announcing plans later and still hosting auditions through April and May—check out Pointe's Summer Study Guide, which is regularly updated.

In a large dance studio, a female dance student in practice clothes and a blue face mask kneels on her left leg and holds her hand to her heart. Next to her on the right, a young male student in track pants, a blue mask and a fleece vest stands in parallel and holds his hands to his heart. They both look at their reflection in the mirror (not shown).

Students from Interlochen Center for the Arts in rehearsal

Courtesy Interlochen Center for the Atrs

Should You Go In-Person or Virtual?

Many top-tier intensives, like the ones mentioned above, will offer a combination of in-person training and virtual classes (expanding the latter as a contingent plan if outbreaks occur). Smaller, bubble-like programs are also worth considering, and may be more conducive for social distancing, whether commuter-based or residential. For example, Michigan's Interlochen Center for the Arts, which is offering a virtual option and on-site programs, has outdoor studios, cabin-style housing spaced out on a wooded campus and regular testing.

Other schools are only offering virtual intensives. For example, American Ballet Theatre is not holding in-person programming at its Southern California location and is waiting for more information from its Texas, Florida and Alabama university partners before deciding whether those will be in-person. (The New York City intensive, also still tentative, does not offer housing.)

Zimmi Coker poses next to a laptop showing a ballet Zoom class and smiles brightly for the camera. She wears her red hair in a low bun and a mint green tank top.

American Ballet Theatre corps member Zimmi Coker teaching during ABT's Virtual Young Dancer Summer Workshop in 2020

Courtesy Coker

There are pros and cons to each type of intensive, and you should take into account your current training and career goals, as well as safety, when deciding which to attend. For example, younger students, with their shorter attention spans, may be best served at a program that lets them train in person, so that they can take a full class through grand allégro and receive in-person, dedicated corrections.

Alternately, older students often see summer sessions as a chance to get in front of a director and potentially earn a traineeship or apprentice contract down the road. Joseph Morrissey, dance director at Interlochen Center for the Arts, acknowledges that his older students looking to train away from home this summer may feel pressure to network at company-attached programs. But while vaccines may be possible for students over the age of 16 by summertime, he says, he wants them to be vigorous in selecting an intensive for its safety protocols. "I would never sacrifice safety over networking."

Kate Lydon, director of ABT's summer intensives, notes that virtual intensives can be a great place to safely network. She points out that ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School director Cynthia Harvey, ABT Studio Company director Sascha Radetsky and ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie will be teaching at all of the company's two-week virtual intensives—and confirms they will be keeping an eye out for new talent. "These three see more students over Zoom than they normally would because usually they would only be present at our New York program."

Staying Local

This summer may see more dancers staying close to home. Elizabeth Hutter, principal at New Ballet School in San Jose, California, is leery of sending her students to in-person residential programs due to the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak. "What might look sure right now might be unsafe in two weeks," she says. Her dancer daughter, 18-year-old Sarah Patterson, has decided to stay home this summer to take advantage of in-person classes at the New Ballet School's outdoor studio.

Katie Slattery, a faculty member at The Florida Ballet, is seeing a similar trend and says this is a genuine concern for families. "Most of our advanced year-round students who typically go away to an intensive are enrolling here for summer because their parents don't want to send them away due to COVID."

Hutter also notes that many families have been economically impacted by the pandemic, making a residential program—or finding housing if it's not provided—financially challenging. She adds that some schools are charging just as much for their virtual sessions, and that not all families have the same access to at-home training accommodations, like wide space and portable flooring. If your family isn't in a position to pay for full-priced programs, training at your local studio may be the more economical fit with the lowest health risk.

Outside on a tennis court, a female ballet student in a pink sweater and gray sweatshorts practices cambr\u00e9 back at a portable barre. Behind her in the the distance is her male instructor, wearing a face mask and workout clothes, who watches her and holds his right arm up to mimic hers.

Interlochen Center for the Arts dance director Joseph Morrissey teaches an outdoor class on campus.

Courtesy Interlochen Center for the Arts

Design Your Own Hybrid Curriculum

To get the best of both studio training and national networking, Lydon suggests combining in-person and virtual programs, if possible. For instance, you could start or end your summer with a short virtual session and also attend a local, socially distanced one.

If that's not an option, keep in mind that the wealth of online training resources, from master classes to cross-training to at-home technique and pointe classes, is likely to continue into 2021. While a smattering of Instagram and YouTube classes can't replace a dedicated training schedule and live teacher corrections, strategically selected virtual classes may help supplement your local training.

Morrissey's advice is to keep everything in perspective. Understand that many students are in the same boat this year, and one summer won't make or break your career if you keep dancing and stay positive. "At the end of the day, the art form is not going anywhere," he says. "It's on maybe a little bit of a pause, it's not fun, it's not comfortable, but we will come back."

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Chris Hardy, Courtesy LINES

Check Out These 2021 Summer Intensives Especially for Adults

After a year of shuttered studios, virtual-only classes, and waving to ballet buddies over Zoom, summer intensives are back. For adult students, packing up for a few days of intensive training might seem like a pipe dream, as many of us spent the last year trying to fit in ballet classes while juggling work and, for those of us with kids, remote learning. With the country opening up again, let's start planning (safely!) for workshops that allow us to jump into technique, conditioning and, of course, high-elbowing some new friends.

For in-person intensives, please check the studio's website for detailed health and safety guidelines, including policies on masks, cleaning/hygiene, social distancing, and the policy on having to cancel in-person programs due to COVID-19 restrictions.


Alonzo King LINES Ballet Adult Dance Intensive (virtual only, via Zoom)

May 28–31, San Francisco

Immerse yourself in the celebrated home of Alonzo King, the artistic visionary who created LINES 39 years ago. Now in its second year as a virtual offering, this four-day workshop includes ballet, yoga, Pilates, choreography and contemporary. Students also have the option to drop in to class if they can't commit to all four days.


Lexington Ballet Adult Ballet Intensive

July 12–16, Lexington

Why should thoroughbreds have all the fun of training in the horse capital of the world? Reach new heights in your training at Lexington Ballet's Adult Ballet Intensive. Join school directors Luis and Nancy Dominguez and principal instructor Ayoko Lloyd for a five-day workshop that includes conditioning, Pilates, technique and repertoire. All classes are held in the evenings, and the program welcomes beginning through advanced students.

A group of eight smiling adult ballet students\u2014seven women and one man in the middle\u2014pose in a line and stand on their right leg in tendu crois\u00e9 devant.

A group of dancers pose at a past Lexington Ballet Adult Dance Intensive.

Ayoko Lloyd, Courtesy Lexington Ballet

Louisville Ballet Adult Summer Intensive

May 31–June 4, Louisville

Polish off a glass of sweet tea (or two), and then work up a sweet sweat at Louisville Ballet's Adult Summer Intensive. Geared towards beginning through advanced levels, students ages 18+ can take part in half- or full days of training. Classes offered include technique, pointe and jump strengthening, modern, Pilates and yoga. Students will also perform in a livestreamed performance on the final day.


Brookline Ballet School Adult Summer Ballet Intensive

June 23–27, Brookline

The Red Sox and New England Patriots may get a bulk of the glory in Beantown, but the city is also a mecca for ballet. At Brookline Ballet School's Adult Summer Ballet Intensive, students (beginner or intermediate level) will spend three weeknights and two weekend mornings in technique and repertoire classes, wrapping up with an informal performance on Sunday afternoon.


Kat Wildish Presents (virtual, via Zoom)

June 14–25 and July 12–23

Join master ballet teacher Kat Wildish in a virtual intensive that aims to take your training to the next level. Each day, in one-hour classes, Kat will lead students of all levels from basic to advanced in various ballet exercises. The group will be limited to 20 dancers, so each person will get personal attention.

A group of older adult ballet students in leotards, tights or leggings, stand in two lines with their left foot in B+ position and holding hands, as if rehearsing a ballet.

Kat Wildish (far left) working with adult students at Peridance Capezio Center

Matthew Venanzi, Courtesy Kat Wildish


artÉmotion Adult Ballet Summer Workshop

June 14–19, Cleveland

Head to the Buckeye State for a week of training under the tutelage of Ballet West first soloist Allison DeBona and principal Rex Tilton. In this Adult Ballet Summer Workshop, beginner and intermediate/advanced students will fine-tune their skills in two classes every morning: a 90-minute technique class followed by a one-hour class in one of the following disciplines: pointe/pre-pointe, acting, men's and women's variations, conditioning.


Amy Novinski

May 24–28 and June 28–July 2, Philadelphia

Those interested in the Vaganova technique may want to check out Amy Novinski's Adult Workshops. For the five-day May workshop, newbie dancers can look forward to classes devoted to ballet, jazz and yoga. For those more advanced, the June workshop offers more rigorous technique, contemporary ballet, pre-pointe/beginner pointe and jazz.


Ballet Academy of Charleston Adult Summer Intensive

July 26–30 and August 2–6, Charleston

Embrace the low-country charm in historic Charleston, where a weeklong Adult Summer Intensive at the Ballet Academy of Charleston invites beginning through advanced students to take classes in technique, stretching/Pilates/yoga, pre-pointe or pointe (for advanced students), variations, jazz, modern, contemporary and choreography. You may choose the half-day or full-day program.


Houston Ballet Adult Intensive

June 1–5, Houston

For intermediate/advanced students with at least three years of ballet training, Houston Ballet's Adult Intensive might be the perfect place to hone your skills. The school has two-, three- or five-day options, and includes ballet technique, variations, yoga and Zumba.


May 31–June 5, Salt Lake City

Ballet West welcomes students of all levels to artÉmotion's one-week Adult Ballet Summer Intensive. Classes include ballet, contemporary, pointe, jazz, modern, acting, and men and women's variations. Available in full-day or half-day options, those dancing only in the morning will take two 90-minute technique classes. The full-day experience offers the opportunity to be choreographed on for an in-studio performance on Saturday, June 5. All students will also have a professional dance photo shoot with Logan Sorenson.

A group of four men in dance practicewear face the right corner of the room and raise their arm as if beckoning someone. Three of the men stand in parallel, which the man in the middle sits in a wheelchair.

A men's class at artÉmotion Adult Summer Ballet Intensive

Logan Sorenson, Courtesy artÉmotion


The August Ballet Retreat in Leeds

August 28–30, Leeds, UK

The three-day August Ballet Retreat in Leeds offers classes for students of all abilities. The mornings are devoted to technique, and in the afternoon, students will focus on repertoire. In the past, The Ballet Retreat has taught solos from Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet and Giselle. One detail is still tentative: If the retreat is unable to take place in person due to the pandemic, it will be offered virtually over Zoom.

Morlaix International Adult Ballet Camp

July 2–10, Morlaix, France

The Morlaix International Adult Ballet Camp is in the heart of France's Brittany region. In this full-day intensive, intermediate through advanced-level students will be led by an international faculty. Dancers can look forward to morning ballet classes and rehearsals in the afternoon. The week of training wraps up with a performance of Bournonville's Napoli at a nearby theater. Please contact the school for information about room and board.

Still shot by cinematographer Benjamin Tarquin, Courtesy Post:ballet

10 Online Ballet Performances to Catch in April

Spring is in full bloom with another round of exciting digital dance offerings. This month, companies across the country are releasing world premieres, season finales, artistic collaborations and more. We've rounded up some highlights below.

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Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan, photographed by Jayme Thornton for Pointe

Join Us for a Q&A With Pacific Northwest Ballet's Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan on April 22

Simply put, Pacific Northwest Ballet's Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan is a dazzling performer—we couldn't take our eyes off of her when she danced the lead pas de deux from "Rubies" during an online company performance in October. In our March/April digital cover story, PNB artistic director Peter Boal describes the 23-year-old corps member as having a "go-for-broke presence, a gutsiness." We couldn't agree more—and after our photo shoot, we can also say that she's as charming in person as she is onstage. After training in her hometown of Philadelphia, Ryan followed her instincts to Seattle, where she's thriving in exciting roles.

Now you can have a chance to hear more about Ryan's training and career path, ask for her advice, and much more in our exclusive virtual conversation! Click here to register for free with your questions. Then join us for a Q&A with Sarah Gabrielle-Ryan on Thursday, April 22, at 4 pm Eastern/1 pm Pacific.

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