Camp Lessons

 

Now that all the summer dance programs are wrapping up, I've started thinking about my one experience going away to ballet sleepaway camp when I was 15.  I've always been something of a homebody, and I was really nervous about going away for eight weeks.  My coach at the time convinced me that it was a good idea, though, so off I went, moving into an upstate New York college dormitory with what seemed like hundreds of girls and about five boys.

 

Being away from home was not the only thing I had to get used to.  We were dancing about six hours a day, starting with a two-hour technique class in the morning, followed by an hourlong variations, pointe, etc. class.  Then lunch, a break, and three more classes or rehearsals.  It was hard, and the studios and dorms weren't air-conditioned.  All I could think about most days was how hot and sweaty and tired I was, and trying to do everything right so that I wouldn't incur the wrath of our strict teachers.  I didn't always succeed, and I remember being shamed in front of a whole studio of dancers when I kept getting a step wrong in rehearsal.  It was much more embarrassing getting scolded in front of a roomful of people I didn't really know and was trying to impress than it was at home with my friends.  I think I spent a lot of time being homesick, and I made my parents come visit me as often as they could on the weekends.

 

Even though it sounds like I was miserable the entire time, camp was actually pretty fun.  I made some nice friends, had a lot of laughs, and ate a lot of pecan pie (don't ask).  While I was at camp, I was so consumed with the experience of my first time away from home that I didn't even notice how much my technique had improved.  All that dancing had lengthened my muscles, and I got stronger and more confident.  My coach definitely noticed when I returned and started taking classes with her again.  I realized then that change happens so slowly in ballet that the actual process of improvement is not very noticeable, but one day, you look in the mirror while doing a combination and you notice how much nicer your lines have gotten.  I ended up being happy that I had gone away to ballet camp, since it helped me learn the patience and diligence that is necessary to achieve real improvement.  However, I also learned that it's important to have fun along the way, and keep yourself open to new experiences--in dance and in life. 

Latest Posts


Vikki Sloviter

Sydney Dolan Takes Center Stage at Pennsylvania Ballet

This is Pointe's Summer 2020 cover story. You can subscribe to the magazine here, or click here to purchase this issue.

Just days before the world shuttered under the strain of the coronavirus pandemic, and the curtain came down indefinitely on dance companies everywhere, Pennsylvania Ballet soloist Sydney Dolan debuted Gamzatti in La Bayadère with captivating ease. Her jumps soared, her technique was sound, and her cheeky smile paired with exquisite port de bras was beguiling. Though she didn't know the company would soon cancel the remainder of its season, her beautiful performance acted as a kind of send-off into the unknown.

Dolan's career could be described in one word: charmed. At just 19 years old, she's flown through the ranks at PAB, debuted a long list of roles, won a Princess Grace Award and been named one of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch." Yet it's her challenges that have shaped not only her training but her outlook, giving her a solid foundation for becoming one of Pennsylvania Ballet's rising stars.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
VAM/Siggul, Courtesy YAGP

YAGP Has Announced the Winners of the 2020 Pas De Deux Virtual Competition

Last weekend, Youth America Grand Prix took to the internet, hosting its first virtual pas de deux competition. Over the course of three days, YAGP streamed videos from its regional events' highest-ranked competitors for a panel of esteemed judges. And, drum roll please... YAGP has just announced the winners, spanning three categories: Senior Classical, Junior Classical and Contemporary.

You can watch the full virtual awards ceremony, hosted by YAGP director of external affairs Sergey Gordeev, below, or scroll down for the list of winners. And if you're missing the thrill of competition, don't fear: Gordeev announced that registration for the 2021 season will open on July 10, with both in-person and virtual options available.

Congratulations to all!

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT

Defining and Refining Musicality: How to Tune In and Develop Your Artistic Voice

Ask a hundred people what musicality is, and you're likely to get a hundred different answers. "Musicality is where an artist's personality shines brightest," says Smuin Contemporary Ballet member Ben Needham-Wood. For American Ballet Theatre soloist Skylar Brandt, "it's what distinguishes one dancer from another. It helps me express myself more vividly and emotionally."

Teachers encourage it, directors seek it out and dancers who possess it bring choreography to life in compelling ways. But what exactly is musicality, and how can dancers get more of it?

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks