Congratulations! You've made it through audition season and have decided which summer intensive to attend. (Don't worry if you're not there yet—that day is just around the corner.) We asked faculty from The Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory what to do in the months leading up to your intensive so you can get the most out of it:


Self-Evaluate and Set Goals

Courtesy Nutmeg

In the next few months, think about what you want to get out of your summer program. Consider your strengths and weaknesses: What are the areas where you're looking to grow? It could be a specific aspect of your technique, a new style or just expanding your artistry outside the walls of your home studio.

Think beyond technique: Are you a shy person who might want to focus on making new friends? Or push yourself to form relationships with teachers? Give intentional thought to your goals ahead of time.

Prepare Your Body

Nutmeg alum and current Wonderbound dancer Benjamin Youngstone

Don Perdue, Courtesy Nutmeg

We've all been there: Pushing through an injury because we think it's part of becoming a dancer, or because we're afraid it will affect casting. But heading into a summer intensive with an injury won't allow you to have an optimal experience—and may even be dangerous.

Now is the time to do whatever is needed for diagnosis, repair and strengthening. "Even if it's something that won't be fully healed by the time you start a summer program, seeing a doctor ahead of time gives you the tools to manage it and the vocabulary to tell your teachers what you're experiencing," says Nutmeg artistic director Victoria Mazzarelli. "Our faculty understands the emotional toll that dealing with an injury takes on a dancer, which is one reason why we have on-site physical therapists."

Try to assess what your summer schedule will be and make sure you are prepared. At Nutmeg, dancers should plan to be in the studio from 10 am until 8 pm, with small breaks in between. Since this may be more than you're used to dancing in your home studio, Nutmeg ballet master Timothy Melady suggests students try to increase their stamina prior to their summer intensive by getting their heart rate up for a sustained period of time every day.

Especially if partnering is new for you, work on strength training before your intensive. Melady suggests keeping a Theraband in your dance bag at all times, and training with push-ups and weight-lifting. (Just make sure you're working with proper technique—ask a teacher for help if you need it!) A strong core is crucial for both men and women when partnering, so supplement with sit-ups or Pilates hundreds.

If you'll be tackling a new style at your intensive—whether that's Vaganova, Balanchine, Cechetti or others—don't worry about trying to learn it ahead of time. This could lead to injuries, and a good summer program will understand that students are coming in with different backgrounds. (Of course, reading up on the history of the different styles is always smart!)

Prepare Your Mind

Courtesy Nutmeg

Whether you're feeling anxious that you won't perform to your best in new circumstances, or worried about meeting new friends or being away from home for the first time, summer intensives require some mental preparation, too. First, know that your concerns are shared by hundreds of other young dancers going off to their summer intensives.

Don't worry about what you don't know and keep an open mind. "When we're pushed out of our comfort zones, we tend to rely on what we already know, and sometimes that includes being resistant to change," says Donna Mattiello, director of Nutmeg's year-round academic program. "Sometimes a change isn't necessary, but being open to it as an option is what sets a student up for success."

Your summer program may push you to rethink things you've been doing differently at your home studio. For example, at Nutmeg, associate artistic director Joan Kunsch encourages her students to write their corrections in a notebook. Though you may not be used to reading your corrections outside of class, this practice could give you a new perspective on your dancing. Even before you arrive at your intensive, start opening your mind to new ways of thinking about your training.

To learn more about Nutmeg, visit their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The Conversation
News
Ashley Bouder in George Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova's Coppélia. Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB.

Hollywood may have the Oscars, but ballet has the Prix de Benois de la Danse. Held every spring at Moscow's Bolshoi Theater, the prestigious international awards ceremony recognizes dancers, choreographers, composers and designers for their extraordinary work on and off the stage. This year's laureates, chosen by a jury, were announced during an awards ceremony last night, followed by a star-studded gala featuring many of the nominated artists.

Keep reading... Show less
Viral Videos
Still via YouTube

American Ballet Theatre principal James Whiteside is known for more than just his uber-charismatic presence on the ballet stage; He doubles as both the drag queen Ühu Betch and the pop star JbDubs. Whiteside's newest musical release, titled WTF, came out last week, and is for sure his most ballet-filled song to date. Both the lyrics and the choreography are jam-packed with bunhead references, from the Rose Adagio to Haglund's Heel to a framed portrait of George Balanchine. Not to mention the fact that he and his four backup dancers (Matthew Poppe, Douane Gosa, Maxfield Haynes and Gianni Goffredo) absolutely kill it in pointe shoes.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Crystal Serrano and Jorge Andrés Villarini in Christopher Wheeldon's This Bitter Earth. Rachel Neville, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Crystal Serrano never envisioned someday joining Dance Theatre of Harlem, the company founded by Arthur Mitchell to show the beauty and uplift of classical ballet on dancers of all colors. Her career began with Sacramento Ballet, which she joined after one year in Pacific Northwest Ballet School's Professional Division, but her time there was cut short by illness. After recovering, she felt so worn down that she left dancing behind and enrolled at the University of Washington. But she soon realized she'd made a mistake. "I thought, what am I doing?" she recalls. "I had to dance." With a fresh perspective and renewed determination, Serrano took an apprenticeship with Oregon Ballet Theatre before landing a job with Ballet San Antonio, where she soon rose to soloist.

Keep reading... Show less
News
School of American Ballet students (Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy SAB)

Do you have a "Strictly Ballet"–sized hole in your heart? Good news: There's an upcoming docuseries, "On Pointe," that just might fill it.

The School of American Ballet is teaming up with Imagine Documentaries and DCTV for the project. Though it's not yet clear where "On Pointe" will air, we do know that it'll follow talented SAB students preparing for professional ballet careers—much as Teen Vogue's popular "Strictly Ballet" web series did back in the day. But "On Pointe" marks the first time documentary filmmakers have been allowed access to the school, and it sounds like it'll paint an even more complete picture of the dancers' lives inside and outside the studio.

Keep reading... Show less