Summer Intensive Survival

How to Survive the Rest of Your Summer Intensive

Students in class at the Kirov Academy of Ballet. Photo by Paolo Galli, Courtesy Kirov Academy

It's August, so two things are pretty much guaranteed: 1. It's really hot out. 2. If you're a bunhead, you're nearing the end of your summer intensive.

By now, you've gotten used to the early morning alarm, followed by the inevitable reminder that your muscles are (still) sore as you roll of out bed. But the excitement of arriving at an enticing training destination full of challenging instructors and fellow dancers may have faded. What's left is the hard work in the studio from dawn till dusk.


If you need some motivation to finish your intensive strong, follow these tips.

1. Start each day fresh.

School of American Ballet's summer intensive. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy SAB.

Use your first technique class of the day to hit the refresh button. Check in with your body, and assess any soreness. If you had a bad class or frustrating rehearsal yesterday, leave the negativity behind. Do you best, starting with the very first plié.

2. Fuel up and stay hydrated.

It may be tempting to stock up on junk food to stay energized, but don't forget about the crash that accompanies a sugar rush. Whether you're dining at a campus cafeteria or you're cooking for yourself, make healthy choices throughout the day. High-fiber foods, like oatmeal for breakfast, will keep you fuller longer. Remember to pack your bag with quick snack options, like fruits and nuts, to nosh on between classes. And water is your number-one friend. You'll be sweating all day, so don't go anywhere without it.

3. Practice gratitude.

Students in Miami City Ballet School's summer repertory performance. Photo by Ella Titus, Courtesy MCB School.

Take a moment daily to acknowledge the fantastic opportunities you've encountered throughout the summer. Are you training with world-class faculty? Dancing at a professional company's school? Learning a variation from your favorite ballet? Getting more partnering experience than usual? Yes, intensives are tough, but they also come with many positives that help you grow as an artist.

4. Remember self-care.

Photo by Nathan Sayers

Taking care of yourself is essential all year long, but it's especially important during strenuous training periods. Find time to nurse your tired body, even if just for a few minutes daily. If you have access to a bath, soak in Epsom salts. Lying with your legs up the wall can do wonders for tired legs—many say the inversion promotes circulation. At night, grab some friends for a foam-roll and stretch party.

If you have any choice in your course load, don't eschew somatics classes because they're "easy." A restorative yoga session, for example, can be just the reset you need to conquer the next day with restored energy.

5. Explore the area.

While you're understandably at your summer program to focus on ballet, don't ignore the incredible opportunities around you. If you're in an urban environment, explore city parks one last time or check out another historical attraction before it's time to go home. If you've been dying to see a certain show, look into student rush tickets. If you're in a more rural setting and your program offers weekend field trips to nearby attractions, sign up for any remaining events.

6. Monitor your body for potential injuries.

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When you're several weeks into a schedule of all-day classes and rehearsals, feeling fatigued is normal. But that's also when dancers are at risk of injury. Listen to your body and conserve your energy when possible—pushing at 200 percent isn't sustainable. If something feels wrong or you suspect an old injury may be flaring up, notify your teachers and speak with the program's physical therapist, if possible.

7. Don't forget about your goals.

While it's easy to get swept up in the flurry classes and end-of-program performances, now's the time to reflect on why you chose this intensive. What did you want to get out of it when you registered several months ago? Perhaps you wanted a deeper dive into a style like Balanchine or Vaganova, or the chance to improve your petite allégro or be a less tentative turner. Ask yourself if you've accomplished those goals. If you've strayed from them, try to realign your priorities before you leave.

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