“Ballet dancers are notorious for being a bit stiff. Studying other styles helps you get rid of that rigid quality.”Ashley Dawn

 

Oregon Ballet Theatre dancer Ashley Dawn didn’t take ballet seriously until she was about 10 years old. “Before that, I was really into tap and jazz and hip hop,” she says. Eventually she discovered that she loved ballet’s technical challenges. But even as she began to attend ballet summer intensives, she found that she relished the programs’ occasional jazz and hip-hop classes. “They were the perfect breaks from the intensity of ballet,” she remembers.

Today Dawn takes those “breaks” at Vega Dance+Lab, an open-class studio in Portland. “I drop in all the time to take hip hop,” she says. “I’ve even experimented with ‘Burly Q,’ a combination of burlesque and jazz! I love to get a little funky, to give classical music a rest and dance around to top 40 songs.” Dawn also finds that mixing things up stylistically “keeps your brain fresh,” she says. “You’re learning a routine really quickly,” without any ballet vocabulary shortcuts. “It helps you stay sharp.”

Last year, OBT performed Trey McIntyre’s Speak, a “hip-hop ballet” danced in sneakers. “There’s even a pas de deux set to a Bloodhound Gang song!” Dawn says. “Definitely not traditional. But it didn’t feel strange to me. I didn’t have to fake my way through it.”

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Darian Volkova, Courtesy Shayer

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Greta Hodgkinson and Guillaume Côté in Margeurite and Armand. Karolina Kuras, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada.

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Training
Students at Sun King Dance's Adult Ballet Camp. Jenny McQueen of Capture Photography, Courtesy Sun King Dance.

For adult recreational dancers, summer isn't just a time for swapping out warm-up sweaters for breezy tees—it's also about taking your training to the next level, and perhaps packing your bags for a ballet workshop. Why should teens and pre-professionals have all of the fun? Fortunately, there are scores of adult summer programs all over the United States, and even abroad for those of you looking to sprinkle in a little sightseeing after your final reverénce. (Can't wait for summer? Check out these spring workshops at National Ballet of Canada and Sarasota Ballet.)

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