Students at Sun King Dance's Adult Ballet Camp

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

Calling All Adult Ballet Students! Here's a List of Summer Programs Especially for You

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.)

What can adults expect from a weekend or a week of dance training? Everything from technique to repertoire to yoga. Most of all, it's a chance to just dig in and dance, without a pesky to-do list waiting for you after class. Here are some summer programs designed for adult recreational dancers to keep on your radar.


Alonzo King LINES Ballet Adult Dance Intensive

May 28–31, San Francisco, CA

Jumpstart your summer in the house that Alonzo King built 38 years ago. Alonzo King LINES Adult Dance Intensive offers two tracks: one for recreational dancers and one for retired professionals and dance educators. Offerings include technique classes in ballet, jazz, contemporary, hip hop and world dance, as well as pedagogy, choreography, professional development for teachers and an exploration of the creative process with Alonzo King. Students can wrap up the day with an exploration of San Francisco's vibrant nightlife.

San Francisco Ballet Adult Ballet Summer Workshop

June 8–13, San Francisco, CA

San Francisco Ballet offers a five-and-a-half day Adult Ballet Summer Workshop in technique and repertory for intermediate though advanced students. Led by SFB principal dancer Tiit Helimets, corps member Kimberly Marie Olivier and faculty member Cecelia Beam, this intensive also includes classes in music and dance history, and culminates in an informal performance for family and friends. Early bird pricing available until February 29.


Lexington Ballet Adult Ballet Intensive

July 13–17, Lexington, KY

Train like a Thoroughbred in the city known as the horse capital of the world. At Lexington Ballet's Adult Ballet Intensive, classes are held in the evening, beginning with a Pilates/conditioning warm up, followed by a 90-minute ballet class, and wrapping up with variations/choreography. The program welcomes beginning through advanced students.

Louisville Ballet Adult Summer Intensive

A man, wearing a black biketard, jumps staight up in soubresaut while his female teacher watches from a crouched position on his left.

A faculty member helps an adult student perfect his soubresaut at Louisville Ballet's adult summer program.

Andrea Hutchinson, Courtesy Louisville Ballet

June 1–5, Louisville, KY

At Louisville Ballet's Adult Summer Intensive, beginning through advanced students can take part in half- or full-days of training, as well as an informal performance (for full-day participants) when the program wraps up. Dancers will have the chance to immerse themselves in ballet technique, pointe, men's class, modern and choreography, along with yoga and Pilates.


Brookline Ballet 2020 Adult Summer Ballet Intensive

June 24–June 28, Brookline, MA

Nestled in the greater Boston area, Brookline Ballet's Adult Summer Ballet Intensive offers three weeknights and two weekend mornings of classes in technique and repertoire, culminating in an informal performance on Sunday afternoon. Students can opt for the beginner or intermediate workshop.


Open Door Studios Adult Summer Workshop

June 4–6, Charlotte, NC

Spend a long weekend in the Queen City at Open Door Studios' Adult Summer Workshop. This 3-day intensive (Thursday through Saturday) focuses on ballet, pre-pointe and pointe, variations, conditioning, modern and improvisation. The program wraps up with a performance. Classes will be taught at an intermediate level, but beginners are welcome. Post-class on Friday, students can wind down with cocktails and appetizers in the bustling Plaza Midwood neighborhood of Charlotte.


Technique in Taos

July 26–August 9, Taos, NM

One- and two-week options available

Now in its 22nd year, Technique in Taos is a two-week program led by Jillana, a former principal with the New York City Ballet while under the direction of George Balanchine. The intensive, held in New Mexico's scenic Taos Ski Valley, is geared towards dance teachers and intermediate through advanced adult students (no beginners). The days begin with a stretch and fitness class, followed by a two-hour technique class. In the afternoon, students will move on to pointe, variations and repertory, including excerpts and variations from Balanchine ballets. Classes in modern, jazz and Pilates, as well as lectures on Balanchine and the New York City Ballet, will round out the day. Former NYCB principal Jock Soto will be a guest teacher.


Finis Jhung's 2020 Adult Ballet Student Workshop

Finis Jhung, wearing black pants, a black shirt and glasses, speaks to a large group of adult students as they execute a tendu combination in center.

Finis Jhung leads a group of adult ballet students through his student workshop.

Ai Toyoshima, Courtesy Jhung

June 13–14, New York, NY

One- and two-day options available

New York City is the backdrop for legendary teacher Finis Jhung's Adult Ballet Student Workshop, which is geared toward non-beginners and is limited to 30 students per day. Each day begins with barre, followed by center work, where Jhung breaks down the different components of ballet technique (turns, port de bras, arabesque, etc.) into their own in-depth sessions.

New York City Ballet's Ballet Essentials Workshop Weekend

June 4–7 or June 11–14, New York, NY

Designed for beginner to advanced-beginner students, New York City Ballet's four-day Ballet Essentials Workshop Weekend starts with a ballet technique class, followed by a tour of NYCB's theater at Lincoln Center. In the afternoon, choreography takes center stage with repertory workshops focused on the works of Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. Participants will also observe an in-studio lecture demonstration featuring NYCB company members, and finish their day with a Pilates class. Each weekend offers the chance to perform for family and friends.

Ithaca Ballet Adult Summer Ballet Intensive

A group of 8 women lunge in tendu back with their arms in third position, holding a long scarf. Two other women kneel on the ground in a similar position with thier back leg and amrs. They all wear dark leotards, tights and some wear short skirts and warm-up pants.

Dancers strike a pose at Ithaca Ballet's adult intensive.

Rachel Meyers, Courtesy Ithaca Ballet

August 21–24, Ithaca, NY

Savor the college-town vibe with a long weekend at Ithaca Ballet's Adult Summer Ballet Intensive. The details are still being determined, but the adult intensive typically features an intermediate ballet class, classical variations, modern, contemporary, ballet workshops and core conditioning/stretch.

Classes will be geared towards adult dancers with a skill level at or above intermediate, though some classes may be appropriate for advanced or beginning-level dancers.


artÉmotion Adult Ballet Workshop

June 15–20, Cleveland, OH

Led by Ballet West soloist Allison DeBona and principal Rex Tilton, artÉmotion's Adult Ballet Workshop is for beginning through advanced levels (no prior dance experience is required). Held in the morning, it consists of two technique classes: ballet, plus another in either pre-pointe/pointe, mens and women's variations, contemporary, modern and jazz. Dancers will also enjoy a group professional photo shoot with Joshua Whitehead.

Cincinnati Ballet Adult Weekend Intensive

May 29–31, Cincinnati, OH

Dancers wanting to kick off their summer with an exploration of multiple dance styles can do so at Cincinnati Ballet's Adult Weekend Intensive. The long weekend consists of classes in ballet, modern, musical theater and conditioning, as well as an introduction to repertoire. Dancers can also take part in an optional, informal performance on the final day the intensive.


Ballet Academy of Charleston Adult Summer Intensive

August 3–7 (Beginner/Lower Intermediate), August 10–14 (Advanced/Upper Intermediate), Charleston, SC

Bask in the beauty of the Lowcountry with a week-long intensive at the Ballet Academy of Charleston, located just 15 minutes from the city's vibrant, historic downtown. Students will immerse themselves in classes focused on technique, stretching/Pilates/yoga, pre-pointe or pointe (for advanced students), jazz, modern, contemporary and choreography. Contact the school for information about discounted rates at local hotels.


Houston Ballet Adult Intensive

August 10–15, Houston, TX

At Houston Ballet's Adult Intensive, dancers choose between three- or six-day options, and the program geared toward intermediate through advanced students who've had at least three years of ballet training. Students will become immersed in technique, repertoire, contemporary, social dance, body conditioning and Yamuna. The week wraps up with an informal showing for those enrolled in the full week of classes.


artÉmotion Adult Ballet Intensive

A middle aged woman in a long-sleeved black leotard, black tutu, pink tights and ballet slipper, poses dramatically in sus-sous, her arms in a V shape.

A dancer from artÉmotion's Adult Summer ballet Intensive poses for a professional photography session.

Logan Sorenson, Courtesy artÉmotion

June 1–6, Salt Lake City, UT

Led by Ballet West soloist Allison DeBona and principal Rex Tilton, artÉmotion's Adult Ballet Intensive is geared toward beginning through advanced levels (no prior dance experience is required).

Students in the Adult Ballet Summer Intensive may opt for full or half-days, which begin with a 90-minute technique class. Other offerings include pre-pointe and pointe, men's class, variations, contemporary, modern and jazz. Students will also get a professional dance photo shoot with Logan Sorenson, as well as a complimentary visit to US Cryotherapy. Full-day participants get choreographed on for a world premiere performance on the last day of the intensive.


Sun King Dance Adult Ballet Camps

A woman in a red leotard and black ballet skirt smiles brightly in tendu croise while her teacher, wearing a floral pink leotard, stands to her left encouraging her.

Director Heidi Winton-Stahle (far right) works with a student at Sun King Dance's Adult Ballet Camp.

Courtesy Sun King Dance

June 14–20 and August 9–15, Richmond, VA

Celebrating its 20th season this year, Sun King Dance offers two Adult Ballet Camps, in short-day and full-day options. Students kick off the week with a placement meeting (there are four levels offered, from beginner to advanced). The teachers are all former professional dancers, and students will be immersed in a variety of styles, from Royal Academy of Dance to Balanchine to Vaganova. Each day begins with an hour of Elemental Body Alignment System (EBAS) as a daily warm-up, followed by ballet, pointe, men's class, mime, character and variations. The intensive wraps up with a performance. Students participating in the short day program can choose to add an additional class focused on pas de deux, stretch and/or performance for an additional fee.


Morlaix International Adult Ballet Camp

July 3–11, Morlaix, France

Head to France's Brittany region for the Morlaix International Adult Ballet Camp. Classes are open to intermediate through advanced students ages 16 and up. The full-day intensive will be led by an international faculty, with teachers from Finland, Netherlands, Italy and France, and consists of morning ballet classes, rehearsals and stretching. Dancers will end the week with a performance of August Bournonville's ballet Napoli at a local theater, complete with costumes and alongside two professional dancers.

The Ballet Retreat

June 7, Leeds, UK

August 29–31, Leeds, UK

July 18–19, London, UK

We can't think of a better way to spend a few days in the UK than by working up a sweat and developing your skills with The Ballet Retreat's summer workshops. Choose between one, two or three-day retreats, which begin with a guided warm-up session before moving on to technique, repertoire and learning a solo piece from a classic ballet. An express class kicks off the afternoon, followed by more repertoire and a guided cool down. Hotel and travel arrangements must be made by the student, but the school can offer information about booking.

Chelsea Ballet Summer School 

August 3–8, London, UK

Another option for training in London is with Chelsea Ballet's Summer School, a non-profit run by amateur dancers of all skill levels. The director started the summer program in 2005 after struggling to find an intensive that wasn't for kids or professionals. Now, the 18+ crowd can delve into a variety of classes led by teachers who danced with The Royal Ballet and English National Ballet. The program, serving intermediate through advanced students, starts with Pilates, followed by two ballet classes, pointe and repertoire.

Pas de Chat International Adult Ballet Intensive

During a pas de deux class, a woman in a burgundy leotard, black skirt and pointe shoes stands in fifth position while her partner, in a beige T-shirt and black pants, stands behind her in a loose first position.

Dancers in partnering class at Pas de Chat International's ballet intensive.

Morana Popovčić, Courtesy Pas de Chat International

July 15–21, Zaghreb, Croatia

Pas De Chat International's Adult Ballet Intensive, held in Croatia's historic city of Zaghreb, is segmented into classical technique class, variations, pointe, introduction to pas de deux, stretching and modern technique. For those interested in a modern emphasis, a different track includes classical technique, floor work, modern partnering, choreography and improvisation.

When dancers aren't working on their ballet or modern skills, they can explore Croatia's capital and largest city, an art mecca known for its museums and affordable eateries. Email for more information or to register.

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Lydia Abarca Mitchell, Arthur Mitchell's First Ballerina, Builds On Her Mentor's Legacy in Atlanta

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

For more than 25 years, coaching at Ballethnic has been a lifeline back to Abarca Mitchell's days with DTH. She had a stellar career, both with the company and beyond, but left the stage at age 30 after an injury sustained performing in Dancin' on Broadway. Her husband's job transferred them to Atlanta, where she transitioned to a full-time job as a medical transcriptionist while raising a family. Now retired from her second career, Abarca Mitchell continues to forward Arthur Mitchell's legacy, not only through coaching but also by building community among DTH alumni and writing her memoirs—a fairy-tale story of a child who came from the Harlem public-housing projects and became a trailblazing Black ballerina.

Abarca Mitchell grew up during the 1950s and '60s, the oldest of seven in a tight-knit family. She always danced, taking cues from Hollywood figures until a fourth-grade teacher saw her talent and encouraged her to seek formal training. The family couldn't afford ballet lessons, but Abarca Mitchell earned a scholarship to attend The Juilliard School's Saturday youth program, and later the Harkness Ballet's professional training program. But for all of those ballet classes, Abarca Mitchell never had the opportunity to see or perform in a ballet production. She didn't understand the purpose behind ballet's tedious class exercises.

When the fast-growing Harkness Ballet moved its scholarship students to the June Taylor Studio on Broadway, Abarca Mitchell remembers hearing live drumming, clapping and laughter coming from the studio across the hall. It was a jazz class taught by Jaime Rogers, who'd played Loco in the West Side Story movie. Abarca Mitchell started sneaking into Rogers' classes.

When Harkness informed her that her scholarship was exclusively for ballet, Abarca Mitchell left the program. She saw no future for herself in the white-dominated ballet world, and focused on academics during her last two years of high school.

At 17, Abarca Mitchell met Arthur Mitchell. He had made history as the first Black principal dancer with New York City Ballet, which he had joined in 1955, and had just begun to shape what would become Dance Theatre of Harlem when he hired Abarca Mitchell in 1968. Within a month, she was back on pointe. Within two months, she was performing in Arthur Mitchell's Tones. "I didn't even know what ballet was until I was onstage," Abarca Mitchell says. "All of a sudden, it was my heart and soul."

Arthur Mitchell made sure his dancers saw NYCB perform, and subsequently brought Balanchine's Agon, Concerto Barocco and other NYCB works into the DTH repertoire. "Physically and emotionally, I felt the connection of jazz in Balanchine's choreography," Abarca Mitchell says. "His neoclassical style was just funky to me. I could totally relate."

For the first time, Abarca Mitchell danced with people who looked like her and shared the same aspirations, she says, with a leader who "saw us through his eyes of love and achievement."

In Abarca Mitchell's 30s, after a performing career that took her from DTH to the film version of The Wiz to Bob Fosse's Dancin' and beyond, her husband's job took their family to Atlanta. She soon connected with Gilreath and Waverly Lucas. The couple, also DTH alumni, were influenced by Arthur Mitchell's model when they founded Ballethnic, seeking to create access for dancers of all backgrounds to develop as classical dancers and perform a repertoire that represents the company's culturally diverse home city. Over time, Abarca Mitchell became a trusted advisor.

Abarca Mitchell goes in at least twice a year to coach Ballethnic's productions—such as Urban Nutcracker, set in Atlanta's historically Black Sweet Auburn neighborhood, and The Leopard Tale, which features the company's signature blend of classical pointe work with polyrhythmic dance forms of the African diaspora. These final rehearsals give Abarca Mitchell a way to fast-track the transfer of her mentor's values.

Two dancers in blue and black practice clothes and face masks, the woman in pointe shoes, pose together in a first arabesque tendu. Abarca Mitchell steps out of a mirrored pose as she adjusts the fingertips of the male dancer.

Lydia Abarca Mitchell works with Ballethnic's Calvin Gentry and Karla Tyson.

Courtesy Ballethnic Dance Company

She recalls that Arthur Mitchell taught his dancers to present themselves at their finest—to enter a room with their heads held high and shoulders back—and to dress, speak and walk with dignity and self-respect. He reminded them that they were pioneers and ambassadors for Blacks in ballet. As the company gained international stature—Abarca Mitchell was the first Black female ballerina to appear on the cover of Dance Magazine, in 1975—he insisted the dancers remain humble and in service to the greater mission. But he was also a taskmaster. "No nonsense, no excuses," Abarca Mitchell says. "There was no slack. If he was rehearsing something that you're not in, you'd better be on the side learning it."

"He didn't throw compliments around at all. You had to really kill yourself to get a smile from him." After a run-through, she says, "you didn't want to be singled out."

Abarca Mitchell takes a slightly different approach, though she doesn't compromise on the values her mentor instilled. When coaching large casts of all ages and different levels for Ballethnic, she has found ways to inspire people without tearing them down. She calls it a "tough love" approach.

"I've got to make them want to do it. I don't want to beat them into doing it," Abarca Mitchell says. "I tell them, 'You're here because you want to be, and because you auditioned and were accepted. Now, show me why I should keep you here.'"

"I tell them, 'I'm here to make sure you'll look good—you know: 'That looks fake. Let's make it look real. Think about what you're doing, so that it's not just a gesture.'"

Arthur Mitchell instilled this level of emotional honesty in his dancers, and it was key to the company's quick success. "We were bringing a thought forward," says Abarca Mitchell. "We were bringing a feeling forward, so that the audience could connect with us."

In addition to her position as rehearsal director for Ballethnic, Abarca Mitchell is today part of 152nd Street Black Ballet Legacy, a group of DTH alumni who seek to give voice to people responsible for the company's success in its early years. "It's incredible," she says, "how many people took something from DTH and applied it to their lives."

As Ballethnic prepares to co-host the International Association of Blacks in Dance Conference and Festival in January 2022, Abarca Mitchell hopes to help strengthen the network of dance companies associated with Ballethnic, such as Memphis' Collage Dance Collective. "The dream is for all of us to collaborate with each other," she says, "so that it becomes more normal to see a Black ballerina, so it's not just a token appearance."

Today's young dancers face different challenges from what Abarca Mitchell faced. She finds that they're more easily distracted, and sometimes act entitled, because they don't know or appreciate how hard earlier Black ballerinas like herself worked to clear a path for them. But what she's passing on will benefit them, whether they choose to pursue dance careers or become doctors, lawyers, professors or something else entirely. "The principles are the same," she says. "Work for what you want, and you will achieve it."

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