Francois Perron teaching class at the French Academie of Ballet. Rachel Neville, Courtesy French Academie of Ballet.
When Katie Spagnoletti was 16, she auditioned for several well-known, company-affiliated summer programs. Although she received some acceptances, the price tags and level of competition felt daunting. She decided to try the relatively smaller Saratoga Summer Dance Intensive instead, and when she walked into orientation her first day, she sensed she'd made the right choice. "Co-director Melinda Roy greeted me—and every other student—by name. It made me feel like the faculty was truly invested in me as a person and a dancer," says Spagnoletti, now a dancer at City Ballet of San Diego. "I had friends who'd gone to some of the big-name schools, so I'd heard about those experiences—and I knew mine was going to be unique."
When planning your summer, it's exciting to think about an intensive at a prestigious pre-professional school—maybe the one attached to your dream company or that all your friends are talking about. But is bigger always better? With a wealth of options for summer study, it's worth looking at the benefits of smaller schools. For many dancers, training in a close-knit atmosphere can outweigh the cachet of a big name.
The French style of ballet has always been one of my favorites. I love that elongated line, that precision, that elegance. Francois Perron, a graduate of the Paris Opera Ballet School, recently opened the French Academie of Ballet in New York City, and this month he's offering a French Masters' Workshop to give students a quick immersion into the French style. Students will take technique, variations, partnering, and even jazz, modern and Gaga from top-notch French teachers.